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Ferguson Makes History With Back To Back Wins

Ferguson Makes History With Back To Back Wins In Ironman

New Zealand’s Gina Crawford became the first person to win back-to-back Ironman WA titles when she took out today’s sixth edition of Ironman Western Australia, while in the men’s race, 2007 winner Patrick Vernay (New Caledonia) claimed his second WA title, and fifth Ironman victory on Australian soil.

Held in Busselton, just over two hours south of Perth, today’s race reached temperatures in the mid 30s, making the 3.8km swim, 180.2km ride and 42.2km run all the more daunting for the 1,309 individual and 110 team entrants. Of the 34 professionals who set out at 6am this morning, just 20 completed the course.

International competitors Lawrence van Lingen (South Africa) and Scott Neyedli (Great Britain) established an early lead in the swim, followed by the main group which included defending champion Tim Berkel, Vernay, Jimmy Johnsen, Ollie Whistler, Timothy Marr, Josh Rix, Courtney Ogden and Chris Dmitrieff. Van Lingen exited the water just ahead of Neyedli, in 47:21, with the chase group around 40 seconds behind.

Following a lightning fast transition, Denmark’s Jimmy Johnsen was first to hit the bike course. It was well known going in to today’s race that Johnsen was carrying an achilles injury which had flared up following his recent win at the Shepparton Half Ironman, so no-one was surprised by his strategy of employing his superior bike strength to give himself a significant lead in to the marathon.

With no male competitor able to match Johnsen’s scorching bike speed, he spent the entire 180km riding solo. By the mid-way (90km), Johnsen was more than three minutes ahead of the main chase group, led by Vernay. The only surprise at this stage was that two-time winner and course record holder Jason Shortis was more than twelve minutes behind the leader, setting himself up for a huge challenge if he was to have yet another podium finish in Busselton.

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Johnsen completed the bike course in 4:31:38, giving himself a six minute lead over his nearest competitors. Meanwhile, the chase group had been unravelling as the winds picked up, and it was Vernay, Neyedli, Berkel, Ogden and Matty White who set out in hot pursuit of the Dane.

Vernay took the lead at the 15km mark, and shortly after Neyedli also passed the determined but clearly hurting Johnsen. Vernay loves Australia and loves the heat, and once he hit the lead it was clear that he was going to be very difficult to beat. As many of their opponents began to suffer from the heat, the two continued to run strongly all the way to the finish, with a brave Johnsen rounding out the placings.

Vernay said at the finish, “Australia is my country. The people are so cool, it’s so beautiful, I love it here. I would like to thank the crowd, they really helped me”. He then stated that he would be taking the year off from his teaching job in 2010, to focus on achieving a top three finish in Hawaii.

An ecstatic Neyedli was almost lost for words at the finish. “I had a really good day. I had seen this race on television before and it was always a race I wanted to give a crack.

“Patrick was always going to be the winner to me. During the race I just tried to always make sure I was there. I was running fast and thought some of these guys are going to drop like flies, and sure enough they did”.

While disappointed that his injury had affected his run, Johnsen was thrilled to finally achieve an Ironman podium finish.

Last year’s top two finishers Tim Berkel and Jason Shortis once again demonstrated great comradeship, motivating each other to make it to the finish in spite of their disappointing days. Following a rough swim, Berkel was sick throughout the ride and run legs. He said “I am very disappointed. I was walking along (on the run course), nearly tearing up, and Shortis came up alongside me and gave me some inspiring words (which helped me get to the finish).”

For the second year running, Gina Crawford dominated the women’s field from start to finish. She exited the water alongside Sarah Pollett, and from there it was a matter of ‘catch me if you can’. By the end of the bike leg, she had established a lead of more than eleven minutes, and she was able to maintain this lead to win her second consecutive Ironman WA.

Crawford paid tribute to the Busselton crowd, saying “I don’t know if the spectators were Kiwis or not, but they were amazing all the way.” She intends to return to Busselton in 2010 to attempt a hat-trick of wins.

The surprise packet of the day was undoubtedly Christie Sym, who finished second behind Crawford at her first ever Ironman attempt. Sym comes from an adventure racing background, however following a series of injuries she recently decided to try Ironman racing for a change. Her finishing time of 9:20.42 in such difficult conditions indicates that she would be a force to be reckoned with should she choose to pursue the Ironman challenge!

Today was Pollett’s first Ironman podium finish. She dedicated her race to her close friend and Ironman athlete Tavis Johannsen, who died suddenly at just 42 years of age earlier this year.

Full results are available at www.multisportaustralia.com.au.

TOP TEN RESULTS
Position Overall Swim Bike Run
1. Patrick Vernay 8:14:00 48:33 4:36:25 2:49:00
2. Scott Neyedli 8:17:48 47:24 4:37:30 2:52:51
3. Jimmy Johnsen 8:21:12 48:36 4:31:38 3:00:56
4. Courtney Ogden 8:22:07 48:33 4:36:37 2:56:54
5. Matty White 8:35:04 50:09 4:34:46 3:10:07

1. Gina Crawford 9:16:53 50:10 5:02:15 3:24:26
2. Christie Sym 9:20:42 58:53 4:58:29 3:23:17
3. Sarah Pollett 9:21:34 50:11 5:10:30 3:20:51
4. Charlotte Paul 9:33:06 56:32 5:08:57 3:27:35
5. Kate Bevilaqua 9:45:54 1:03:22 5:02:57 3:39:33
Gina Ferguson writes from Western Australia after her victory:
“I successfully defended my Ironman Western Australia title today in very tough conditions with temperatures in the mid thirties.

“I was first out of the swim and powered away from the rest of the field in the first lap of the bike. My new Rolf Prima wheels seemed to make it effortless. The second two laps were much tougher with the temperatures rising rapidly and the winds picking up. I started to really struggle in the heat (it has been a very cold spring in Christchurch which wasn't ideal in preparation for this race) and I just could not seem to get enough fluids into me, however my Leppin Nutrition worked perfectly and I didn't have to deal with any low energy patches at all. I came off the bike with a 5 minute lead and at each aid station I skulled back around 4 cups of water, and was grateful for the ice which I put in my hat and held in my hands.

“Finally after around 22km I started to feel more normal but then at around 28km into the marathon my legs started cramping up. I had left my salt tablets in transition and this was the first time I have ever had to deal with muscle cramps. I wanted to up the pace but every time I tried my legs starting cramping. I still had a 4-5 minute lead and didn't want to risk it so I shuffled my way to the end.

“I am so happy to finish the year on a high after a number of challenges these last few months. I had a very limited run build up to this race with coming back from an ankle injury so now I am very excited to be back on track and will be working on improving my run for the Challenge Wanaka race next month.

“I would like to thank my sponsors' for their continued support through a tough year for me and I am now greatly looking forward to my 2010 season. K-Swiss, Ceepo, JUCY, BlueSeventy, Leppin, Rolf Prima wheels, Oakley, Continental tyres, Cycleworkz, Em's Power Cookies, Keywin pedals.”

ENDS

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