After that I headed up to the Gold Coast to spend some time training on new ground and surfing a bit more than I probably should have due to the pumping swell over New Year. I had a great time there catching up with mates and making new ones, getting some solid back to back weeks of training done and most of all getting plenty of waves. I headed back home mid January so I could make the trip down to Adelaide to watch the Tour Down Under with Titan Performance Group, I headed down there for the last 3 days of the tour which was great timing. I was lucky enough to have dinner with Cadel Evans and ride in the Bupa Challenge thanks to Flight Center Active Travel for lining that up, I also witnessed the women's hour record broken in VIP style thanks to Cervelo and watched the Willunga Hill stage which was a great experience. It was a great trip, I managed to clock almost 400k in 3 days and enjoyed every moment of it, surrounded by awesome people. From there it was back home to Scarborough, NSW where I would do my last bit of training before heading to Victoria for Ironman 70.3 Geelong.
My training in the 2 weeks prior to Geelong 70.3 was going a little better than expected and was making me nervous to try and hold the form until race weekend. All sessions were great and the confidence kept building up, the week prior was very good and I had to control myself to not over do it to ensure I would be right for the race. Next thing I knew everything was done and I was on the plane to Melbourne to kick off racing for 2016.
Landed in Melbourne first thing Friday morning and got a lift with Foxy from TPG to our team house in Torquay, it was really cool to hang out with the crew on Friday, everyone was so relaxed before the race and it settled my nerves a bit. Saturday saw me go through my usual pre-race routine, having a swim with the Xterra Wetsuits crew, athlete briefing and then a short spin on the bike before racking. My Dad had made the effort to drive down to watch me race so I stayed with him on Saturday night, he always helps me keep calm and get ready to race.
This was my first time racing Geelong 70.3, I had heard a lot about the course before arriving and a few changes this year looked to suit me well. The swim was a 1 lap wetsuit legal in pretty calm waters, the 2 lap bike course was slightly undulating and technical in parts and then run was 2 1/2 laps along the half being on the undulating road and the other along the Geelong Waterfront. The Men's Pro list was stacked, 30 guys with some of the world's best fitting into the top 10.
Up early Sunday morning, I was the first one at transition at 5:20am waiting for entry at 5:45am. Got in and set up, everything was sweet, time to warm up before a 7am race start. Was able to fit in a few run drills and a swim before lining up on the beach, ready to go. I had to control my excitement a bit before the race knowing it was a beach start, I love them and they are very rare these days. In the starters hand and behind me I could here the countdown, which is not always good, especially when the guy next to you is real edgy and leaves on 1 instead of the gun, but all good, I got him within a few strides into the water and a couple of dives later and I was leading out the left side of the race. I could see to my right though there was a couple of leaders forming apexes and it wouldn't be long before we would all join toghether. Around 300m the front group had formed of myself, Amberger, Munro, Jacobs and Kerr. Ambereger continued to push the pace, kicking like a motorboat and managed to bridge a 20m gap by the first turn buoy, I sat on feet in third position from 700m onwards and made sure the gap between us and Amberger didn't increase. The top 5 exited the water all within 10sec of the leader and we were all out onto the bike together.
Photo Credit: DadAmberger and I wasted no time, pushing hard up the first couple of climbs and took to the front. We managed to shake Munro early and then Kerr and Jacobs by the first 10km, it was no looking back from here. The course was as still as it gets with no wind early and the average speed was in the 44km/h range, I was feeling great and the numbers were reflecting that. We both knew we hard to ride as hard as possible and put as many minutes as we could into the chasers that consisted of some very quick runners, not to mention defending champ Crowie. We were kept under the watchful eye of the TO's, happy to see they were out there doing a great job.
Completed the first lap and headed back out for lap 2 amongst the Age-Group athletes, once I got out on the main road I could see the clouds coming over which brought with it some strong wind gusts. The nature of the course saw me get a fair share of head, tail and crosswinds which really shook the legs up, and started to drain energy fast. I'd be pushing hard, head down, then look up and my head was spinning, regardless of how much water or nutrition I took this was the case for the last 30km. I knew if the wind was effecting me it would be also splitting the guys up behind and hurting them for the run later on. Came into transition followed closely by Amberger and a time gap of over 3:30mins to Viennot.
Photo Credit: Delly CarrOut on the run together trying to make the most of our lead off the bike, I was definitely hurting after breaking the bike course record by over 2mins but I was so determined to get to that line first after being pipped in the last few km's twice late last year. The first couple of hills were crossed fine and I was able to start on nutrition early thanks to my stomach being good to me. After a few km's I had left Amberger and had my sights set on increasing my lead, I bridged a gap of a few hundred meters pretty quickly but it then remained the same, my next worry was the time gap to Viennot. The hill at the back end of the course was a killer, I was almost walking through the aid station and by the time I had reached the top I was to buggered to carry any momentum back down. After running through transition and past the expo again, receiving so much support from everyone I was back and pushing hard. The thought of being caught again in the dying stages was in the back of my head the whole run but I was not letting that happen again. The splits I was getting I realised Viennot was not closing the gap quick enough and that I might actually have this. Coming back on the pier I could see him heading out, he wasn't too far behind and it wasn't until I saw the black/red carpet that I knew had it. Coming down the chute was such a good feeling, one that I will never forget. I couldn't believe it, that I had actually put together the perfect race, and had won Geelong 70.3.
Photo Credit: Delly Carr
It still hasn't really sunk in, getting my first 70.3 win within 12months of my first crack at this distance, especially at this race having Craig Alexander 4 time champion here made me very nervous prior (unfortunately he had a mechanical on the bike). It wasn't until presentation that I realised I would also be crowned 2016 Australian Long Course Champion, what a great day.
Would like to say a huge thanks to all my sponsors for kitting me out in the best and my favourite gear, shout out to everyone from Titan Performance group for the support in the lead up and out on course, you guys are legends and most of all my family.
Photo Credit: Dad