Bennett and Kessler bring home the Wine
The cold morning gave way to great race conditions for Ironman 70.3 Vineman pro race today. At 6:30 the men were sent off, with the women going off 2 minutes later.
From the gun, Australia's Clayton Fettell took the lead with Matthews, Bennett, Bozzone, among others on his feet. Coming into T1, Fettell had a slight advantage, but the majority of the pro men's field were only seconds behind.
With a lightning fast transition Matthews started the bike first with the lead group just on his tail. Gambles let a bit of a gap open in the water and started the bike solo about 40 seconds behind the lead pack containing most of the pre-race favorites. Using his bike strength to his advantage in the winding roads Matthews began pulling away and only Bennett could match his pace. The two rode together and pulled away opening up a 2 minute gap heading into T2.
Bennett and Matthews ran shoulder to shoulder, but with 5k to go Bennett's pace was too much for Matthews to hold and he took the lead. The man on the move throughout the run was Joe Gambles, he had lost 3:30 to the lead after the first two legs, but once on the run he was pulling it back from the beginning. He left T2 with Bozzone and McKenzie, but right out of the gate threw down a pace that neither could match.
In the closing miles he had not only caught but passed Matthews to move into second and his 1:11 run split was enough to put him with in sight of Bennett. At the line, the gap proved to be too large after the bike, Bennett took the win with a new course record, Gambles had clawed back to 2nd only 25 seconds back, and Matthews held onto 3rd just over 2 minutes off the winning time.
The women's race had even more fireworks in the closing miles. With no surprise, Cave lead out of the water with Kessler on her feet and Marsh only a couple seconds back. The three women made quick work of T1 and hit the road together.
Kessler soon got to the front and held the lead throughout the bike, entering T2 with only a 20 second advantage over Marsh in 2nd. Cave rode well, but defending champ Mellisa Rollison had made up the swim deficit and came into T2 just ahead of her. Kessler's pace on the run was too much for Marsh from the start and the gap began opening slowly but surely. Rollison was on a mission and used her run to her advantage to reel in the leaders.
The second half of the run is when the sparks really started flying. With 5k to go, Rollison had bridged the gap to Kessler and took the lead by 20 seconds. With 1.5 miles to go Kessler had done the unheard of and brought those 20 seconds back!
Approaching the finish line, Kessler completed a rare feat and regained the lead just before the finish line. Rollison settled for second place with the fastest run of the day and Marsh held on for 3rd.
Big moves in the closing miles decided both races here today. As the women's Champion Kessler put it, "You never know how it will turn out until the end." Congratulations to all on a fantastic and entertaining day of races!
1. Greg Bennett (AUS) 3:45:49
2. Joe Gambles (AUS) 3:46:14
3. Paul Matthews (AUS) 3:47:55
4. Christian Kemp (USA) 3:50:46
5. Terenzo Bozzone (NZL) 3:51:03
1. Meredith Kessler (USA) 4:10:15
2. Melissa Rollison (now Hauschildt) (AUS) 4:11:05
3. Amy Marsh (USA) 4:13:21
4. Heather Jackson (USA) 4:15:07
5. Leanda Cave (GBR) 4:17:42