Cunningham runs his way to first at Longhorn Ironman
By Brom Hoban
Monday, October 06, 2008
Australians figured prominently in the international field headlining the second annual Longhorn Ironman 70.3 Sunday, as Richie Cunningham outlasted Joe Gambles to win the half-ironman length race at Decker Lake.
Cunningham set a course record of 3 hours, 49 minutes, 44 seconds.
In the women’s division, Canada’s Lisa Bentley came from behind in the run to catch Aussie Pip Taylor and win in a course-record time of 4:20:15.
Cunningham, ninth out of the water and ninth in the bike leg, turned in the fastest run split of the day. Mark Van Akkeren, a Boulder, Colo.-based triathete, led out of the water (18 minutes, 28 seconds) with Aussie Joseph Lampe and New Zealander Kieran Doe on his heels (both clocked in 18:50).
Doe scorched the hilly bike course surrounding the Travis Expo Center, turning in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 41 seconds, the third-fastest split of the day, which put him in front entering the run. But six miles into the run, Doe, who was beginning to fade, had company.
Cunningham, Gambles, Italy’s Alberto Casadei and Britain’s Simon Lessing had worked their way into contention. Halfway through the run, Cunningham and Gambles caught the struggling Doe and ran together for the next several miles.
“I worked pretty hard for the first six miles of the run,” said Cunningham.. “And I suffered the last six.”
Gambles, who has gone head-to-head with Cunningham before, hung with him.
Part of the Longhorn course was on trails, and coming off the trails onto the pavement at around eight miles, Cunningham finally shook Gambles, who finished second.
“I managed to get a little gap on him when we hit the road,” said Cunningham. But I’ll tell you, the heat, the hills on the course, and the headwind all start to add up, and made for a somewhat tough run.
Casadei ran a strong half-marathon (1:17:29) to take third.
Four-time world champion Lessing, running his final race before retiring, held on for fourth place, while two-time Ironman world champion Tim DeBoom, of Boulder, rounded out the top five. Brandon Marsh was the first Austin finisher, seventh overall in 3:54:37.
Like Cunningham, Bentley scrambled up the shore of Decker Lake in ninth place (22:15), well behind Taylor, who was first out in 19:39.
But it was the Czech Republic’s Tereza Macel, with a blazing a 2:26:52 bike split, who was in first heading into the run.
Bentley caught Taylor at mile 10, making a point of motoring past her at a pace she couldn’t match.
Taylor, who held on for second in 4:32:49, collapsed at the finish and was escorted to the medical tent.
Canada’s Annie Gervais came home in third, a step behind Taylor in 4:23:50, with Kelly Handle, the first Austin woman, in fourth with 4:28:12.
Some 2,000 triathletes competed in Sunday’s event, which served as a qualifier for the 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater Florida on Nov. 8.