Thursday, 27 November 2014

Let’s begin by saying that every person who registers and completes an Ironman deserves a medal. This includes professional athletes and age group (AG) athletes.

Please support the Pro athletes that have given up their time for our recent interviews and are competing at IMWA. They include Matt Burton, Matty White, Guy Crawford, Todd Israel (withdrawn), Liz Blatchford, Bree Wee, Lisa Marangon, Katy Duffield, Michelle Duffield and Kate Bevilaqua.

Age groupers have many stories of how they have attempted to complete training sessions around all of the other commitments they have in life.
YOURIRONGUIDE is a huge supporter of the age grouper. They are truly inspiring and the backbone of the IM sport.

With that said, some AG athletes take their passion and ability to a whole new level and will be at the very pointy end of the results list come Monday December 8.

YOURIRONGUIDE has joined forces with our East Coast correspondent Xavier Coppock (TEAM Tri Coaching) to create our predictions for the very best AG athletes competing and inspiring at IMWA this year. TEAM Tri by the way has 10 athletes racing IMWA and all of them need to be mentioned as high end chances. They are fresh from an amazing Kona campaign where 7 of their crew were racing (2 top 10’s).

18 – 24 Male
Corey Van Dijk looks a good show here. A second place finish in terrible conditions in Cairns this year shows he is capable in any weather. With a single slot taken above him for Kona that race, he will be hungry to make the top step of the podium.
The frontrunner here though will be Robin Pesch, the German from Runner’s Point Tri Team. He has gone under 9:30 twice including the European champs and that shows consistency. He will not be making the journey to our shores lightly. Another to keep an eye on near the finish line is Lindsay Bennett.

18 – 24 Female
Kate Luckin is a local from good breeding stock (brother Mark and sister Lisa have flown Hawaiian air before). She trains with the GK endurance stable (Pro triathletes Kate Bevilaqua and Guy Crawford coaching) and has finally overcome a number of illness and injury issues. Her second place at Metaman (70.3) will hopefully promise ability in all conditions if the Western Australian sun starts to boil the athletes and she is Luckin good for a result here.
She will however be competing against a seasoned athlete in Cammie Genda from the USA. She placed in the top 15 of women overall at IM Maryland in September this year and third in her age group at IM Lake Placid a little earlier. That is a lot of racing this year for a young body and everything will rely on her build and taper to this event to see if anything is left in the tank for 2014. Untried at this distance, Jana Stenzel will look to the clouds and hope to be there near the finish.

25 - 29 Male
Ben King should swim near the 50min mark and ride in the 4:30’s (depending on conditions). The only question will be if he can hold that speed on his run. My mail from training partners tells me he has prepared well for this and with a 4:05 at Busso 70.3 this year, he knows the course and will be hard to beat.
Alistair Caird will also be very strong in this age group. Local news on Alistair tells me if he concentrates on pacing well enough to keep the strong start going all throughout the run, he will be amongst it at the finish. If he gets this right on the day, he will be ready to pounce. He also knows the course with a 4:10 in Busso 70.3 this year.

25 - 29 Female
Lauren Parker, a TEAM tri coaching member is a standout here. Her 2014 IM Aus win together with a top 10 in Kona shows she has the engine to get the job done. Will she be able to recover enough from that effort in hot, windy, energy sapping conditions only 8 weeks ago? If she has put together a good preparation then she is the one to beat. Clair Soutar-Dawson will as always combine a strong swim - bike to be in to T2 early. She has also been to the big island in 2013 after qualifying in Mexico. This shows her liking for heat and wind as Cozumel takes no prisoners and she cannot be discounted if conditions boil. A new training program and coach this year promise results.

30 - 34 Male
This age group is worth the price of admission to watch (although it is actually free to be a spectator but would be worth paying all the same). It will be super competitive.
Lars Dyrholm Hansen has moved to Perth to train in local conditions from his native Denmark and is looking set to improve on his effort in Lanzarote where his chain broke halfway through the ride while sitting in the front pack. Coached by Martin Jensen (IM Japan pro champion) he is well schooled and if the nutrition plan gets a gold medal, he will be there at the finish.
The cream does not stop there though. James Ogilvie, Oswain Mathews, Blake Kappler and Brett Johnson are all very capable and this AG will come down to the wire. Anthony Rule has been smoking up the training track lately in Noosa. He swam a sub 5min 400m recently and has been to Kona a few times. A recent 4:10 plus change on the East coast for a 70.3 shows he is ready to roll in December. My dark horse is Oskar Booth who also moved to Perth from Broome for regular training. The consistency has gone well and he is looking much improved in all 3 legs and should push higher than the 6th place he achieved last year. His run strength in hot conditions is an advantage so everyone will be looking back waiting for his footsteps. My prediction is the first 5 places will all finish within 6 minutes of each other – game on gentlemen!

30 - 34 Female
Lauren Jones knows Busselton…..period. Look back through the years and you will find her glowing results. She has been in the top 7 females to finish plenty of times with a top 3 last year and is very consistent. She can go deep under the 10 hour barrier easily and is the one to beat here.

35 - 39 Male
Luke Goard has been in the sport now for many years. Back in 2007 he was the third West Australian (including professionals) across the finish line in Busselton - now that’s smoking! That year he beat a lot of notable age group athletes for the prestige. He is class and will show his ability to get well in to the sub-9 hour finish time easily. Carle Green has competed against Luke before (in 2010) when both qualified that year and will again be up for the challenge. We could get the fastest age-grouper this year from this category and if conditions are good, expect breathtaking times. Trav Atkins is the final piece in the podium puzzle for this age group.

35 - 39 Female
Previous pedigree in IM Melbourne shows Andrea Hopkin is a quality athlete even though a relative new-comer to the sport. Finishing second on this Asia Pacific Championship stage gave her the opportunity to compete in Hawaii. Another athlete from the GK endurance stable, she will be all class come race day.

40 - 44 Male
There are plenty of athletes lining up for the top 5 positions here, as is always the case in the largest age group. Michael Musk (who has improved since his finish in IM Switzerland in a younger age group) and Andrew Walker will again go head to head on Busselton soil (previously in the 70.3 last May). They both have great speed. The question will be if endurance for the full course length is also there. With less than a minute separating them earlier in the year, it is set to be a head to head battle between the two. They will not have all the fun to themselves however as David Bairstow from South Australia is also set to figure in final positions as he improves in every leg the further the day goes on. Erin Carozzi had a break out event at the World Champs in 2011 with tough conditions that year. Alvin Cooney has been on an Ironman podium previously at IMUK a few years back but still shows pedigree. Brendon Flanagan (top 10 IM Melbourne in a quality field) can’t be discounted and after qualifying in 2012 and 13 for Kona, Aaron Hill looks good also. He may be keen to return to the big island after missing this year so look out for him to burst through the finish tape.

40 - 44 Female
Michelle Boyes together with partner David Boyes (Male 50-54) have run out of fingers (and toes) counting the number of times they have visited the Kona pier. They are an amazing couple and bring experience by the “bucket load” to this race. Michelle does not have a weak leg and will be very hard to beat again. Her warm up event Mandurah (70.3) went to plan and she could be seen running another 10km after that race in 36 degree heat as a training session. That is commitment. Pip Holland, a TEAM tri coaching member, has been training the house down recently including a new PB off the bike for the half marathon distance of 1:32 (in Cairns). If her back holds up for the journey, she will be right with Michelle at the end. Her quality is highlighted by a top 10 place in Kona in 2012.

45 - 59 Male
Interesting the top 10 from last year will all miss the 2014 version in this age group. That doesn’t mean this group is short of talent however. Matt Illingworth needs little introduction in WA as a bike split record holder on this very course. He led his age group at Busselton 70.3 back in May by over 10 minutes heading in to T2 and could easily be the first age grouper on to the run course this year. It will take an enormous effort to catch him before the finish line as his 21km run split was also a personal best 6 months ago. He was seen pounding pavement along our local coast in readiness and looked in great shape.
He will not have it all his way though. Ralph Glatz has been to the big island before after a very good result in IM Melbourne 2 years ago. He did not get the race he wanted in Cairns (but then who did?) but should rebound here. Dean Holwill showed his style in IM Canada with a solid top 10 and a very strong swim/bike package will certainly have Mark Kay in the mix. The man to beat however is Matt Koorey. Anyone able to finish 8th at a Commonwealth games event (back in 1990) knows triathlon. In fact he knows so much he coaches to plenty of hopefuls. He may be the only one tracking down Matt Illingworth on the run and should take the chockies. A late addition to this category is Arnaud Selukov (who was hiding in another age group last year). He will definitely travel to our shores with high expectations! 

45 - 49 Female
Joanne McLaughlan is back to defend her crown from last year and will start as one of the hot favourites. She does not have a weak leg and in Ironman, that is hard to beat. Angela Clarke has also stood atop a podium before however it was at IM Aus, not in Western Australia. This will be a great battle all day as Joanne’s strength on the bike will put her in front coming in to T2 and she will need to hold off a very fast finishing Angela. The cat and mouse competition will be worth following. Leanne Southwell (the Southwells from team TOSS in Sydney are well known for high place finishes) will figure in the placings. Laurence Bachmann will be hoping to move up a few slots from her 9th place finish last year and my dark horse pick to snatch a podium position.

50 - 54 Male
David Boyes is the second half of the Boyes partnership (see Michelle female 40-44). He has been there and done it all. He is strong in all legs but particularly the bike. Anyone who can finish in the top 4 on the big island (2013) has big credentials to match. A professional in preparation, he also knows the course like his own backyard living close by.

50 - 54 Female
June Ward is the stand out here. She is a WA age group superstar and rightly so. A podium in Kona this year for an amazing athlete shows her capabilities. Helen Vagnoni has also tasted Hawaiian air…..twice. She has continued the family tradition but has stepped out from the shadow (anyone know the name Brad Hosking?) in demonstrating an amazing potential through conviction to training. She is a local role model to many and will ensure June stays focused the length of the course and pushes her all the way. Cate Finlay will be pushing for a podium position.

55 - 59 Male

Age group royalty graces us in this age group. Kevin Fergusson is a multiple world champion at many distances. If you want to see more on this man’s abilities, go to his 5 for 55 website where he is attempting 5 ironman events in a year (including Kona that he won this year by the way) to raise money for cancer research. An ambassador of the sport and unless a major mechanical occurs, he will win. How does he keep getting faster year after year????
John Hill (second Aussie over the line in Kona this year) and Tony Cleva will make up the podium if all goes to plan. This is a red hot field as all three from the podium at IM Aus are here and in great form.

55 - 59 Female
It could be a case of an overseas raid here. Julia Daggett (USA) may be here to grab the top position on the podium. Travelling from the USA will not slow her and she will be the one to watch. Melanie Abrams (UK) has also shown great form here last year and was only 6 minutes off winning overall. Mary Mitchell has raced everywhere and is a seasoned campaigner. Back in 2013 in Kona she touched the top 10 in her AG and that is just the tip of her results iceberg. From North Adelaide, she will start the Aussie march to hold the title. Judith Whelan will also hope to be the home ground hero attempting to stop the raid. All of these girls will finish closely but I will always back an Aussie!

60 - 64 Male
Bill Whalley is a familiar IM athlete with a broad knowledge on the sport. Can he back up again after competing just 8 weeks ago? We will see if his preparation for this race is right. Just over 10 minutes separated him and Tomas Valena at the last outing. The winner will come from this pair and rely on who has prepared best for Busselton conditions from a short recovery. Ted Hoskin will also be in the mix after a great result at IM Aus stepping on to the dais there.

60 - 64 Female
Great to see 6 lovely ladies in this field and we wish them all the best to conquer the course. Miriam Nielsen will bounce back from a disappointing IM Aus to win this age group. The rest of the group will fight it out for the podium.

65 - 69 Male
Allan Pitman, Eric Higgins and Robert Hekking will renew rivalries after fighting out a great battle at IM Aus this year. At the age of 66, Allan has smashed the course there in 11:15 which was about equivalent to my last IM in Busselton and that is truly inspirational. He is the form athlete here and my pick.

70 - 74 Male
Worth noting the size of this to show the increasing depth of athlete at IMWA as 8 competitors will toe the line above 70 years old! Quality also in this field with plenty of Hawaii athletes running around showing their amazing ability in Busselton. I believe this to be a race in two, Geoff Thorsen and Dieter Reithmeier will go head to head with less than 15 minutes separating them in the end around the 15:30 mark. I will give Geoff the nod.

75 - 79 Male
Yep, we have 3 in this category with a very international flavour as none are from Australia (two Japanese entrants and one from the USA). Any finish will grant a podium spot here and how inspiring at over 75 years old to complete a full length IM. Both John Webber and Yutaka Kojima ventured to the big island last year and were unfortunate not to finish due to the tough conditions. I believe John will bounce back for the win here.

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