21 May Macca does the double as Bintan Triathlon celebrates 10th birthday
Words by Alan Grant
The Bintan Triathlon celebrated its 10th edition with a bang as a true legend of the sport was added to the honour roll of winners in the shape of Chris “Macca” McCormack. A last-minute entry into the event, McCormack not surprisingly won the blue ribbon Olympic Distance race, but the multiple world champion did the double by taking the Sprint title too and in the process gave some of his up-and-coming competitors the thrill of their young lives. Kathryn Haesner was a dominant winner of the women’s Olympic distance race, her performance good enough for ninth place across both genders, while Vanessa Colless was the women’s Sprint champ.
McCormack’s presence at the Nirwana Gardens resort for the 9am start of the Sprint race meant the usual festive atmosphere at the race village was raised a notch or two and the big crowd on the beach were rewarded with a thrilling show over the 750-metre swim leg. Everybody assumed that McCormack would be first out of the water but as the leading foursome rounded the u-turn buoy and headed back to the beach, it soon became apparent that the legend was trailing. Indeed, first out of the water was 15-year-old Tim Hagemeister some 12 seconds ahead of his 16-year-old friend and rival Brett Izzo. Only then came McCormack in third, followed closely by defending champion Rick Atkinson.
However, McCormack dashed his challengers’ dreams of glory by quickly hauling in his young rivals and powering away on the 20km bike leg. He put two minutes into them over the ride, leaving the 5km run leg as a formality for the Aussie superstar. He received a rapturous welcome as he ran down the finishing chute for the win.
Behind, the teenagers and Atkinson had duked it out on the bike and came into T2 together setting up a battle for second place. Izzo won that contest easily, pulling away strongly as he ran the fastest run split of the race to claim the runner’s up spot. The fight for the final place on the podium next to McCormack came down to a sprint for the line, and it was Atkinson’s prize after he held off a brave effort from Bevan Colless, who had come from well back after the bike.
The new champ enjoyed the experience.
“I loved it, a really, really nice course. One lap was tough, so two laps this afternoon will be harder, but I really enjoyed it,” said McCormack, who was originally only supposed to be racing the Olympic Distance event before being coaxed into doing the double.
“Now I’m going to sit in my room, put the air-conditioning on and try to cool the body down a bit.”
Izzo didn’t seem disappointed in losing out on what would have been the race win had it not been for McCormack’s presence, indeed he was thrilled.
“It was awesome. I really couldn’t believe it when I came out of the water (ahead of McCormack). I was just humbled, it was so awesome,” he said of the experience of racing with the legendary Macca.
Vanessa Colless, wife of the unlucky fourth-placed Bevan in the men’s race, made up for his disappointment with a come-from-behind but ultimately easy victory in the women’s race. Samara Pattiasina took a huge lead out of the water, but Colless had made up the three-minute deficit by midway through the bike leg and that coupled with the fastest run split of the race, saw her take the win comfortably. Her winning time of 1:14:51 was the ninth-fastest among men and women. Claiming the runner’s-up spot was Kathryn Campbell with Joanna Morris in third place.
After a few hours of rest, McCormack joined his 600 fellow competitors on the beach for the 1:45pm start of the Olympic Distance event. The temperature was noticeable lower than the usual high 30s Celsius, thanks to the large storm that was hovering threateningly just off shore. Fortunately, while it was soaking nearby Singapore, the winds kept it away from Bintan and the race splashed off bang on time.
The 1,500-metre swim course in the tropical waters of the South China Sea features an outer and inner loop, and as a leading duo hit the beach to start the second loop, once again McCormack featured, but this time he was joined by Andy Wibowo. The pair had a huge lead over the rest of the field, but it was Wibowo, last year’s overall runner-up, who was doing most of the work and the Indonesian duly lapped up the acclaim from the crowd as he exited the water first and powered into transition.
From there, however, it was the same story as the Sprint race, with McCormack using his awesome cycling strength to quickly ride away from Wibowo. His time of 1:00:40 was the fastest bike split of the day as he just failed to breach the hour barrier, which has only been done three times in 10 years. Behind, Wibowo put up a solid performance on the bike and was second into T2, but not too far behind came the imposing figure of two-time Bintan Triathlon winner Assad Attamimi. The Aussie quickly caught Wibowo on the run and he set off in pursuit of McCormack, but while he outsplit the former world champ with his 39:32 time for the 10km distance, McCormack had eased off the pace considerably on the second lap to take a dominating but hugely popular win. He even took the time to double back down the finishing chute after spotting Izzo to hand over his sunglasses as a memento. The new champ’s time of 2:03:34 was almost six minutes faster than Attamimi.
Third place went to the hard-charging James Middleditch, winner of the recent MetaSprint Series. Well back after the swim, he sliced through the field during the bike and run legs, and moved past Wibowo into third place near the end of the first lap of the run.
A happy Macca was full of praise for the event…
“That was great. I actually felt better after this second race than I did after the Sprint,” he said.
“To me this is triathlon. Everyone talks about Ironman and Challenge, but this is community triathlon, this is where we all started. You know, those young kids I raced with today are the future of the sport and I just love being part of events like this. It’s been here for 10 years and I think it’s got 10 more big ones to come and I hope to come back next year.”
He also hasn’t ruled out returning to Bintan one day for the MetaMan, but perhaps not for the full iron-distance race.
“I’ve done the Sprint and Olympic and so I think the Half would be tough here, but yeah, that’s something I’d consider for sure,” said McCormack, an obvious fan of the Nirwana Gardens layout.
“It’s an honest course and I was actually thinking on the second lap of the run that I’d love to see the big talent, the Brownlees and Gomez, take on a course like this, because it’s not really one you can open up on. It’s twisty-turny, has downs and ups and is difficult to find a rythym on. So it would be great to see what those boys could do.”
In the women’s contest, Haesner used her ocean swimming background to quickly establish a lead; her swim time of 23:49 was the fourth-fastest of the day across genders and two minutes quicker than her nearest competitor Claire Davis. The women’s wave started 15 minutes after the men, but such was her powerful swim that Haesner hit the bike course amid the majority of the men and she caught and passed many more on her way to a 1:08:04 split on the fast but undulating 40km bike course. A normally fierce competitor, the Aussie allowed herself the luxury of taking her foot off the gas on the second lap of the run, but her winning time was still an impressive 2:19:11, and was only beaten by eight of the men.
Equally as impressive was the performance of the runner-up, a certain Vanessa Colless, the Sprint champ from the morning. Unless you are a multiple world champion, taking on and winning a Sprint race just four hours before an Olympic distance contest is sure to have a negative effect on the latter, so while she finished well back from Haesner, bravo to Colless for a great achievement. Taking the final podium honours among the women was Rowena Jayne de Belligny in third place.
Having swept the MetaSprint Series earlier this year and won the MetaMan Blitz race last August, Haesner has now claimed five MetaSport races in a row and she’ll be going for six at this year’s MetaMan Half on August 25.
She was happy with her day’s work.
“The race went to plan, definitely. I took it easy on the run as I didn’t want to hurt myself just two weeks after Busselton (Ironman 70.3),” Haesner said. “But I loved the bike, it was great. It’s a tough course, it’s got the hills and the hotter climate is a factor, but it’s really enjoyable. As I said, I loved it.”
The Bintan Triathlon is a true triathlon festival with something for everyone and after the dazzling awards dinner, 10th anniversary celebrations and the after party on the Saturday night, the action moved into day two with the Youths and Kids races on the Sunday morning.
The male Youths race started the action with their swim-bike-run contest over a 300m/12km/3km distance. Soon after the splash off, pre-race favorite Kyle Izzo found himself in a two-way battle for the crown with Russell Liew. Izzo emerged from the water first with Liew hot on his heels, and the pair could hardly be separated on the bike leg either. But Izzo pulled away on the first lap of the run and won comfortably in the end. Liew duly took the runner’s-up prize with Jake Wimbush in third. It’s worth mentioning that the Youths race is split into two age categories, 12-13 and 14-15, and that both Liew and Wimbush came from the younger age group.
The female Youths race was another cracker, and it had a fairy-tale ending as the Middleditch sisters Emma and Louisa took first and second place. They didn’t have it their own way, though, as they found themselves well back after the swim. First out of the water were the pair of Ana Koczanowski and Juliette Cocks, with Dayanee Kunaseelan 20 seconds back in third. After the undulating 12km bike leg, Kunaseelan had moved into the lead but Emma Middleditch chased her closely out of T2, while big sister Louisa was now in third place. The 13-year-old Emma then put in a storming last leg to run out the winner, ahead of Louisa. Cocks also put in a strong run to secure third place.
Last but not least were the Kids events for the 8-11 year olds, and the boys contest also turned out to be a two-horse race over their 150m/6km/1.5km course. First out of the water was Jackson Campbell with Lachlan Pallister right behind him. The youngsters matched each other on the bike with Pallister having a slight edge out of transition. So it was down to the run to settle things and Campbell just had that little bit extra to take the win by just 11 seconds. Third over the line was Rowan McCallum from the 8-9 category.
The girls race for the 8-11 year olds was also similar to the Youth female race in that the final podium placers had to come from well back after the swim leg to take the honours. First out of the water was Zoe Albury by a big margin but while she faded on the bike, the trio of Caitlin Van Selm, Kristi Stuart and Georgina Hagger powered clear of the rest of the field during the second leg. Van Selm proved the strongest over the run to take the title from Hagger in second and Stuart in third. Again, a special mention to Hagger as she came from the younger 8-9 age group.
As McCormack said after the Sprint race, the future of the sport is in safe hands when the kids of today are putting in such strong and enthusiastic performances.
While the focus of this and other race reports is always on the leading lights, triathlon belongs to all who compete and well over 1,000 men, women and children competed for age-group and personal glory throughout the weekend. Kudos to them all. Full results can be found at www.bintantriathlon.com.
Triathlon returns to Bintan on August 24-25 in the shape of the MetaMan, where iron-distance, half-iron and Blitz distance races are on offer. Visit www.metmanbintan.com for details.