Leading Professional Triathletes Ready to Race Ironman Western Australia
Men’s Pro Preview
A strong field of male professional triathletes will line up for Sunday’s GWM IRONMAN Western Australia, with the battle for the title set to be a hotly contested one.
Sunday’s race will see 24 male professionals go head-to-head across the 3.8km swim, 180km ride and 42.2km run before a new champion is crowned on the famous IRONMAN red carpet.
Perth’s Matt Burton returns to Busselton to defend his 2021 GWM IRONMAN Western Australia crown, with last year’s win an important one for the 34-year-old.
“It sort of felt like it was the end of the pandemic. In 2019 when I raced, I was second to Alistair Brownlee and went sub eight, it was fantastic, and I qualified for Kona and then things stretched on so long, so it was the first time I’ve performed since then and was able to based on closures and bouts of quarantine that I did when I tried to do IRONMAN 70.3s and what not,” said Burton. “It kind of felt like it was back to where I left but as things often go it definitely didn’t follow suit for what this year has been so far, but you’re as good as your last performance so hopefully on Monday we’re having a different conversation.”
Burton has had a tough run of results since last year’s IRONMAN Western Australia win, unfortunately not finishing both the 2021 IRONMAN World Championship in Utah in May and the 2022 IRONMAN World Championship in Hawai’i in October.
“It’s fine to say COVID made things tough because things were really improving from a racing point of view prior to that but the world has essentially moved on from that period,” he said. “So it’s like coming home from Kona was probably as low a point as I’d been as an athlete just based on how perfect the preparation had been and I’d been away from the family for some time, and I then I couldn’t fire on any cylinder on race day, so you question whether you want to keep going.
“Coming home, the beauty of Busso, you don’t do anything irritational when the next commitment is in your back yard and I’ve raced here well enough a few times, posted some good times and good results but still feel from the training I’ve done now they’re a long way from what I would expect of myself at home, because I’ve always believed to be successful anywhere you’ve got to be good in your own environment,” he said.
There are a host of athletes who are determined not to let Burton go back-to-back this weekend, with Brisbane’s Max Neumann one such triathlete.
Neumann finished fourth at the recent 2022 VinFast IRONMAN World Championship, putting in an incredible performance to be just off the podium on his first trip to the big island of Hawai’i.
“Kona was definitely a special race to me. The build-up of the last three years with no Kona made this year’s edition a mega event,” said Neumann. “To put together one of my better performances on the biggest day in our sport was something I’m proud of. It’s definitely been hard to keep the training rolling post Kona, but IRONMAN racing is odd in the fact that sometimes fresh is best.
“My only goal from Busselton is to get across the finish line and whatever place that gets me on the day I’ll be happy with,” he said. “Of course a podium would be great but I just love racing in Australia so I’ll definitely just try and enjoy myself out there on Sunday.”
Neumann has had great success in Australia in recent years, winning the last three editions of the Cairns Airport IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns, though Sunday’s race will be his first visit to Busselton since racing IRONMAN 70.3 Western Australia back in 2018.
“I’ve raced here a few times in my career, but the last time was at the IRONMAN 70.3 in 2018 where Craig Alexander towelled us all up,” he said. “It’s a beautiful part of the world and a place I really do enjoy coming to. The race itself will be a real war of attrition. You’ve got Steve McKenna who has focused his last six to eight months on this one race and also of course the local Matt Burton who knows how to win here.”
Adelaide’s Steve McKenna finished second in 2021 in his first IRONMAN as a professional and will be keen to put in another good performance this year.
“I just took out of it that I could be good at this long distance stuff,” said McKenna. “I had done Noosa Triathlon training not thinking that we would get to do Busselton with the border closures and then when we confirmed that it was on I thought I’ve got three weeks to train for it, so I only did IRONMAN training for two to three weeks and then freshened up so having a lot more time to actually think about IRONMAN and target it I think it’s going to go a lot better than last.”
McKenna heads into the racing following a strong victory at GWM IRONMAN 70.3 Melbourne last month and a training camp at altitude in Victoria.
“I only freshened up in the last few days really, I went from IRONMAN 70.3 Melbourne to a training camp so I was really tired but I can feel some benefits from that camp and the race so it’s going to feel like a bit of step down pushing the power and cadence we do for an IRONMAN,” he said.
Also lining up on the start line in Geographe Bay on Sunday is 2021 third-place finisher Fraser Walsh, Sweden’s Patrik Nilsson and 2012 IRONMAN World Champion Pete Jacobs.
Women’s Pro Preview
Leading female professional triathletes from Australia and abroad are making their way to Busselton to race for the GWM IRONMAN Western Australia crown this Sunday.
The women’s field features previous winners, podium finishers and up and comers, with 15 female professional athletes to line up for the 3.8km swim, 180km ride and 42.2km run.
Reigning GWM IRONMAN Western Australia champion Kylie Simpson will return to Busselton to defend her title this weekend.
“We’ve had a really good lead into IRONMAN Western Australia with some good racing in the past month, just adding to the altitude training block we did straight after the World Championships,” said Simpson. “It was a great way to finish off the 2021 season with the win at IRONMAN Western Australia, securing my Kona slot as well. There were only two IRONMAN races in Australia last year and winning them both was special.”
Simpson has been overseas for the couple of months, finishing 22nd at the VinFast IRONMAN World Championship in October, before a training block Utah, a second at IRONMAN 70.3 Los Cabos and a third at IRONMAN Cozumel, both held in Mexico.
“Los Cabos and Cozumel were always a part of the plan to lead into Busselton, executing them well and being on the podium both times has given us confidence that our build for Busselton is on track,” she said. “It was great to have the opportunity to get some international racing and training in, however, always nice to be back racing in Australia. The crowd support in a home race always trumps the overseas ones.”
Brisbane’s Sarah Crowley heads to IRONMAN Western Australia with an added incentive to take the win on Sunday, if she does she’ll become the first professional athlete to win all three Australian IRONMAN races in the same calendar year.
“I love racing in Australia and I love supporting Australian races, although I have had great success overseas nothing is like racing and winning at home,” said Crowley. “Winning all three races in the same year would also be something to hold onto as a legacy from my career.”
Crowley heads into the race after being the top Australian in seventh at October’s VinFast IRONMAN World Championship, and more recently finishing seventh at GWM IRONMAN 70.3 Melbourne earlier this month.
“After a short break following Kona we returned to Australia and started a block specifically for IRONMAN Western Australia,” she said. “Things have gone well, we were able to fit in some big training weeks around IRONMAN 70.3 Melbourne which we used as preparation for this race. I was a little stale for Melbourne after only a couple of weeks back training and with the broader goal of IRONMAN Western Australia, this has meant that I am ready for this IRONMAN.”
Crowley has had great success this year with her wins at IRONMAN Australia and the Cairns Airport IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns and is keen to end 2022 on a high.
“Relatively speaking, your sporting career is short, so I like to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself,” said Crowley. “We love to race a final race each year that uses all the fitness built up for the World Championships and empty the tank to cap off the season. It’s such a good way to end the year.”
Also set to line up on Sunday is 2021 IRONMAN Western Australia second place finisher Sarah Thomas, Radka Kahlefeldt who was second at IRONMAN Cairns, and Australian IRONMAN World Championship representatives Penny Slater, Renee Kiley and Dimity-Lee Duke.
One athlete to keep an eye on is Queensland-based Dutch triathlete Lotte Wilms who will race her first IRONMAN as a professional this Sunday.
Wilms has had great success in IRONMAN 70.3 races, wining the last two IRONMAN 70.3 Sunshine Coast titles and this year’s IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong.
“The preparation for IRONMAN Western Australia has gone really well, though it was very short,” said Wilms. “I can’t say I have experienced a full IRONMAN training prep yet. I have built up my training hours since August this year and I trust my team that I have done enough to be in a great shape for my first IRONMAN.
“What I’m looking forward to the most is that feeling everyone talks about when you become an IRONMAN, I’m very curious to know how that feels,” she said.
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