Pro triathlete Luke Bell from Australia gives some color to his experience at the St. Croix ½ Ironman, the fabled “beauty and the beast” in the triathlon world. Luke, who trains and races with the multisport Forerunner 310XT, had a smashing 2nd place finish, a full four minutes ahead of the 3rd place finisher.
From Luke: Ironman 70.3 St Croix is one of the races on the must do list. The history behind the race is amazing and the who's who of the triathlon world have all been there to race and try to 'tame' the 'Beast'. The Beast, although getting up to 18-20% grade, is not the only tough section of the course, with relentless hills on both the cycle and run, all rounded off with hot, humid conditions. I must say the swim is something to remember. Starting out on a white sand island in crystal clear blue warm water is something you do not get at every race, that is for sure.
Race day forecast was for headwinds of 20 miles/hr but relatively nice overcast conditions. I was expecting the swim to be one bunch exiting the water together, but after rounding the turn buoy, I found myself out in front with a small gap. With strong currents, I just concentrated on not overspending the 'gas' early, staying steady back to shore, reaching dry land with around a 30-second lead over the bunch.
The 56 mile cycle is an 'island' affair, rough narrow roads which makes even more for the experience. During the first 10 mile loop around town, I kept the pace high as I knew the lads would be onto bridging the gap. Once back through town and after negotiating the cobbled section, it was onto a steady rhythm. Well, as much as you could with the relentless hills. About 22 miles in you take a sharp left turn and your jaw hits the road as you look up the famous 'Beast". This is not some short 18% berg. This thing seems to just keep going around every corner. After not cooking it up the Beast and on the fast descent, it was now time to negotiate the headwinds around the backside of the island and back to town.
Dismounting the bike and slipping out of T2 onto what is an equally challenging run, I was surprised to see the lads only 1:30-1:40 down — bugger. This run can bite you in the butt, so the plan was to stay strong and steady, keeping my head. Kriat and Cunningham took the first lap out hard and by the halfway mark Kriat had all but eliminated the gap while I still had around 1 min over Cunningham and the Italian Degasperi, with Evo moving through fast.
With Kriat on my shoulder, the second lap was a tough one, as once Kriat did not 'blow' straight by, I figured he had used some energy to bridge the gap. The last lap was filled with surge after surge, by the both of us trying to gain some advantage. With 2 miles to go, Kriat got the very small 4 second gap over the top of a hill and rolled down the other side. From then on it was a race home. All I wanted to do was grab him by the scruff of the neck and bring him back, however, I just could not reach!
Congratulations to Maxim Kriat on the win, crossing the line 16 seconds ahead of me. The final podium position was filled by Cunningham holding off Evo by 1 second and Degasperi in 5th.
Cat Morrison of Scotland did a fantastic job of making it three wins for her on the Island in what was a fantastic female field. I am sure she will be back to defend next year.
1. Maxim Kriat (UKR): 4:11:43
2. Luke Bell (AUS): 4:11:59
3. Richie Cunningham (AUS): 4:15:50
4. Patrick Evoe (USA): 4:15:51
5. Alessandro Degasperi (ITA): 4:16:24