It doesn't look like much, but the swim is a beaut. It's 1.9km in clear tidal waters, weaving through yachts and past mangrove swamps. If you've got time to spare, you can even spot a torrent of fish, turtles & crabs going about their business.
Port's bike leg is king beef. I never favour an out and back course, but this one is an exception. A two lap course, the first and last fifteen minutes of each lap is spent grinding up and down the undulating coastal terrain with spectacular views of the beaches, headlands and some forest. While the road is a brutally rough chipseal, I feel like this favors the stronger cyclists and makes for a more even race. Even those sitting in a pack have to really fight to maintain speed on this surface.
This run course is the only blemish to the race. It becomes interesting for a total of 10 minutes each lap (2 laps total) when they loop us up the breakwall and back over some hills. For the rest of the course we're thrown into the gallows on a slightly underwhelming out/back section. The course here two years ago was mint (follows the start of the bike course over the hills and along the coast), bring it back I say!
Port is a special place for me, I did my first 70.3 here two years ago. While the 5th place finish was a decent result, it was a terrible race & I went into it with even worse fitness. Though somewhere in my mind cogs, there was a part of me that came out totally happy and content. I did my first 70.3 in Port at a time when I didn't know where my place in the sport lay. I had just thrown my allegiance to ITU racing, and olympic distance non-drafting was good, but still doing little to hold my attention. It was after this race I knew that 70.3 would become my short to long-term pathway, and that made me totally content. To continue on with the story, Clayton Fettell totally dominated the race that year. He flattened the field like tamped coffee in a triple-shot espresso basket, & I was perpetually jealous. With the good Port vibes & memory of Clayton's performance still vivid, it was only a matter of time before I returned to have a crack at the title, and this year it fitted into the schedule nicely.
Without Clayton on the startline, my goal was to race solo the whole way. I knew I had great bike fitness coming off the back of the Vegas, but up to this point I had still never been able to race a 70.3 event solo, with either my mind or body holding me back from the performance I have been desperate to produce. I said it in the post-race interview, & to repeat myself, I think there has been hints of this performance in Port in my racing all year, and a wire-to-wire 70.3 win was going to happen sooner or later. Just hold it together FFS, okay? Well it all worked out, and just like that I came away with the win I have been dreaming of.
The swim was a normal affair; swim firm, enough to break up the field but not enough to damage myself. I caused separation from all but Joey Lampe, who's cheekily taken a swim bonus from me already this year, so I had to stay vigilant coming into the beach to make sure he didn't snatch this one from me either. Like Joey was probably thinking in Boulder Peak, every dollar counts when you're a young pro! No stress Joey, I still love you.
I wanted to show dominance on the bike straight away, and I got a small gap on Joey but he still had me in sights until the first turnaround at 22km. I felt great, and just rode to power & tried to not let the rough roads bother me, just maintaining nice strong circles with my feet. Joey soon dropped off after this and I was on my own. The power was good and I was confident. At the half way point, I think I had 2-3minutes on the next athlete through, top lad Tom Davison who's been showing authority on the bike all year. I was in my element, loving every second of the effort.
Lap two went by fast, mixing it up with the age groupers on their first lap, riding down the centerline to avoid collisions but taking advantage of a cheeky little slipstream when the opportunity was there. My Felt IA was the goods, I couldn't ask for a better collaboration between power, comfort & speed from a pushbike, and I was getting off on how many people were potentially admiring it as I rode past. Okay cool ya jets, it is a sweet rig though. I can't wait to see how many of these will take to the roads next season. My Quarq power file from the ride can be viewed here.
I think I came off the bike with five minutes on Tom Davison & Casey Munro, and about 7 minutes on the best runners in the field. I just did what I needed to do, and I held my lead by almost 4 minutes at the finish. I was really happy to see my buddy Sam Appleton claim his first 70.3 podium in 2nd place with a swift 1.15 run, and also great to see Joey Lampe hold onto third after a string of late season troubles (hatecrew for life).
It feels great to finally get my 2nd 70.3 win up on the board, and I look forward to attempting more titles in the future. Thanks so much to those who sent a message my way after the race, it always makes a a good result feel that much greater. Cheers!
Port Macquarie News