Seear and Docherty tops in Ishigaki
Race Conditions: Air Temperature: 26C, water: humidity: 66%, wind: 3.6 ESE.
Brilliant sunshine, azure blue water, the booming of odeku drums, and thousands of local fans lining the course set the stage for the opening event of the 2004 ITU World Cup Series.
In the women’s event Canada’s Suzanne Weckend, hot off a 3rd place finish at the recent Pan American Championships took a lead in the 2 lap 1500m swim right from the starter’s signal. On her heels was Britain’s Annaliese Heard, who was here with the British team using the event as a team selection event for the Athens Olympic Games. The duo kept a modest lead through the 1st transition when Heard moved to the front on the 6 lap, 40 km bike, choosing to go it alone rather than work with the Canadian.
A large group formed the chase pack out of the water, including Maxine Seear of Australia, Britain’s Julie Dibbens, Stephanie Forrester and Michelle Dillon, as well as Beatrice Lanza of Italy, and Lin Xing of China. At the start of the bike they were down 23 seconds on Weckend and Heard.
Without a joint effort at the front, a group of 7 were able to bridge to the leaders to form a new lead. Dibens and Megan Hall of South Africa took charge at the front trying to hold off a strong group of 5 that was trying to catch up. By the 20km mark 2 chase groups combined and subsequently caught the leaders to form a large group at the front. Dibens, Weckend, Austria’s Eva Brambock, and Switzerland’s Olympic Champion Brigitte McMahon were now in charge of the lead group. Meanwhile the new chase pack was still in contention and was led by Samantha McGlone of Canada, Brazil’s Mariana Ohata, Nicola Spirig of Switzerland, Beatrice Lanza of Italy, and Japan’s Akiko Skine. They were 1:30 back at the 20km mark.
On the last lap Dibens and Hall continued to control things at the front, but the lead group still lost time to the big chase pack of 25 behind. Dibens moved to the front to avoid the congestion at the dismount line, but it was Japan’s Maki Shimomura who proved what transition speed can be as she cleared the field and was 1st on the run course. Dibens was 2nd out, followed closely by Machiko Nakanishi of Japan, Maxine Seear of Australia and Andrea Whitcombe of Britain. Noted runner Michelle Dillon of Britain had a slow transition and was last from the leader group onto the run.
The chase pack was almost 1:30 back as they started the run. Samantha McGlone, Nicola Spirig and Akiko Sekine were the first one clear from that group.
It didn’t take long for Michelle Dillon to run through the field on the first lap and as she ran through the stadium area she had a 20-second lead on Maxine Seear and Machiko Nakanishi. Andrea Whitcombe was running in 4th, with Japanese athletes Kiyomi Niwata in 5th.
Dillon increased her lead to 36 seconds over Seear as they entered the bell lap, but it was Kiyomi Niwata who was sending the thousands of fans around the course into a frenzy as she seems to have secured herself a podium position by running strongly in 3rd place.
On the last lap Maxine Seear made up 30 seconds on Dillon and as they entered the stadium she sprinted past a faltering Dillon to set up a thrilling finish. Kiyomi Niwata put the icing on the cake by taking the last step on the podium, much to the delight of the home crowd.
In the men’s event, all the giants of the sport lined up on the start platform and with the starter’s signal executed a picture perfect dive into the pristine water of Tonoshiro Bay. On a normal day fishing boats would be heading off for their daily catch, but today the only fishing was by 65 athletes looking to snare a spot on the start line of the Olympic Games in Athens in just over 4 months time.
Richard Stannard of Britain took his familiar position at the lead from the start signal with Tsukasa Hirano of Japan on his heels. Stannard led through the first lap, but he and Hirano swam neck and neck through the final 750 metres. Stannard was first out of the water and through the transition first, with Hirano and Paulo Miyashiro of Brazil on his tail.
A huge pack exited the water moments behind the leaders including Shane Reed of New Zealand, Chris Hill of Australia, Hirokatsu Tayama of Japan and Russian teammates Ivan Vasiliev and Igor Sysoev. Greg Bennett, who stayed in about 10th place through the swim, exited the 1st transition in 14th place. On the first bike lap, Bennett powered his way through the field to take the lead up and over the Southern Gate Bridge - the familiar landmark of this event.
Bennett led the huge pack of 31 riders through the first 2 laps, exchanging with Shane Reed and Richard Stannard. The energy spinning off them as they sped through the spectator-lined streets of Ishigaki was magic. Just before they entered the stadium area to begin the 3rd lap, Kiwi teammates Bevan Docherty and Kris Gemmell broke from the pack with Reed, Stannard, Axel Zeebroek from Belgium, and Franz Hoefer from Austria on the chase to pull them. Meanwhile, Bermuda’s Olympic hopeful Tyler Butterfield and South African Conrad Stoltz had taken control of the chase pack and were working hard to make up some time on the leaders.
Although the first breakaway failed, a second attempt by Kris Gemmell, Cyrille Mazur of France and Vasiliv Krommidas, who will be competing at home this summer in Greece succeeded. The trio gained time on the massive pack behind through the 4th and 5th lap, as Gerald Hovarth, Richard Stannard and Igor Sysoev tried in vain to break from the massive pack and bridge to the leaders. It was at this time that the second chase pack powered their way up to the big chase pack, thanks to the brave hearts of Butterfield, Stoltz and Austria’s Norbert Dominik.
Gemmell, Mazure and Krommidas swept through the second transition with speedy proficiency, but it was Mazure who was first onto the final 10km run course. They had barely cleared the transition when the remainder of the field arrived in mass. Bevan Docherty, Richard Stannard, Dimitry Gaag of Kazahkstan, Chris Hill, Richard Allen, Andrew Johns and Greg Bennett were the first from the huge pack through onto the run in the hunt for the leaders.
Docherty and Gaag overtook the leaders on the 1st lap and built up a 15 second lead on the trio of Bennett and British team-mates Paul Amey and Andrew Johns. A second chase pack a further 20 seconds back was led by British teammates Richard Stannard and Stuart Hayes and Juraci Moreira of Brazil.
Docherty and Gaag increased their lead to 25 seconds and continued to run shoulder to shoulder at the front through the 2nd and 3rd lap, as Bennett, Johns and Amey ran together in a sea-saw battle for the final step on the podium. A further 15 seconds back, Brazilians Leandro Macedo and Juraci Moreira were running together with Stuart Hayes of Britain.
With more 2nd place finishers than anyone else in World Cup history, and never a win, Bevan Docherty didn’t settle for 2nd today. He romped away from Gaag on the final lap to win the 2004 ITU Ishigaki Triathlon World Cup. He even had time to spare in the finish straight to exchange high 5’s from enthusiastic spectators. Dimitri Gaag was 2nd and Paul Amey of Britain with a huge comeback from several years of injury was 3rd - which also earned him a spot on the British Olympic team for Athens.
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Related Event: 2004 Ishigaki ITU Triathlon World Cup
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