Mace denies Pilgrim on final lap
Phil Mace and Maddie Durkin claimed the AON National Sprint Triathlon titles at Clearwater Beach yesterday, with Mace chasing down youngster Nick Pilgrim on the last lap of the run to win by just 33 seconds.
Durkin won her first women’s title when she beat Louise Wells by 29 seconds to place tenth overall. Pilgrim looked set for a first senior title after exiting the 750-metres swim ahead of both Mace and defending champion Alan Potts.
The 15-year-old was able to consolidate his lead going into the 5k run and was well positioned before he started to show signs of fatigue, as the strong finishing Mace caught him on the final lap and surged to the win in a time of 1hr 6min 46sec.
“I started about a minute behind [Pilgrim] and luckily there are a couple of turnarounds where I could gauge my position,” said a breathless Potts. “I could see myself catching up with him and passed him with about half a mile to go.
“It was tough because young kids can sprint and I was hoping he wasn’t going to hang on. All three of the disciplines he’s strong and is only going to get stronger. He’s such a good athlete, and his run has come a long way. The back stretch through the park is undulating and it makes it interesting. The last mile was tough.”
Pilgrim crossed the line in 1:07:19, visibly disappointed with his run. “I just died on the run; I don’t think I drank enough water on the bike,” he said.
“I maybe went a little too hard on the bike and it killed my legs on the run. I knew he was coming but my legs were just dead; I didn’t feel good at all. Running normally would be [my strength], but I’ve not been training as much on the run lately because I’ve had a hard season.”
Potts had his hands full trying to defend the title he won last year. He came out of the water in 18 minutes and despite closing the gap with the third-fastest bike and second-fastest run, he simply had too much to do and was never in contention.
Potts clocked 1:09:05 to take third place, with Geoff Smith finishing fourth, 30 seconds behind. Caleb Ingham, another talented youngster, completed the top five when he finished in 1:12:15.
In windy conditions, which made the water choppy for the swim, the winning times were slower than last year when Potts won in 1:00:02 with Smith second in 1:01:26 a year ago.
It was the same for the women where pre-race favourite Durkin lived up to her top billing to land her first national title in the absence of defending champion Karen Smith who was watching from the sidelines.
Durkin, second to Smith last year, appeared to be having things her own way as she established a solid lead over her nearest challengers Amber Mehta and Louise Wells.
Wells clawed back some 30 seconds on the bike, overtaking Mehta in the process, but going into the second transition, Durkin still had 1½ minutes on her. By the run turn into the second lap, Louise Wells made big inroads into Durkin’s lead with was an excellent run. Although she knocked another minute off Durkin’s lead she still fell 28 seconds short as Durkin took the win in 1:15:08, good enough for eighth overall.
Durkin finished just behind Kent Richardson with Wells posting a time of 1:15:35 secs to place tenth overall. Mehta lost more time on the run but still held on for third place in a time 1:20:13.
“I just wanted to feel my best; it’s not about how you place, but feeling your best and making improvements along the way,” Durkin said.
“Every race is different and you can’t really compare. Today’s race was windy, so I would say much more challenging.
“I’m more experienced than last year but every time it is just as hard.”
Durkin’s time was about seven minutes slower than her time of 1:08:02 last year, although the conditions were more challenging yesterday.
“The swim was dramatically different with the windy conditions, so it’s not about time but how you feel,” she said.
Durkin was cheered on by Ashley Couper while Karen Smith also watched from the sidelines after opting not to go for a third straight title after competing two weeks ago in the Hawaii Ironman World Championship.
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