Australian’s Luke Bell and Rebekah Keat recorded massive victories at their hometown race at Challenge Shepparton, both setting up the wins on the bike leg.Despite Bell exiting the swim with the leaders, he set about putting down a monster bike leg that ultimately secured his victory. Sam Betten (AUS) and Nick Kastelein (AUS) claimed second and third respectively, leaving an all Australian podium.
Keat and ‘Team Sirius’ teammate Yvonne van Vlerken (NED) were the two left to battle it out at the front of the women’s field, but it was Keat who took her fourth Shepparton title. Van Vlerken had to settle for second with Radka Vodickova (CZE) snaring the final podium spot.
It was a group of five that emerged from the water in quick succession led out by Nick Kastelein (AUS), then Matthew Pellow (NZL), Mike Phillips (NZL), Betten, and Bell.
Conditions seemed ideal but out on the bike leg the wind was up and Bell took full advantage.
At the end of the first lap he had put 4 minutes into the chasing group that was reduced to three, as Pellow was the first to call it a day.
“Trying to hold 50kph on the way back and 40kph on the way out, I could see the guys looking at each other and it plays into your own hands I guess, it drives you to stay on the pedals and the gas,” said Bell.
With a tail wind behind him on the way back into T2 Bell had amassed nearly a 7-minute lead heading out onto the first of the three 7km loops.
Kastelein was the next to charge out onto the run in pursuit of Bell. Phillips and Betten not far behind and in the chase.
Kastelein was setting the pace and reducing the gap at each lap by a minute each time, but could not breech the enormous buffer Bell had set up.
Bell took the time to soak up the finish line after a frustrating past six months.
“Training has gone exceptionally well, I just haven’t been able to deliver on race day which has been frustrating for the past 6 months. It’s just a matter of being patient, it always comes back around and it’s just nice for it to come back here.
Radka Vodickova (CZE) led into the first change over with just under a minute lead over Keat and van Vlerken.
“Radka is an exceptional athlete, I’m not the best swimmer but I managed to stay on her feet almost the whole way,” said Keat.
Keat then went about cutting that lead on the first lap of the bike, putting 2min 25sec into Vodickova and van Vlerken.
As Keat hit transition the lead had come down to 2 minutes to van Vlerken but disaster had struck for Vodickova with a front tyre blowing out. She limped back into T2 and was still determined to do what she could.
It then came down to the two teammates to battle if out for the top spots on the run. Keat was back to her brilliant self and looked in control on the first two laps pushing her lead back out to 2 minutes 26sec. Despite a scare on the final lap before she crossed the line to claim an unprecedented fourth Shepparton title.
“I felt great on the run, I wanted to negative split it but felt a twinge in my calves with 2 km to go, I stopped for a little bit to see if I could push through it, popped some Nurofen and got through it.
- Luke Bell (AUS) 3:51:23
- Sam Betten (AUS) 3:55:17
- Nick Kastelein (AUS) 3:55:49
- Mike Phillips (NZL) 4:00:59
- Brad Wauer (AUS) 4:04:11
- Rebekah Keat (AUS) 4:13:47
- Yvonne van Vlerken (NED) 4:16:11
- Radka Vodickova (CZE) 4:28:29
- Hannah Lawrence (NZ) 4:38:46