Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ferguson revokes Lawn's crown at Bonita Ironman New Zealand

Above, Stephen Bayliss powers through the swim course at Ironman New Zealand

Bonita Ironman New Zealand delivered the familiar and the new in Taupo on the weekend as Cameron Brown won his eighth title while blueseventy's Gina Ferguson ended the six-year reign of Jo Lawn.

The women’s race hinted that an historical change was afoot when 29-year-old Ferguson stopped Lawn’s record run of six consecutive victories.

For the majority of the bike leg there was never more than seconds separating Denmark’s former world champion Lisbeth Kristensen, Lawn and Ferguson, before the Danish mother of one pulled away to open up a three and a half minute advantage on to the marathon run.

It was Ferguson who responded strongest on the run, though, moving first past Lawn and then a tiring Kristensen before the halfway mark. Ferguson held strong to win in 9:18.26, more than four minutes ahead of Lawn with Australia’s Charlotte Paul passing Kristensen for third.

The Christchurch athlete had no doubts as to the importance of the occasion.

“Yeah, this is my biggest win, the race was really competitive with Jo and Charlotte and earlier Lisbeth and it is here in New Zealand so yes, this is definitely the most important win of my career so far,” Ferguson said.

Lawn was gracious in defeat.

“That was an incredible experience, the crowd was amazing again, I just wish I could have finished first, but Gina had a great day today and was too good. We pushed each other, I think, and that’s what makes champions.”

Ferguson pinpointed one aspect of her race and training that she felt made the difference today.

“I’ve been working hard on my cycling, and I’m pleased it is coming along nicely. I came off the bike six or seven minutes down on Jo last year, but his year was a 1:45. So I think that was the difference today, I didn’t have to chase her down so much on the run.”

In the men’s race all eyes were on seven-time winner Brown or fellow kiwi debutant and Foster Grant Ironman World 70.3 Champion, Terenzo Bozzone. Brown answered that question in emphatic style, putting together a near perfect race to set a new race record of 8:18:05. For Bozzone there was no disgrace in second today, an amazing result on debut at the ultimate triathlon distance.

The swim did little to separate the contenders and for much of the bike it was a tight group of six riders at the head of the field, with Brown, blueseventy's Dirk Bockel, Bozzone, Stephen Bayliss (also a blueseventy athlete) and Jan Raphael (GER) to the fore. Bockel worked hardest over the final 40km to open up a three minute lead, a move the Ironman debutant would suffer for later in the run.

Brown was his usual metronomic self on the run, cutting out the marathon in an amazing 2:44:08 as he wore down Bockel and left Bozzone running for second. The 36-year-old Brown appeared invigorated by today's challenge and was delighted with his eighth Taupo title.

2009 Bonita Ironman New Zealand (3.8k swim, 180km bike, 42km run)

Professional male: Cameron Brown, AUCK, 8.18.05,1 (new race record); Terenzo Bozzone, AUCK, 8.25.37 2; Dirk Bockel, LUXEMBOURG, 8.27.12, 3; Jan Raphael, GERMANY, 8.32.32, 4; Richard Ussher, AUCK, 8.35.56, 5

Pro Women: Gina Ferguson, CHRISTCHURCH, 9.18.26, 1; Jo Lawn, AUCK, 9.23.08, 2; Charlotte Paul, AUS, 9.30.25, 3; Lisbeth Kristensen, DEN, 9.32.51, 4; Bella Bayliss, UK, 9.41.04, 5.

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