Photos: Korupt Vision for Ironman Oceania

By Kent Gray/
With the Ironman 70.3 World Championships on his doorstep in Taupo this December, Rotorua off-road specialist Sam Osborne figured there was no better time than the present to fully focus on long course triathlon.

What the 31-year-old Kiwi hadn’t anticipated was the shift from XTERRA racing to on-road swim, bike and run paying such swift and rich dividends as it did in Sunday’s Ironman 70.3 Geelong.

Osborne described as “crazy” his epic 11-second victory over Brit Thomas Bishop. Not only was it a maiden Ironman title in 3:41:25, it was a first ever 70.3 podium, the Kiwi’s goal of qualifying for the December 14-15 Ironman 70.3 World Championships ticked off well ahead of schedule.

“I can hardly believe it,” Osborne said after earning New Zealand successive Geelong titles after Mike Phillips’ triumph 12 months ago.

“This win is huge. I said this year that I’m going to really focus on the long course stuff, it’s not every year, and I will probably never in my career have the World Championships in New Zealand again, I want to race the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships at home so to come out, get a world’s slot and win my first IRONMAN 70.3 it’s crazy, I didn’t think it would happen, not this early.”

Osborne was first out of the water but just 10 seconds separated the top nine after the 1.9km swim.

Phillips, who eventually finished sixth, was the first back into transition after the bike with Osborne sixth. From there Osborne and Bishop surged to the front, swapping the lead a number of times before the Kiwi edged ahead on a hill to take the win.

“I was just thinking that top two get a World’s slot initially and then I thought, shoot, I might be on for a shot here, I might be able to win this thing and I guess my mindset shifted…” Osborne continued.

“A good mate that I trained heaps with in Boulder, Joe Gambles, an old Ironman 70.3 dude, he said just before that hill at 18km or so that it’s going to be worth it mate, just suffer.”

Osborne duly suffered and then was left struggling to comprehend being on the top step of Geelong’s first ever all-international podium after Finn Henrik Goesch claimed third, a minute further back on Bishop.

“I can hardly believe it, the goal was to come here and get a World’s slot and I feel like I’ve been close the last couple of times and then I saw the start list here and I thought jeez, I’m really going to have my work cut out for me,” Osborne said.

“I came off the bike and this was the first time that I’ve come off the bike at the front, I come from an off-road tri background so I’m used to the mountain bike so the aero bars can be punishing but I’ve spent heaps of time on the TT bike recently just trying to get used to it which I think paid off.

“I back my run, I just haven’t been able to get off the bike and use it as a weapon but Tommy comes from a short-course background so he’s pretty rapid, I think maybe we got a little bit excited on the first lap and I thought maybe I could get away but that guy is all class.

“He was running really well on the down-hills and he was putting me under lots of pressure and then he just seemed to not have as much spring in his step on the up-hills, and I thought that hill at the back of the course was my opportunity to try and break him there and just hold on for dear life.”

Brisbane’s Ellie Salthouse claimed her second Ironman 70.3 Geelong victory, crossing the line in 4:07:18, less than a minute ahead of Melbourne’s Grace Thek, with Dutch athlete Lotte Wilms rounding out the podium.

Hannah Berry was the leading Kiwi in 6th in 4:11:44.

“It was a bit of a slow day to get going for me today, not the best swim, a little bit of an average bike but I had to back my run out there today,” said Salthouse.

“We all came off together with a couple up the road and I had to back myself and had a great run, one of my fastest ever so stoked with where my running is at the moment.

“It’s always nice to start the year with a win but now I need to keep on going, I started the season a little bit later than usual, just because we have the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in December, that’s a lot later than normal, I wanted to start my year later and slower and build up from here.”

IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong – Professional Men’s Top-10

1.      Sam Osborne (NZL) – 3:41:26
2.      Thomas Bishop (GBR) – 3:41:38
3.      Henrik Goesch (FIN) – 3:42:36
4.      Mitch Kibby (AUS) – 3:42:53
5.      Steve McKenna (AUS) – 3:43:19
6.      Mike Phillips (NZL) – 3:44:21
7.      Benjamin Zorgnotti (FPN) – 3:44:26
8.      Caleb Noble (AUS) – 3:44:56
9.      Jarrod Osborne (AUS) – 3:47:11
10.   Calvin Amos (AUS) – 3:52:22
Also Kiwi
20. Tom Somerville (NZL) – 4:03:46

IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong – Professional Women’s Top 10
1.      Ellie Salthouse (AUS) – 4:07:18
2.      Grace Thek (AUS) – 4:08:16
3.      Lotte Wilms (NED) – 4:10:22
4.      Radka Kahlefeldt (AUS) – 4:11:31
5.      Hannah Berry (NZL) – 4:11:44
6.      Hanne De Vet (BEL) – 4:12:59
7.      Penny Slater (AUS) – 4:14:00
8.      Chloe Hartnett (AUS) – 4:19:28
9.      Aleisha Wesley (AUS) – 4:22:50
10.    Kate Gillespie-Jones (AUS) – 4:24:09

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