As a KPR-point heavy championship race, a top-10 performance here nearly assures a trip to Kona. With a shortened 1.9 mile swim, 40k+ winds and a stacked field, Ironman Melbourne gave us a glimpse of what might be in store come October. Spaniard Eneko Llanos gave us an exceptionally strong and patient performance, running the first half of the marathon with Craig Alexander then slowly surging away. He then set his sights on trying to run down Marino Vanhoenacker, who had taken over the bike course and was maintaining a solid run. Eneko never gave up and passed Marino at mile 23 with Marino holding on for 2nd and Alexander coming in third. As Vanhoenacker crossed the line he pointed at Llanos and gave him a thumbs up, obviously happy with his strong finish after a devastating DNF on the run course at Kona last year, a race that still haunts him.
On the woman’s side, it was an exciting day with rookie pro Corrine Abraham decimating the field that included Caroline Steffen, Gina Crawford, Meredith Kessler and Natasha Badmann among others. Abraham’s was undoubtedly the performance of the day; however, to see 46 year old Natasha Badmann at the pointy end of the race and then just shy of a podium spot at 4th is nothing short of inspiring. Natasha proves that age is no obstacle if you’ve got the will and the heart. Another stellar, if not come back performance, came from Yvonne Van Vlerken who, with her new coach Siri Lindley, ran her way up from 6th to 2nd. I think we’ll see great things from Yvonne this year.