After a rough 12 months with surgeries, newly crowned Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific Champion, Melissa Hauschildt summed up her race nicely at the finish line, “It was awesome to be back – I’m stoked with the win!”

Text and images by Witsup

Melissa Hauschildt made a big statement at today’s Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific Championship at Western Sydney clawing her way back from a five minute deficit out of the swim, and eventually crossing the line ahead of Felicity Sheedy-Ryan by 85 seconds. This win was significant for Hauschildt who has had a series of setbacks with operations and injuries.

“It’s been a while. I knew I would get back on track, but you always have doubts especially when everyone else is doubting you, and everyone else thinks you’re finished which can be hard,” she explained. “So I was absolutely stoked to get the win today and I felt great doing it too!”

The day was on point with not much wind, but the heat made it a non wetsuit swim for both professionals and age groupers.

Super swimmer, Lauren Brandon, shocked no one when she exited the water in the lead with a 24:43 to her name. Haley Chura was hot on her heels just five seconds back with Rebecca Clarke a further six seconds behind.

The chase pack of Annabel Luxford, Liz Blatchford, Amelia Watkinson, Felicity Sheedy-Ryan and Laura Dennis exited the water over two minutes in arrears.

Clarke dropped early allowing Brandon and Chura to take the race up the road. Further back, a strong group of four formed with Luxford, Watkinson, Blatchford and Sheedy-Ryan working hard to make up the time.

On the way back into town, Blatchford started to hit the metaphorical wall, and dropped off the group, with Sheedy-Ryan struggling to keep in contact with Luxford and Watkinson.

“Amelia [Watkinson] and Annabel [Luxford] did a lot of the hard riding at the start and I was just trying to hang on,” Sheedy-Ryan explained. “I started to warm up at the end of first lap and tried to help out, but then Bella [Luxford] put in a surge to get rid of me, and then when Lizzy [Blatchford] dropped off, I had to go around to get back on, but they were really pushing to drop me – I think those surges came back to bite me.”

Unfortunately at the end of the first lap, Luxford rode off course to call it a day after suffering with illness for the past few weeks, whittling the chase pack down to two – Watkinson and Sheedy-Ryan.

Meanwhile further back, the two time Ironman 70.3 World Champion, Hauschildt, was on a mission, putting a dent into the women’s lead ahead.

“Training on the bike has been going well, but it hasn’t been where I’ve been in the past, so I just wasn’t sure what I could hold out there today,” Hauschildt explained. “I held 230 watts for the first lap and felt comfortable, so on the second lap I went a little but quicker and ended up averaging 40kph, so I was definitely pretty happy with that!”

Up the road Brandon had pulled ahead of Chura who had been in the lead in parts of the first stage of the bike, and was having a solid day, but at the far end of the bike course on the second lap, Sheedy-Ryan and Watkinson moved ahead of Chura.

Hauschildt was picking off athletes as she went about her 40kph bike stint.

As the athletes turned at the far corner, Hauschildt was reeling them in, and she ended up getting out of transition in an impressive second place with a phenomenal 2:15:37 bike split.

Brandon led out of transition, but was looking ginger on the run. Watkinson followed Hauschildt out in third, with Sheedy-Ryan further back.

“Typically I’d prefer to have a bit of a lead off the bike with faster runners around me,” Watkinson said. But it wasn’t to be, with Sheedy-Ryan blowing past Watkinson and moving in on Hauschildt.

As the two past Brandon and took the first two spots at the front of the race, the run battle was well and truly on, and the games had begun!

“I knew she [Sheedy-Ryan] was going to be quick on the run,” Hauschildt said. “I thought I could run 3:45 pace but wasn’t quite sure so I thought if I go out at 3:50 the only other person who can run that is Felicity [Sheedy-Ryan], and if she catches me hopefully I can stick with her – and that’s exactly what happened!

“She caught me at about 10km mark and then threw down a 3:38min/km! So I thought I should just sit back a little bit and catch my breath and see how it goes. We settled back into 3:45 and I thought I could hold this, but I kept thinking I should go, and then I thought no just wait a bit – I was torn – I knew I couldn’t leave it until the last kilometre or so with a short course athlete, so with five kilometres to go I decided to take off and threw in a 3:33 and dropped her.”

A hotly contested run was the perfect entertainment for a regional title, and the women were putting on a show.

“I know when Mel [Hauschildt] is on, she’s an amazing runner, so that’s why I was hoping to go out hard early and shut it down, not to leave it too late,” Sheedy-Ryan said. “I haven’t done this distance in a while so I wasn’t sure what the back end of my run was going to be like, but it was a great little battle out there. For the middle part of the run, I was pushing out front to get rid of her, but when she surged at the end, I just couldn’t match her.”

Hauschildt was stoked with how the race played out, but equally as excited about the close racing with Sheedy-Ryan.

“I did enjoy the competition with Felcity [Sheedy-Ryan]. It reminded me of running days!” Hauschildt exclaimed. “I’ve only really done that once before in triathlon and that was with Liz [Blatchford] at Mandurah …From the six kilometre mark we pretty much ran the whole thing together intil the last three. So it was fun to race with tactics – sitting on her shoulder and tucking in – I loved it!”

Hauschildt crossed the line beaming in a time of 4:07:05, and a run split of 1:19:02, claiming the Asia Pacific title, and giving those racing at Ironman Western Australia next weekend a huge warning sign that she is well and truly back!

Sheedy-Ryan stayed strong on the run despite losing her grip on Hauschildt, and crossed the line for her fifth podium over the half iron-distance, and another impressive display from Sheedy-Ryan who has had a fantastic back end to her 2017 season.

Watkinson was very happy to cross the line in third place in a strong field. “I’m stoked to be on the podium with the calibre of atheltes who were on the start line this morning, and I’m really looking forward to be heading back to NZ in a few days for Taupo.

2017 Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific Championship, Western Sydney Results

Finish   Swim Bike Run
Melissa HAUSCHILDT 4:07:05 AUS 0:29:50 2:15:37 1:19:02
Felicity SHEEDY-RYAN 4:08:30 AUS 0:27:06 2:20:16 1:19:07
Amelia WATKINSON 4:12:52 NZL 0:27:03 2:18:53 1:24:47
Haley CHURA 4:16:06 USA 0:24:48 2:23:45 1:24:59
Liz BLATCHFORD 4:18:13 AUS 0:27:02 2:24:27 1:24:27
Laura DENNIS 4:21:05 AUS 0:27:09 2:26:54 1:24:56
Lauren BRANDON 4:23:30 USA 0:24:43 2:19:26 1:36:55
Christine CROSS 4:25:03 USA 0:30:28 2:27:33 1:24:26
Christen BROWN 4:25:16 USA 0:28:06 2:25:40 1:28:58
Rebecca CLARKE 4:29:59 NZL 0:24:54 2:28:50 1:33:17
Anna EBERHARDT 4:31:37 HUN 0:35:48 2:26:06 1:27:26
Pip MEO 4:50:13 NZL 0:35:44 2:39:57 1:32:23
Shannon CHAPMAN 4:54:51 AUS 0:35:49 2:38:38 1:37:29
Annabel LUXFORD AUS 0:27:00

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