Ironman Coeur d’Alene was about to dish up more than a rule book could bargain…

Wow, what a day! It seems that lately most races are having their fair share of controversy, and this one was to be no different. But who would have known?!

At 6.25am the Pros hit the freezing Lake Coeur D’Alene for the beginning of the 2 lap 3.8km swim. The water temperature was about 12.5 degrees – pretty cold by anyone standards. Skull caps and booties were allowed. A good warm up was key, and allowed the body to slightly adjust before the all out sprint at the start. However, there was definitely no feeling in the hands and feet as the swim went on.

As to be expected, Meredith Kessler was in one of the lead pack of men right from the start and built a four minute lead. Next out of the water was favorite to win and “super cyclist”, Heather Wurtele, with Kate Bevilaqua on her feet. This was a small group of four including two Pro men.

The Age groupers started 25 mins after the Pros which allowed them to complete one lap before the mass of 2600 athletes hit the water. It was definitely a sight to see.

The bike course had changed from previous years, and most thought it would be slightly faster, with less technical turns. But, in the end the consensus was that it was harder, especially with the head wind during the major climbing section of the course. Heather and Meredith went for it on the bike and by 40 miles they were riding together and pushing the pace on everyone behind them. The gap was increasing to Kate Bevilaqua in 3rd followed by Stephanie Ossenbrink and Hayley Cooper-Scott.

The second lap saw Heather begin to put time into Meredith, heading back into town with less than 20 miles to go. The chasers were still more than 15 mins behind in the same order, all oblivious to the bike mechanical issue that Heather was about to have.

Heather recaps the entire event on her website, and it is worth a read (http://wurtele.wordpress.com/2012/06/25/fail/), but here is the shortened version:

After trailing Kessler out of the water, catching her at the 40mile mark on the bike, and eventually opening up a healthy gap, Wurtele was heading back to T2 on the last stretch of the bike leg when her left pedal stroke felt loose. She recognised the issue, and stopped to try and ‘thump’ the crank back in place. However, with not much luck, she thought she would be able to continue riding keeping an inward pressure on the cranks. It wasn’t long until the other side started to come out, causing friction with the chain and the derailleur, and consequently the left crank arm came flying off. She was offered assistance by a few athletes who had tools, but it was to no avail. Five minutes later, an official vehicle stopped to offer assistance, and that was when Australian, Christie Sym rode past in the opposite direction, citing that she wasn’t having a good day. She offered Heather her bike so that she could continue her race, and Christie would bow out after having a bad day at the office. After ‘exchanging a few choice words’ about their days, Heather squeezed her feet into Christie’s bike shoes and continued. It must be noted that Christie is a lot shorted than Heather, so if you can imagine one of those clowns on a bike – circus style – you might have a fair indication on what Heather looked like.

In the meantime, Meredith Kessler had taken the lead again, and was 5:45 ahead when Wurtele arrived at T2. Both athletes were running strong and the time gap remaining roughly the same. It was a two horse race – very exciting! Meanwhile Cooper-Scott had made the pass for 3rd with Kate Bevilaqua having to withdraw due to illness and Whitney Garcia was making her move through the field.

Then all of a sudden the rumors began circulating and lead bikes were changing positions. Had Heather really been DQ’d? Why? It was true! At Mile 21, Wurtele was disqualified and asked to leave the course. However, it wasn’t as black and white as that. At the end of the first run loop, the official referee held up a red card and said that she was DQ’d for;

a) Receiving outside assistance

b) Finishing the bike on a different bike

In the heat of the moment, Wurtele exclaimed that she didn’t receive outside assistance, as it was from another athlete racing, “I wasn’t trying to cheat, I just wanted to finish the race,” she wrote on her website. She continued running and said that she would contest the call after the race – which she also thought was within her rights as an athlete. She also thought that the penalty would be a time-penalty, not a DQ. People on the sidelines including her husband and coach were making phone calls and checking race rules to suss out what had happened, and how she should respond. However, just before mile 21, she was approached by the head race official stating that if she did not withdraw she would face a six month suspension. When her husband rolled up and confirmed the USAT ruling, she reluctantly, and painstakingly pulled out of the race. See here for more details on the rules, and our take on the situation

This left Kessler on course concerned for her colleague, but running herself into another dominating performance. Kessler’s year has been monstrous with four wins to date – Ironman New Zealand (turned 70.3), Ironman St George, Eagleman 70.3 and now Ironman Coeur d’Alene. Plus a third at Oceanside 70.3. She ended up with a 40min lead over 2nd place and a finishing time of 9.21.44. Cooper-Scott was 2nd in 10.01.25 and Garcia rounded out the podium 3rd only 20 seconds back in 10.01.45.

WHAT A DAY!!

 Results:

Name Country Swim Bike Run Total
Meredith Kessler USA 0:51:53 5:13:16 3:12:04 9:21:44
Haley Cooper-Scott USA 1:06:02 5:27:40 3:24:31 10:01:25
Whitney Garcia USA 1:01:56 5:32:47 3:20:18 10:01:46
Rachel Kiers CAN 1:01:39 5:39:13 3:31:41 10:16:19
Beth Shutt USA 1:03:27 5:37:41 3:37:21 10:22:16
Stephanie Ossenbrink CAN 1:01:42 5:30:14 3:48:53 10:24:44
Trish Deim USA 1:06:50 5:36:04 3:45:59 10:34:32
Amanda McKenzie AUS 1:05:55 6:11:01 4:00:33 11:22:40
Heather Wurtele CAN 0:56:05 5:15:33 0:00:00 0:00:00
Kate Bevilaqua AUS 0:56:07 5:35:25 0:00:00 0:00:00
Christie Sym AUS 0:59:45 0:00:00 0:00:00 0:00:00
Jackie Arendt USA 0:00:00 0:00:00 0:00:00 0:00:00
Sara Gross 0:00:00 0:00:00 0:00:00 0:00:00

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