Strong winds didn’t stop Sarah Piampiano from setting a new bike course record en route to her third title at Ironman 70.3 New Orleans. Purplepatch teammate, Sarah Cameto, was a surprise second place with Laura Bennett rounding out the podium in third.
Text by Jordan Blanco | Images by Witsup
Blustery weather greeted athletes on race morning with the high winds causing several swim course buoys to be blown off their moorings overnight. This prompted a 15-minute delay to the start time in order for the buoys to be repositioned. Once underway, American two-time Olympian, Laura Bennett proved to be the class swimmer in the field distancing herself from the other women and exiting Lake Pontchartrain in25:49, over a minute ahead of fellow American, Amanda Stevens. Third out of the water was Maverick Multisport athlete, Sarah Cameto, almost three minutes down on the lead. Pre-race favorite, Sarah Piampiano was staring down a six plus minute deficit by the time she exited the water.
Once on the bike, the women faced a stiff headwind on the outward-bound 28-mile section of the course and two women were quickly emerging to be managing the windy conditions very well. By the turnaround point, Cameto had made her way to the front of the race with Piampiano just over a minute down, having erased most of her six minute swim deficit.
“The conditions were probably the toughest I’ve ever raced in with the wind being so strong,” Cameto said. “The bike was tough, of course, because of the strong headwind going out but I was feeling pretty good.” The American thrived in the conditions due to the preparation she had done in a recent training camp in Kona, learning to ride well in strong winds. “I actually felt really confident in the wind because of the work we’ve done with Matt [Dixon] and Paul [Buick] in those conditions.”
Leading the professional race was a new experience for Cameto. “It was fun and I didn’t panic like I thought I might have!” She said. “Sarah [Piampiano] gave me some really good things to think about for the race. One of the things she said was ‘If you find yourself leading the race don’t freak out and think that you’re riding too hard. It’s totally possible that you could be.’” Cameto added, “When I was leading I thought about her words and I actually got excited but still thought about just riding as well as I could because there was a great group of girls behind me who could come by at any time!”
Piampiano took the race lead during the return bike section and hit T2 in first place with a bike split of 2:17:04 for a new bike course record. Cameto arrived in second place, just 45 seconds behind while a newcomer to the professional ranks, Amanda Wendorff, also had a great bike, riding herself into third place another three minutes back. Women’s swim leader, Bennett, was fourth into T2 with Stevens in fifth.
Once on the run, Piampiano continued to push, distancing herself from the chasing women at each split. Behind her Cameto was holding on to second place but the chase for the third and final podium spot was still up for grabs. Wendorff slipped back but Bennett was running well in third with Caitlin Snow demonstrating her run speed to work her way into fourth place by the nine mile mark. Snow would post the fastest run split of the day of 1:24:02 but it was 30 seconds shy of earning her the third and final podium slot as Bennett held on for third place.
Piampiano was thrilled with her performance. “New Orleans is one of those races where I always seem to race well so it was a pleasure to come back and defend my title with a win!” Piampiano exclaimed. She also acknowledged the second place finish of her teammate, Cameto. “The race was made that much more special by having my Purplepatch fitness teammate, Sarah Cameto, have a breakthrough day and finish second. Seeing her perform so well made the race experience that much sweeter for me.”
Cameto was thrilled with her performance but was quick to point out that the breakthrough was several years in the making. “It was really exciting to finally see the hard work that went into it materialize into a result that I was proud of.”
Cameto also shared that her coach, Matt Dixon, had urged her to find the fun in what she was doing this year, in order to permit her hard work in training to shine through on race day. “I realized the first thing that needed to change was my mindset and self-belief (which I did write a blog on!). Once I realized it I’ve been able to really work on it in training so that it becomes a habit. The other significant change I made was to my diet by working with a nutritionist, Phil Goglia. This somewhat goes hand in hand with my confidence and self-belief because I started to feel massive changes in myself physically which gave me the confidence to consistently train at a higher level.”
2016 Ironman 70.3 New Orleans Results