Wet and windy conditions couldn’t impede Annabel Luxford’s pure domination at this year’s Challenge Melbourne, Asia Pacific Championship.
Text and images by WITSUP
Thunderbolts and lightning were very, very frightening race morning causing hundreds of athletes to cower under cover and await the official word from the race director – Would there be a swim? Would the race be delayed? Would there be a race at all?
Fortunately for all involved, the weather started to settle and race organisers managed to get the race underway, only slightly delayed.
Nine pro women ran into the eerily calm waters and there was no surprise that Annabel Luxford exited the water first with a solid lead of two minutes over her chasers, Penny Hosken and and Kathryn Haesner. Futher back was Laura Siddall with a deficit of over three minutes.
The first of the three lap bike course was deceivingly pleasant for athletes with the sun peeking over the bay and just a touch of wind, but as athletes took to the second lap, the wind kicked in and the rain appeared.
Despite the worsening conditions, Luxford couldn’t be slowed down.
“It was pretty horrible conditions,” Luxford exclaimed. “I certainly felt cold, but surprisingly not cold enough that it impeded my performance.”
Putting more and more time into her chasers, Luxford looked cool, calm and collected over the three laps, and entered transition in high spirits with a race best bike split of 2:14:42. She had worked up an almost eight minute lead on her closest rival, Siddall, who had moved her way through the field and into second place on the second lap.
As Luxford prepared for the run in transition she made reference to her tip at the Witsup Pro Panel Breakfast where she had said if anyone gets blown off the bike on race day, she would buy them an ice-cream. “I think I owe a few people ice-creams, I nearly got knocked off my bike out there!”
Siddall came flying into transition with a big gap to third place, Penny Hosken, and went about trying to minimise the damage to Luxford ahead, but despite knocking out the fastest half marathon split of the day with a 1:20:57, she couldn’t reel Luxford back in.
“I knew I had quite a lead,” Luxford said. “Laura (Siddall) is a good runner, but that sort of time gap is hard to make up. In saying that, you never really take your foot of the gas because you just don’t know what will happen. I also wanted to get a good work out to see where I was at.”
Luxford wound her way through the two lap run course, a course she is familiar with living only kilometres from the race venue, and hit the finish chute with a smile, claiming not only her second half distance win for the year, but her second dominating win for the year so far.
Siddall was second across the line, pleased with her last minute decision to fly over from Christchurch and race. “I knew Bella (Luxford) would be tough to beat over this distance,” Siddall explained. “I would have loved to have give her a bit more of a race, but I couldn’t find great rhythm on the bike today – that’s the way it goes.
“I felt pretty solid and strong on the run, and felt comfortable at the end, so hopefully that bodes well for the coming season,” she said.
Hosken, another Melbourne local, held on to third place in her debut at the half distance.