Will Clarke (GB) and Romain Guillaume (FR) have made it a very successful first race for the Uplace-BMC Pro Triathlon Team, taking 2nd and 3rd place respectively in today’s Ironman 70.3 South Africa. Will finished just 23 seconds (04:05:24) behind winner and local favorite James Cunnama (South Africa; 04:05:01). Romain, in the lead for most of the race, completed the podium with a final time of 04:06:24. Defending champion and Uplace-BMC athlete Bart Aernouts had to withdraw due to illness the day before the race.
Jodie Swallow (GB; 04:37:01) was the fastest woman. Lucie Reed (Czech Republic; 04:40:48) and Simone Braendli (Switzerland; 04:42:40) came in 2nd and third.
From the very beginning, Will and Romain put in a strong performance for the Uplace-BMC Pro Triathlon Team. Will came out of the water 2nd behind fastest swimmer Marko Albert. After a quick transition, he was even first out on the bike. In the bike leg, he was overtaken after about 30 kilometers by Romain, who had wrapped up the swim in 5th position trailing by only 30 seconds. While Romain kept his lead and extended it to more than 2 minutes, Will struggled, getting caught up by the chase group behind him. He started the half marathon in 8th position with Romain more than 4 minutes ahead of him. However, Will made his move quickly. He overtook 3rd place and, working with a superfast Cunnama, moved in on Romain in the final kilometers. Running shoulder to shoulder for a short while, Cunnama proved the stronger of the three. Will took 2nd place and Romain, who had run out of gas, held on to 3rd.
Will Clarke was satisfied with his season and team debut: “I’m happy. It is a great start to the year. My swim was good, but I had a bad day on the bike. That is not a surprise this early in the season. I just need more kilometers under my belt. Either way, I did what I could and after Romain passed me, I waited for the group. Towards the end I got really tired and got dropped from that group as well. The run, on the other hand, was great. I moved up quickly, working with James for a while, but in the end I didn’t have the gas to beat him. Still, I am happy with this result. As I am racing less this year, I want to do well in every race. Plus, we made it it a good first result for the team, so I am pleased.”
Romain Guillaume was happy and disappointed at the same time: “In itself, the 3rd place is great. I am not a 70.3 specialist and I didn’t focus my training on this race as Ironman New Zealand is my main immediate goal. So to have a good swim, a great ride and a solid run is very satisfying. But as an athlete, you just hate to give up the lead so late in the race. I think I probably pushed it a bit too hard on the bike. That is the downside to not having someone with you at the front during the bike leg. At the start of the half marathon, I knew my lead might not be enough with strong runners like Cunnama behind me. I did what I had to do and felt pretty good, but I just wasn’t fast enough. James was simply better than the rest of us. In the end though, this is a great result in terms of my preparation for New Zealand and my Kona Pro Ranking points.”
Team manager Bob De Wolf was equally pleased with his team performing strong from the very start: “During our team launch earlier this week, we said we wanted to be the best squad in the world. To show we have the performances to back up that ambition right from the beginning, is extremely gratifying. All our athletes are so motivated and ready. It is going to be a great year for the Uplace-BMC Pro Triathlon Team.”