LAPU-LAPU CITY—Pete Jacobs of Australia and Caroline Steffen of Switzerland look to extend their dominance over a field that seems to get more formidable every year in the fifth staging of the Cobra Energy Drink Ironman 70.3 Philippines here.
Jacobs has ruled the premier pro division in the last three stagings and the Aussie remains the favorite this year, despite the return of two-time world champion and compatriot Chris McCormack to the fold.
But McCormack isn’t the only standout triathlete that Jacobs will be worried about.
As if the 1.9K swim0-90.1K-bike and 21.1K-run course isn’t enough, the Aussie will also have to contend with what McCormack described as a spectacularly “stacked field” which also includes Cameron Brown of New Zealand, Alaska TBB’s Matt O’ Halloran, Ben Allen of Australia and Fredrik Croneberg of Sweden.
“It’s fantastic to be back as the field seems to get stronger every year,” said Jacobs, who is using the race to warm up for another event in Hawaii later this year.
Unlike Jacobs, McCormack is already treating the race as his premier event for the year.
“I used this race as preparation for the world championship in 2009, but this is already my main race this year,” said McCormack.
Steffen, who bucked jetlag and the heat to nail the crown last year, headlines the women’s pro division, where long-time national athlete Monica Torres will be making her debut.
Having won the Filipino Elite the past four years, Torres moved up to the pro division, where she will contend with the likes of Bree Wee of the United States, Belinda Granger of Australia, Jacqui Slack of Great Britain, Christie Sym of Australia and Darelle Parker of Great Britain.
This year’s Ironman is the biggest yet with 2,150 participants from 35 countries seeing action in different categories and the relay events. The race starts with the open water swim at the beach of Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort, followed by a bike leg with a route that covers four cities—Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, Cebu City and Talisay. The culminating run will start at Punta Engaño, also in Lapu-Lapu City.
While triathletes are using the Ironman to test their physical limits, some personalities see the race as an opportunity to promote their advocacy, among them singer apl.de.ap of the Black Eyed Peas.
The Filipino-American, whose real name is Allan Pineda, is participating in the relay event to create awareness for his advocacy in helping kids in Mindanao gain access to education.
Meanwhile, Lauren Justine Plaza retained her girls’ 11-12 title with a time of 33 minutes and two seconds in the Alaska IronKids event that was cut short by inclement weather.
Only half of the events were staged after heavy rains and strong winds hit Mactan Island yesterday morning.
Among the races that were canceled was the one that would have featured the country’s top young triathlete, Tara Borlain, who was supposed to race against McCormack’s daughter, Tahlia, in the 9-10 division.
Ruling the boys’ 11-12 division was Bambam Manglicmot of Quezon City, who timed 31:38. Hong Kong’s Arno Baetz topped the 13-14 category (29:59) while Shaia Ruth Uy of Dipolog City checked in at 34:32 to claim the girls’ title.