IT was a show of sheer grit and human endurance at the recently concluded Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya 2015 triathlon, which flagged off at Floria, Precint 4 in Putrajaya last weekend.
Over 1,400 participants from 55 countries took part in the competition, held for the second time in Malaysia; sponsored by Time Fibre Optic Communications and supported by the Tourism and Culture Ministry, Malaysia Major Events, Tourism Malaysia, Putrajaya Corporation and Putrajaya Holdings.
The race was divided into several categories including the Pro Race, the Age Group Athlete as well as the duathlon (bike and running).
Contestants started off at 7.15am at the Putrajaya lake for a 1.9km swim, followed by a grueling 90km bike course and 21km run across the streets of the city.
The carnival-like atmosphere at the transition area saw crowds of cheering supporters, amidst food trucks offering refreshments and booths peddling sports and health merchandise.
Coming in first in the male Pro Race category was Italy’s Domenico Passuello, who beat the rest of the competition as he came in just under four hours at 3:58.
Five-time Ironman 70.3 World Champion and ambassador for the Putrajaya series, Craig “Crowie” Alexander, came in second place at 4.09, followed by Sweden’s Fredik Croneborg a close one minute behind.
Passuello said his win was unexpected as the course was tough-going in some sections.
“The bike course seemed easy, but it was not as there were quite a number of climbs. I needed to find my pace so as not to finish my energy too early,” he said, adding that he was focused on going forward and could not see how far the next contestant was behind him.
“Malaysia is a lovely place and I can see that triathlon is growing here. It’s encouraging to see so many guys and girls on the road,” he said, adding that he would give it his all in his next race in Taiwan.
Crowd favourite Alexander took his second placing in good grace, praising Passuello for his technique.
“It’s a great course here today and I have to congratulate Passuello who was in such excellent shape for today’s race.
I felt really fit coming in especially for the swim and run, but not so much for the bike so I really had to conserve as much as I can. There was a tremendous amount of support and amazing energy. I’m really happy that I chose to race this year and happy to be sharing the podium with Passuello and Croneborg,” said Alexander.
Meanwhile, Croneborg beat his record last year of fifth place.
Croneborg, from Sweden, is based in Thailand, which he had said in an earlier press conference might give him an advantage in the gruelling hot and humid Malaysian weather.
“My expectation was to get into the top three this year, so I’m happy that I managed to fulfill that,” said Croneborg, adding that last year he had struggled on the run but kicked off with good momentum in this year’s race.
In the female pro category, it was sweet victory for first-year pro athlete, Switzerland’s Emma Bilham who clocked in at 4:24 to be crowned champion; followed by second-placed Katy Duffield from Australia.
Third place went to Great Britain’s Parys Edwards. Edwards could be seen giving her all as she crossed the finish line before collapsing from heat exhaustion, and had to be attended to by medical personnel.
The grand prize winner in the Pro Race category walked away with USD3,000 (RM 10,874), while second and third place received USD2,000 (RM 7,249) and USD 1,250 (RM4,531) respectively.
Thirty qualifying slots were available in Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya to compete in the 2015 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Zell am See-Kaprun in Salzburgerland, Austria, later this year.