(Posted - 09 Sep 2012)
It was a day marked by new names bursting onto the endurance scene at today’s Mainpeak Multisport, with an unexpected win by West Australian, Sean Ralph, shutting down an invasion of east coast elites who were out to snatch the 133km multi discipline endurance title.
In the women’s, Narrogin (WA) local, Sarah Wiese, took the fight to Victorian Peri Gray. The tussle continued right though to the final paddle leg where the lead swapped several times before Gray managed to hold on by just three minutes, delivering her an impressive East-West Coast double multisport crown.
An Occupational Health & Safety professional, men’s winner Ralph has a history of surf boat rowing but has only ever paddled a kayak three times and only purchased a road bike 18 months ago. Nevertheless, after a strong trail run off the starting line in Toodyay Main Street, he went into the road ride leg barely thirty seconds down on race favourite, Victorian Jarad Kohlar.
Ralph proceeded to hang on to the lead pack of cyclists, including Eric Mellegers from the red hot team favourite Crankin Cycles, while Kohlar dropped off the back, suffering fatigue and a suspected bug after racing in Mongolia last week.
For Ralph, the final winning margin of more than ten minutes was a dominating display of potential and showed that, under the weather rivals or otherwise, he is an endurance athlete to be reckoned with and a deserving winner.
“I gave up the rowing after ten years because of a sore back," said a humble but happy Ralph. “I was looking for a new challenge and got into duathalons, which I found fun and I seemed to improve pretty quickly."
While he secretly hoped for a top ten placing, Ralph admits that today’s winning result surprised him.
“I didn’t think I’d go anywhere near (winning)! It was definitely the hardest thing I have ever done. It was a super tough course, harder than I expected – that second trail run (19km) is just nuts. I had to walk on most of the hills. It was steep and hot and ridiculous."
The toughness of the second trail run was noted by others, including second placed Kohlar, who was so spent come race end that could only muster a walk across the finish line.
“It was tough for me today, I was in the hurt box for sure. I felt as though I was basically stuck in third gear all day. I suffered on that 19km run and on the paddle, again, I just suffered."
Kohlar believes that his adventure racing foray last week in Mongolia may have played a part in what he regards as an under par performance.
“I got back on Wednesday and haven’t quite felt right – I think I need to go and have some blood tests."
Another race favourite who returned from Mongolia to race the Mainpeak, James Pretto also had his troubles on course, a foot injury and a broken boat slowing his pace. The Victorian literally limped over the line to take third place.
The women’s race showcased much tighter and tougher duel up front with the winner of Victoria’s Marysville to Melbourne Multisport, Peri Gray, challenged from the first run around Toodyay by Sarah Wiese, a West Australian from Narrogin, 200km south of Perth.
Wiese went into the road ride ahead of Gray giving furious chase .Gray quickly edged ahead until the first paddle leg where several tip outs had her watching Wiese paddle on by.
“It wasn’t until the longer stretches of flatwater that I managed to catch her and then put in some time," said Gray. “But I know Wiese is a fast runner so I was still worried that she would catch me over that final 700 metre dash into Houghton Winery."
In the end, Gray ran and emphatically stamped on the finish line timing mat with a three-minute buffer.
“It was a battle (with Wiese) all the time," said Gray. “On the paddle leg it was back and forth, back and forth. It was only the flat part where I felt I could dig it into her a bit, and I knew I needed to if I was going to hold on for the win."
“I really struggled in the second run because of the heat," said Gray. “I’m used to training in four degrees," said the Victorian, who rated this Mainpeak course – already shortened to 133km from last year’s – as being tougher than the Victorian Marysville to Melbourne, which she won in April.
Unlike her male podium place contemporary, second placed Wiese had already registered on the multisport radar, having scored a Veteran Category win and second placed solo female overall in last year’s edition of the Mainpeak Multisport, along with respectable outings at the Anaconda Adventure Race in Augusta.
The mother of three had plenty more reason to celebrate the podium spot: her best ever race result was topped by beating her husband, Tim, and all on her 41st birthday.
Unlike other elites, Wiese enjoyed the trail running legs, saying it was the paddle that worked her the hardest. For the record, Sarah finished a good quarter of an hour ahead of hubby, Tim. Ribs family dinner, anyone?
In the Teams category, it was a repeat performance by Team Crank’n Cycles, taking victory for the second year running to own both Mainpeak Multisport titles. The team of three also took the line first overall, crossing in an impressive 6:17:49 following 133km of trail running, road riding and river paddling.
“It was a beautiful day and good to get out there and back it up after last year," said team rider, Eric Mellegers. “It was still a tough course. The cycling section had a few short sharp climbs in it that didn’t suit me and where Sean (Ralph) got away from me a bit."
“It was a grind," said team paddler Martin Gunda. “I think I took most of the wrong lines through Bells Rapids which didn’t help. And it’s not good being in front, because you don’t have anyone to chase down! But we had a good race, we’re wrapped."
“And we’ll be back," added team runner Todd Ingraham.
For the rest of the pack, it was sunshine and blue sky racing, with four hundred competitors enjoying the challenge of racing from Toodyay, through the Avon and Swan Valleys to Houghton Winery, where they celebrated their endurance achievement in style: with a fine glass (or a few) of red (or white).
Timing splits can be accessed via a link on www.mainpeakmultisport.com.au
1. Sean Ralph 6:39:56
2. Jarad Kohlar 6:50:44
3. James Pretto 7:06:48
1. Peri Gray 7:54:55
2. Sarah Weise 7:58:05
1. Team Crank’n Cycles 6:17:49 (Team of 3)
2. Team Goats Go Large 6:40:53 (Team of 3)
3. Team Handsome Idiots 6:41:16 (Team of 3)