Per Bittner and Yvonne van Vlerken take Challenge Aruba, overcoming the extreme heat and humidity to celebrate their first dual wins as a couple.
October 23, 2016 | NEWS|
On a day that showcased Aruba's extreme heat and humidity patience paid off for triathlon's latest super-couple. Per Bittner managed to overtake Davide Giardini in the last km of the run while Yvonne van Vlerken patiently waited until the first third of the run to make her move to take the women's race at the inaugural Challenge Aruba.
A tight group of three exited the beautiful Caribbean waters together in the men's pro race led by Davide Giardini, a Boulder, Co. transplant who is originally from Italy and finished the swim in just over 26 minutes. Close behind him was Mexican Olympian Rodrigo Gonzalez (a training partner of Javier Gomez) and Belgium's Stenn Goetstouwers. Bittner trailed by just over a minute entering T1, while the other man we were watching, Chris McDonald found himself over four minutes down coming onto the white sandy beach.
Once out on the run the adventures began for Giardini, who lost a chain over a speed bump and then watched another competitor go down by taking a corner too hot. The Italian slowly began to pull away from the rest of the field, though, and would come into T2 with a slight lead over Bittner. Gonzalez, who is no-doubt much more used to riding a road bike in his races after his appearances at numerous Olympic-distance races this year, trailed by almost eight minutes entering T2.
With temperatures well over 30 C and humidity between 75 and 90 percent the run was never likely to be one where we'd see any fast times, but Giardini and Bittner managed to put on quite a show. Bittner caught Giardini before the end of the first lap, only to run into some stomach issues during the second lap and find himself trailing again as the two started the third and final lap of the run, which followed a path along the beautiful beachfront before looping back along the road into the finish line.
With 2 km to go Bittner managed to regroup and started to make up the 20-second deficit he had to Giardini and, with 1 km to go, managed to get ahead to stay, getting to the line just eight seconds ahead.
Gonzalez had a solid race to finish third, while McDonald hung on for fourth.
Challenge Aruba 2016: Men's Results
Coming into the race all three of the women's favorites had started at the Ironman World Championship 15 days before. Heather Jackson had the race of her life to finish third, while Linsey Corbin managed her ninth top-15 finish in 10 races on the Big Island. Van Vlerken, unfortunately, had a tough day, and had to pull out.
Coming out of the water it was another Dutch athlete, Mirjam Weerd, who led the pro women (31:27), with the three from Kona coming out of the water within seconds of each other led by van Vlerken (32:38).
Out on the bike course things started out as a showdown between the two Americans, who were both unsure of just how their legs would hold out after their big efforts in Kona. Eventually, though, Jackson would fade back, leaving Corbin to lead the way into T2, with Van Vlerken trailing by almost exactly a minute.
It didn't take long for van Vlerken to move to the front - her 1:31:03 would be the fastest pro women's split of the day. Corbin hung on for second, rounding out her comeback season after spending most of 2015 on the sideline with a stress fracture. Weerd would run her way past Jackson to round out the podium.
Challenge Aruba 2016: Women's Results
Yvonne van Vlerken
Highlighting the women's sprint event was 2012 Olympic silver medalist Lisa Norden, who did the half-distance swim as part of a relay team, then did the sprint race. The day was a chance to get both some training in the heat and a chance to do multiple races - two things she'll be facing at the Island House Triathlon next weekend.
Norden easily won the sprint race and might have won overall were it not for Aruba's own Renze Postma, who competed in the U23 race at the Grand Final in Cozumel last month.
Age group excellence
Marlies Kort was the fastest age group athlete overall today with her 4:37:35 clocking.