A pair of Canadians took top honors with come from behind wins Saturday at the traditional kick-off race of the North American Ironman 70.3 triathlon series in Oceanside, Calif.
Vernon’s Heather Wurtele won the women’s division while Harrow, Ont.’s Lionel Sanders took the men’s race.
Trevor Wurtele, Heather’s husband, was seventh in the men’s event.
“I had one of those days were my legs felt amazing on the bike so I pushed hard,” said Heather. “I sure felt it on the run though.”
The women entered the cool, calm water three minutes after the men. A small group quickly formed with Americans Holly Lawrence, Mary Beth Ellis, Jennifer Spieldenner and Alicia Kaye leading the way. This group exited the swim together with a 30-second plus lead over Camilla Pedersen (Denmark) and Caroline Steffen.
Previous champions Wurtele and Heather Jackson (USA) exited together 2:05 down.
Onto the bike, Lawrence quickly established herself at the front — a position she would stay in until the final mile of the bike. She and Kaye quickly opened a gap over the rest of the field and would eventually extend it to more than a minute.
As expected Wurtele, Steffen and Jackson were all riding their way closer to the front of the race. On the big climb at mile 35, Wurtele made a major move, separating herself from the other chasers and moving into third place.
By mile 45, Wurtele had the gap down to less than 45 seconds and was closing fast. She pushed extremely hard on the last flat stretch and took over the lead just upon entering Oceanside. She entered transition with a seven-second lead on Lawrence.
Wurtele pushed hard on the run, clearly trying to extend her lead on her chasers.
Wurtele ran her way to her second title here in three years. In the end, the top three women all ran matching 1:21 run splits.
Sanders turned in a race-best run split of 1:11:43. He combined it with a race-best bike split of 2:07:48 — making him the 2016 champion in 3:51:17.