Wibowo and Zenker reign supreme at Bintan Triathlon
May 14, 2018
Domination was the theme at the elite end of the 2018 Bintan Triathlon Festival action last Saturday as Andy Wibowo and Jennifer Zenker put on swim-bike-run masterclasses to win the men’s and women’s Olympic Distance (OD) races in style.
It was a third Bintan Triathlon OD triumph for Indonesian superstar Wibowo adding to the titles he claimed in 2015 and 2016, and the second for Zenker, as the German successfully defended the crown she won in 2017.,. The calibre of Zenker’s performance on Saturday was emphasised by the fact that she was the second-fastest competitor overall, with only Wibowo posting a quicker time.
The 2018 edition was the 14th running of Asia’s premier multisports festival, which once again returned to the Nirwana Gardens Resort, one of a string of top-notch hotels that make the Indonesian island of Bintan the perfect location for a destination triathlon.
And they came in numbers from all over world, with 46 nationalities represented among the 1,300 athletes who participated in at least one of six events on the 2018 Bintan Triathlon Festival race card.
Among them was Craig McTurk, who is now the only athlete to have participated in every edition of the Bintan Triathlon. The American belongs to the MetaSport triathlon club, one of 38 team/clubs that had members racing over the weekend.
The action splashed off on the Friday afternoon with the Bintan Sunset Swim Classic 1000m, while Saturday held the Sprint and Olympic Distance races, before the swim-bike-run extravaganza culminated on the Sunday morning with the Youth and Kids triathlons, and the Fun Duo Challenge.
The Sunset Swim Classic is the newest event on the Bintan Triathlon program and is growing in popularity with participation numbers up 120 percent this year from 2017. While it’s positioned as a family friendly adjunct to the main triathlon events with entries open to those aged 12 years and up, the Sunset Swim Classic was definitely being treated as a race by many of the competitors, judging by the number of skin suits on display. The warm waters of a sheltered bay just off the Nirwana Sea Sports Centre provided the perfect location for the 1,000m swim, which started just as the sun began its final path to the horizon at 5pm.
Taking the honours as the fastest pure swimmer was Roderick Ruhur, the Indonesian athlete recording a fish-like time of 13 minutes and 11 seconds for the 1km swim. In a warning of things to come, second out of the water and fastest woman was Zenker, just 18 seconds behind Ruhur.
The first of the festival’s four triathlon events, the Sprint Distance race, started at 9am on the Saturday morning. Registration numbers were up by a whopping 35 percent as nearly 350 competitors, many of them complete rookies, set themselves the task of completing the 750m swim/20km bike/5km run challenge. Conditions were perfect, with the sea once again pancake flat as the male wave of swimmers dashed into the water.
The young Singaporean Luke Chua was the first back to the beach after completing the straight-out-and-back course in a scintillating time of 10 minutes and 39 seconds. Only one other swimmer could match Chua’s speed in the water, Jason Ramsey of Australia, with the rest strung way out behind.
This included the defending champion James Middleditch who faced an almost 3-minute deficit going into T1. But with super-strong cycling and running weapons at his disposal, the Englishman is known for his spectacular comebacks; was this going to be another?
Not quite. Middleditch did come storming back over the 20km bike course, more than halving the deficit to Chua as he moved into second place going into T2. And he continued his charge on the run and indeed almost caught the 17-year-old Chua. But the youngster had left enough in the tank to unleash a lethal sprint as he approached the finishing chute and he broke the tape to record a famous victory in a time of 1:08:37. Middleditch crossed the line 8 seconds later, with the Indonesian Ady Akhmad Jukardi taking third place, some 4 minutes behind.
Jukardi wasn’t the third-fastest Sprint distance athlete of the morning, though. That honour went to the women’s champion, young Emma Middleditch, daughter of James.
Middleditch didn’t quite enjoy the wire-to-wire victory that her teenage counterpart Chua had in the men’s race, but it wasn’t far from it. The French girl exited the water third, but just 6 seconds behind the first woman, April Rice of Canada, with Laurine Chandet between them in second.
Middleditch was the fastest on the bike, though, and had a 20-second lead over Rice heading into T2. But like her father, Emma Middleditch is a fantastic runner and she put 2 minutes into Rice over the 5km run to take a comfortable victory in a total time of 1:11:25. Poignantly, Emma succeeded her older sister Louisa as the Bintan Triathlon Sprint Distance champion.
Rice finished an equally comfortable second, with Valerie Yong outlasting her twin sister Vanessa to take third place and the final step on the overall podium.
After a short break, it was time for the blue ribbon event, the Olympic Distance race, which for this year saw the addition of a “qualifiers” swim wave. And so around 40 men who had achieved the desired qualifying time splashed off the OD race at 1:40pm on what was a sweltering Saturday afternoon.
It was no surprise but still a thrill for the big crowd to see the local hero Wibowo, a renowned swimmer, return to the beach first after the 1.5km first leg. His form might not be as perfect as it usually is considering he broke his collar bone just two months ago, but it was still good enough to give him a lead of some 100 seconds over the next swimmer out of the water, Vargin Yeke.
Wibowo’s cycling speed obviously wasn’t too impacted by his time stuck on the trainer, as he had increased his lead to 5 minutes after completing the undulating 40km bike course with the second-fastest split of the day. The fastest cyclist was none other than James Middleditch, the runner-up in the morning’s Sprint Distance race, but as the Englishman had finished well back in the swim, Wibowo had a 5-minute lead over him going into the run leg.
But rather than run conservatively due to having such a big advantage, Wibowo attacked the run course with gusto and had actually added another 3 minutes to his lead by the time he broke the tape to win the race after 2 hours, 9 minutes and 19 seconds of racing.
Middleditch’s morning exertions had obviously and understandably tired him, but he hung on for his second runners-up spot of the day from a hard-charging Liam Winston of Ireland.
Wibowo was delighted to have won in Bintan again and relieved just to be racing again.
“I’m really happy that this year I can take the win. Since I broke my collar bone two months ago my training has been like really unstructured, so I’m happy with the result,” he said.
Was it painful to swim?
“Not painful, but the bone is at 80 percent, so there’s still like a fracture. But at least I can swim, I can bike, I can run. I feel I’m not at my full swim fitness, so it was quite tough, quite challenging for me this year,” Wibowo said. “But it’s a fun event, one of my favourite races so I’m really happy to be back racing the Bintan Triathlon again.”
Zenker’s win in the women’s Olympic Distance race was even more dominant than Wibowo’s. The German doctor’s swim split time of 21:23 was only beaten by one individual man and one relay team, and was a full 4 minutes quicker than her nearest rival Inge Prasetyo of Indonesia.
Despite the lack of close competition to push her on the bike, Zenker was on a mission to break the women’s course record, a feat she had come close to doing in 2017. But conditions seemed tougher for everyone on the bike this year, and she was a few minutes off the record pace by the time she hit T2. She had, though, increased her lead to 8 minutes.
The run wasn’t much easier for Zenker and her counterparts, with the first 5km lap run in stifling heat, the second through a tropical downpour. But the MetaSport coach battled the heat and the hills, and splashed through the puddles strongly to break the tape in a time of 2 hours, 15 minutes and 56 seconds.
Second place went to Prasetyo some 8 minutes back, with Charlotte Henry of France the third-fastest women.
Zenker was happy to have defended her title and got quite a kick when she found out she was the second-fastest athlete of the day, behind only Wibowo.
“I was second overall? I didn’t know, that’s amazing! There’s only one man left for next year,” Zenker said with a laugh.
She wasn’t laughing, though, when she recounted how tough her day had been.
“I must say it was a very hard day, it didn’t go smoothly at all. The swim felt bad, I had to work really hard, it was kind of really painful. Also the beginning of the bike wasn’t much better, it was just after the halfway mark, after the little climbs, it got better,” she said.
“But then the run was again tough, especially the first half of each loop of the run with the little uphills. On the second loop I started to have stitches, and I was literally thinking I had to walk, but no, and then the rain started, and this rescued me somehow. I was happy about the rain as my head felt like it was almost exploding. So it was also mentally quite a challenge today so I’m just so happy with my race,” she said.
While the inspiring performances of the elites tend to grab the headlines at triathlons, races such as the Bintan Triathlon wouldn’t exist without the legions of everyday athletes who fill out the age group ranks. Over 500 of them took part in the Olympic Distance race at this year’s Bintan Triathlon, and each one has a story to tell; such as Kosaku Miyazawa.
A complete rookie at the start of this year, Miyazawa nevertheless has his sights set high as he aims to complete an Ironman by the end of 2018 and he’s using MetaSport’s annual system of progressively longer triathlons to help him achieve that goal.
“I’m a first-year triathlete trying to achieve a full Ironman by the end of this year. I have competed the MetaSprint Series and the Bintan Triathlon Olympic Distance race is the next step,” he said pre-race.
Miyazawa duly ticked the OD box on Saturday and perhaps now he’ll use the upcoming MetaSport event, August’s Ironman 70.3 Bintan, as his next stepping stone.
After Miyazawa and his fellow Olympic Distance competitors enjoyed the sunset prize-giving ceremony in the race village late on Saturday afternoon, the festivities moved onto the traditional Bintan Triathlon celebration dinner, which this year was held at the Nirwana Gardens poolside restaurant.
Joining longtime Bintan Triathlon and Ironman MC Pete Murray in hosting the evening were world-class triathlon couple and race ambassadors Kate Bevilaqua and Guy Crawford. As the athletes enjoyed a sumptuous feast and refreshments, the trio provided some interesting insights into the sport and some light-hearted moments as they shared some tales from their globe-trotting exploits.
But it was a relatively early night for many of the adults as the most important races were due to start early the next morning – the Youth and Kids races, which between them had attracted over 150 registrants.
The Youths kicked things of at 9am, with the 12-to15 year-olds tasked with completing a 300m swim followed by a 10km bike and a 3km run. First out of the water was Hong Jung Ng of Malaysia with a split 3:50, quickly followed by Richard Antoine Navo of the Philippines three seconds later. Ryan Wippell of Australia led the chasers some 20 seconds back.
It was Wippell, though, who set the bike course on fire, going a full minute quicker than anybody else, a feat that saw him hit the run course with a lead of some 90 seconds over Navo. The young Australian’s win never looked in doubt as he strode on strongly to cross the finish line in a time of 39:16, which gave him a winning margin of some 75 seconds. The battle for the runners-up spot was a cracker, as charging through the field to overtake Navo in the finishing chute was Lucas May of Great Britain.
Juliette About Haidar Ventura of France was the girls’ Youth champion, but she gave herself a lot to do after the swim leg as she was well over a minute behind the best swimmer Reilly Grose-Hodge. But Ventura was streets ahead of her fellow competitors on the bike, and she reached T2 with a 2-minute lead. She lost some of that advantage on the run, but her victory was assured as she broke the tape after 50 minutes and 57 seconds of racing.
The runner-up was Harriet Strand of Great Britain, with Emilie Pellet of France in third. Both those girls were incidentally competing in the 12-13 sub-group of the Youth race.
The last competitive race of the weekend was the Kids contest for 8-to-11 year-olds. The race distance was exactly half of what the Youths faced, which meant a 150m swim/5km bike/1.5km run format.
Perhaps inspired by Jennifer Zenker and Emma Middleditch’s efforts the day before, the fastest Kid of the day came from the girl’s field, Eugenie Van Wersch. And with the boys and girls starting together, there was no doubt that the French girl was the strongest. Her winning time of 28:04 gave her a winning margin of some 90 seconds over the girls’ runner-up Sybella Hawley of Australia, with Lucy Van Selm of the Netherlands in third. A special mention to the fourth-placed finisher Emily Ng of Australia, who missed the podium by just 5 seconds, but still beat all but two of the athletes in the boys race.
Those boys were Titouan Cazaux Millville of France and compatriot Gaspard Allonsius, who put on a thrilling finish, with Millville just pipping Allonsius on the line in a time of 28:46. Daan Swaving took third place.
The last event of the day was the traditional Fun Duo Challenge, which sees pairs of relatives or even just friends tasked with running 1.5km, swimming 150m and then most importantly, devising a creative way of crossing the finish line. The Fun Duo Challenge gives the kids too young to take part in the triathlon a chance to participate and the youngest person to do so on Sunday was four-and-half-year-old Toby Siepmann.
Full results from the 2018 Bintan Triathlon can be found at https://www.bintantriathlon.com/race-results/ .
The Bintan Triathlon will return next year, but a bit later than its traditional May slot, with the dates set for June 7 to 9. Details of that race will be posted soon at www.bintantriathlon.com .
Triathlon will return to Bintan before that, though, with the 2018 Indofood Ironman 70.3 Bintan on August 19. For full information and to register, visit www.ironmanbintan.com .