Words by Alan Grant
After years of knocking at the Bintan Triathlon door, Indonesia’s golden boy Andy Wibowo seems to have made the race his own after he defended his Olympic distance title at the Nirwana Gardens Resort on Saturday afternoon in dominating style. The women’s race had another popular winner in the shape of South African athlete Natalie Anderson.
While the Bali-based Wibowo once again used his potent swim as the springboard to success, he didn’t exit the water after the 1.5km opening leg with his customary big lead. This year he was matched stroke for stroke by Eric Watson of the Bahrain Endurance Team, and the pair hit the Nirwana Gardens beach together in a lightning fast time of just over 20 minutes. This gave them a nearly two-and-a-half minute lead over the next two athletes to emerge from the water, Margus Uprus and Colin O’Shea.
However, the Australian Watson was no match for Wibowo on the bike, as the Indonesian champ tore round the scenic 40km course with a split of 1:01:17, the fastest of the day. Coupled with a swift trip through T2, Wibowo had a four-minute lead heading out onto the challenging Nirwana Gardens run circuit.
Despite a seemingly insurmountable lead, Wibowo didn’t take his foot off the gas until he hit the finishing chute where he enjoyed a hero’s welcome as he broke the tape in a total time of 2:02:54.
Watson didn’t give up and was the only man to break the 40-minute barrier over the tough 10km course, but even running the fastest split by a wide margin was nowhere enough to overhaul Wibowo, with the Australian coming in some three minutes behind the champion. O’Shea followed another three minutes later to take the final spot on the overall podium.
Wibowo made it look easy but the jubilant two-time winner revealed post race that it was anything but.
“It was so difficult because I think this year was hotter than last year, but luckily on the swim I had Eric Watson with me so I could comfortably draft off him. The bike was the hardest leg for me as I tried to push very hard this time and then I just tried to keep the gap during the run. It was a very tough race,” said Wibowo, who added that he hopes to come back next year and take the triple crown.
Anderson’s path to victory in the women’s race wasn’t quite the same as Wibowo’s, the South African having to first overcome a three-minute deficit after the swim leg. First out of the water was Carla Grabador of the Philippines, with another four swimmers between Grabador and Anderson.
But Anderson is a powerful cyclist and by midway through the 40km bike leg she had moved into the race lead. She didn’t have everything her own way, though, as also moving through the field was Australian Lisa Walton. Indeed, Walton covered the second leg of the race over a minute faster than Anderson to move within 20 seconds of the lead leaving T2 to set up a thrilling battle for the win.
Anderson had slightly increased her lead over Walton as they came through the festival grounds after the first lap of the 5km run course, but if anything, it was Watson who looked the fresher of the two. Looks can be deceiving, though, as smelling the victory, Anderson put in over a minute over her rival on the last lap to take what was in the end a comfortable win in a time of 2:37:20, some two minutes ahead of Walton. The third lady to break the tape and claim the final spot on overall podium was Jessica Roed, 75 seconds behind Walton.
I’m quite surprised to have won today and pretty happy, chuffed. I had a good swim, I swam behind (longtime training partner) Megan Gray the whole way, then the bike, love the bike, fabulous bike, really pushed it, a bubbly Anderson said post-race.
“But then the run always hurts, so I just went as fast as I could really. I knew Lisa was close, she was about 100 meters behind me so I just thought ‘well, go!’ But I walked every hill and then put time into her on the straights.”
Anderson revealed that it was only when she reached the short out-and-back jungle trail section of the course with about 1km to go that she realised she would win.
I knew when I hit the jungle trail and I thought ‘you can do it. It’s all flat so just run!’ And that’s exactly what I did and that’s where I gained a bit of pace. I might never win an Olympic distance race again so I’m really, really happy right now, she said.
There’s a lot more to the Bintan Triathlon festival than the Olympic Distance race, and the multisport action kicked off earlier on the Saturday morning with the Sprint Distance race. While Wibowo’s win was well received by the Indonesian crowd, the acclaim accorded to the Sprint king was even greater as that man was local Bintan athlete Oscar Feryanto.
Feryanto put in a wire-to-wire performance over the 750m-20km-5km course, using a 90-second lead out of the water to hold off uber-cyclist James Middleditch during the bike leg, and then finished it off with the fastest run split of the race. Middleditch was a comfortable runner up ahead of Andreas Goros in third.
The local hero Feryanto then had a few hours rest before competing again in the Olympic Distance race, where he finished an incredible fourth overall on what had to have been heavy legs.
Taking the Women’s Sprint title was Louisa Middleditch, the teenage daughter of men’s runner-up James. Second place went to Carrie-Anne Cairns, with Eve Singer in third.
After an overnight break for the traditional awards party, the festival action continued on the Sunday morning with the Youths and Kids races. The Youths (aged 12-15) raced over a 300m-12km-3km course and two performances, one in each gender, stood out.
James Corbett won the male race, breaking away from Teddy Lee on the run leg to win by over two minutes. The runner-up was Oliver Trott who overcame Lee in the final stages of the run.
The fourth-fastest Youth of the day was actually the female champion, Emma Middleditch. The youngest of her famous family, Emma enjoyed a wire-to-wire victory, finishing some three and half minutes ahead of the second-placed girl Elizabeth Liau. Hannah Smith was the third-fastest female Youth.
The Kids (aged 8-11) events were next, and dominant champions again emerged in both genders over the 150m-6km-1.5km course. Charlie Bear Volavka broke the tape first in the boys’ race, some two minutes clear of runner-up Daniel Zhe Lucke, with Grant Dreyer in third. Like in the Youths race, the fourth-fastest Kid was the girls’ champion. That honour went to Mae Singer, who also enjoyed a two-minute winning margin from Harriet Strand in second, with Lottie Jenkins the next girl over the line in third.
The Bintan Triathlon festival also introduced some new events to the program for the 2016 edition, in the form of the Bintan Swim Classic and the Super Sprint Relay. Full results for those new competitions as well as the traditional races can be found at https://www.bintantriathlon.com/race-info/race-results/.
Triathlon will return to Bintan on August 28, when Bintan Triathlon organiser MetaSport presents the second edition of Ironman 70.3 Bintan. That race is headquartered at the Plaza Lagoi, just 10km from Nirwana Gardens. Go to www.ironmanbintan.com for full details and to register.