There aren’t many events with a stacked field on both the men and women’s sides like IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder (view photo gallery). Colorado is filled to the brim with world-class triathletes and many of them call Boulder home, which is why it was no surprise that this race was one of the most exciting of the year. Our Colorado pros didn’t disappoint this weekend as both winners hit the finish line with little time to spare!
Gambles Triumphant, Leiferman is Lightning Fast
From the moment the starting horn went off, it was obvious it was going to be a dogfight in the men’s race. Some of the best half-distance pros in the sport showed up to throw down their talent, knowing they’d have to leave it all out on the course if they wanted a shot at the podium.
Uber swimmer, and Boulder-trainee, Rafa Goncalves ripped through the water in 24 minutes 8 seconds, setting himself up with a solid lead heading onto the bike. The chase pack of Coloradans Sam Appleton, Joe Gambles, Paul Matthews, Matt Chrabot, and the young Aussie, Jake Montgomery, quickly headed onto the bike course in pursuit of the leader.
Not far back, Boulderite Chris Leiferman would start his journey on what would be an epic comeback on a tough day under the blazing Colorado sun.
As the bike continued, the dynamic duo of Appleton and Gambles started to push the pace, showing their pure strength and determination, while distancing themselves from the lead pack. Appleton’s bike split of 1:56:38 and Gambles’ split of 1:56:19 would help them seal the lead coming into transition where the final battle of the day would begin: the run.
The two-loop run course around the Boulder Reservoir would see Appleton and Gambles run shoulder to shoulder, neither one looking like they were close to slowing down. As they began the second loop, Gambles popped out around the corner solo, with the lead bike escort by his side.
It would appear Gambles had a pleasant lead until, suddenly, Appleton and Rudy Von Berg and their bike escorts came flying around the corner. Cheers for all three athletes erupted and Gambles was heard yelling to his wife, Sage, “How far back are they?” It was clear that Gambles knew he had the target on his back and that he’d have to keep up his pace to earn the win.
Eventually, Gambles would wear out both Appleton and Von Berg, and take the win in 3:41:27 thanks to his speedy 1:16:50 half marathon. One competitor not worn out on the run by any means was Leiferman, who turned in the fastest run of the day in 1:15:40 while fighting his way into a second place finish, 3:42:39.
“Michael (Lovato), my coach has been getting me ready for this course by doing this run loop a lot. The second half was my race. When I saw people, I didn’t try to pass them. People easily blow up in this race, so I just stayed patient. Those last three miles, Joe just really pulled away. With a mile left, there was no way I was closing in and just ran to not lose second. Joe was in good form,” said Leiferman.
Appleton was able to hold onto third place and finished in 3:44:00 to round out the podium, while Von Berg captured fourth, 3:45:15, and Chrabot finished fifth in 3:46:23.
The rest of the Colorado pro men displayed their talent in some gutsy performances, finishing strong. In eighth was Mark Bowstead (3:49:27), ninth Steve Mantell (3:49:55), tenth Jake Montgomery (3:52:27), eleventh Robbie Wade (3:54:31), twelfth Leon Griffin (3:56:10), 13th Richie Cunningham (3:56:29), 14th Patrick Evoe (3:57:02), 16th Branden Rakita (3:57:36), 17th Justin Daerr (3:57:46), 18th Sam Long (3:57:58), 19th Tripp Hipple (3:58:10), 20th Justin Metzler (3:58:50), 21st Chris McDonald (4:00:23), 22nd Josh Terwoord (4:04:31), 24th Colin Laughery (4:08:45), 25th Kennett Peterson (4:10:12), 28th Jeremiah Mitchell (4:31:37), and in 31st, Steven Zawaski (5:08:39).
Salthouse, Seymour Sprint to the Finish
It is definitely clear why calling Ellie Salthouse and Jeanni Seymour the next “it girls” of 70.3 racing is very fitting. The two have been taking on some tough fields and coming out on top in a big way. Just last month, Salthouse and Seymour finished fifth and sixth at IRONMAN 70.3 St. George, a championship race, and brought another tight battle to this year’s IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder.
Salthouse exited the water in 26:33, just four seconds faster than the defending champ, Alicia Kaye. And from there, the battle began. Kaye would surge on the bike from the get-go, leaving Salthouse on the chase and worrying about staying ahead of Seymour, who was having a solid bike herself. Thanks to Salthouse’s fastest bike split of the day in the women’s race, 2:11:33, she would end up catching Kaye around mile 40 and start the run in the lead.
Seymour also turned in a great bike time, 2:12:07, and caught Kaye early on the run and ran strong in second for most of the race. As the women began the second loop of the run, it seemed as Salthouse had a cushion of a lead; but as everyone knows, anything can happen, especially on the run, at altitude, and in the heat. Soon the announcers at the finish line would alert the crowd that Salthouse’s lead on Seymour was slowly dwindling.
With about 800 meters to go, Seymour would catch and, get a few steps on Salthouse, making her move as the two phenoms headed toward the finish line. Even with the fastest run split in the women’s race, 1:27:20, Seymour couldn’t hold off the speedy Salthouse who would use her ITU experience to make her move and outkick Seymour with less than 200 meters to go. Salthouse grabbed the win by 17 seconds for an overall time of 4:11:43 to Seymour’s 4:12:00.
“That was the hardest race I have ever done,” Salthouse said. “I knew she was going to catch me so I just sat on her. Luckily I had the sprint in the end. Coming from the ITU background really helped me here. I will definitely be back here next year!” she added.
“I actually didn’t feel that great and was just thinking of having quick feet. When I saw Ellie I was just doing my best to chase her down. Once it got really close, I couldn’t go any faster. She just got me at the end and I couldn’t have gone any faster,” said Seymour.
Sneaking onto the podium in third place for the second year in a row was Boulderite Lesley Smith. Smith was steady all day and, like she always does, turned in a zippy run time of 1:27:49, the second fastest of the day, helping her repeat as the third place finisher in 4:19:12.
There were other female Colorado pros who turned in some great performances including Katy Blakemore who finished fifth in 4:21:58. You couldn’t miss her on the course as the bride-to-be had a little vail on as she hit the run course. Both she and her future husband raced that morning and then were married in the afternoon. Congrats, Katy!
The rest of the ladies who finished strong were Christen Brown in sixth place, 4:26:02, Christine Hammond in seventh place, 4:28:02, Uli Bromme in eighth place, 4:29:57, and Sarah Bay in 15th, 4:51:52. Congrats to all of the women pros of Colorado!