For Trevor Wurtele, it was a victory nearly a decade in the making.
The Kelowna-based triathlete finally won the big one, posting the top time at the first edition of Ironman Canada to be held in Whistler on Sunday (Aug. 23).
Wurtele said he's been chasing a win on home soil for a long time, but it felt especially good to win in his home province.
“I've just been chipping away and knocking off a little time each year, so to finally come away with a win here feel so good,” he said.
Wurtele placed 27th on the Penticton course back in 2004 but clawed his way to the top this year with a time of eight hours, 39 minutes, 33 seconds. He spent most of the day battling with defending champion Matt Russell.
“I had a bit of a rough patch on the bike when Matt Russell caught up to me, but I knew I couldn't let him go because that guy can run in the low 2:50s all the time,” he said. “So getting off the bike with him, I was just happy to be there with him. On the run I did whatever I could to get rid of him.”
Wurtele managed to hold off Russell by nearly six minutes, while American competitor Paul Amey placed third overall.
Wurtele was in eighth place coming out of the swim, but had jumped to third by the end of the bike stage and then powered his way to first place when he finally overtook Russell in the run. He set the fastest run time of the day on the marathon-length course, finishing the two-loop route in 2:54:31.
“I ran on the borderline of uncomfortable and finally got away from him at Mile 6 or 7,” he said. “Once that happened I got a little boost of energy and kept going. It was great to see the mile splits open larger and larger as the run went on.”
Russell said the bike was tough and he may have pushed himself a little too hard on the 180-kilometre route along Highway 99 that included detours up the Callaghan Valley and along Pemberton Meadows Road.
“I had the fastest bike split time but I did too much work on the bike,” he said. “I didn't quite have my regular running legs under me after that.”
Russell explained that he led for the majority of the bike stage after passing Wurtele at the 70-km mark. The pair battled again at the 140-km mark, but Russell regained a confident lead until Matt Leito pushed hard to reach the transition stage first, though Wurtele transitioned faster.
“We passed each other a few times,” Leito said. “Then at about Mile 4 or 5 he pulled away a bit — he had a great race.”
He added Wurtele was deserving of the win.
“We pushed each other and I think we both trained hard for this,” he said. “This is his first big win for Ironman, and for him being from Canada it's huge for him. But he's been up here for four weeks and this was the first time I rode the course – I just got here on Thursday. Now I know what I'm getting myself into for next year.”
Both Wurtele and Russell said they plan on returning to the event for 2014.
For the women, Uli Bromme from Colorado was the top competitor with a time of 9:28:13, which was also good enough for 12th place overall.
Bromme beat out second-place female finisher Lisa Ribes from Arizona by more than 10 minutes. North Vancouver's Gillian Moody placed third with a time of 9:49:09, and Christine Fletcher from Vancouver finished fourth.
Earlier in the day, Bryan Rhodes from New Zealand was the fastest athlete out of Alta Lake on the swim leg. Rhodes swam the 3.8-km course in 48:45 to build an early 20-second lead. Austria's Dominik Berger was right behind him at 49:05 and North Saanich's Andrew Russell ranked third coming out of the water with a time of 49:22.
American racers Christina Jackson and Christine Anderson were the fastest women, with times of 55:11 and 55:13 respectively. Moody was the top Canadian female on the swim, placing fourth with a time of 56:51.
Visit www.ironman.ca to access full results.