by Chris Brewer
To say Lance Armstrong made a stunning comeback for Team LIVESTRONG in his first professional triathlon race since he was a teenager would be a fair understatement. Everyone expected him to do well at Ironman Panama 70.3, a Top 10 finish was not out of the question. But when he took the race lead three miles into the final run, well the triathlon world sat up in unison in hopeful disbelief. And he wants you to race with him on our team.
Racing in Panama was not going to be easy. This was a half Ironman distance, hence the “70.3”, as in 70.3 cumulative miles: start with a 1.2 mile swim, then a 56 mile bike ride, finishing with a half marathon at 13.1 miles. The temperature was hot, topping out at 93F / 34C, and the open water swim featured a strong current before heading out on the bike and run courses. Add in some serious world class talent that Lance was competing against – who had no intention of letting a 40 year old cyclist take their event – names like American Chris Lieto, Australian Richie Cunningham, New Zealand’s Matty Reed and Bevan Docherty, Great Britain’s Paul Amey and Denmark’s Ramus Henning. The stage was set for a real battle on a short (by Ironman standards) and fast course.
“The LIVESTRONG partnership, and with Armstrong racing Ironman, will show others that cancer is not a death sentence for those who are battling the disease or are in remission doing this event,” explained Dave Orlowski, one of the original Ironman finishers back in 1978, and now fighting his own cancer battle. “This is a statement from the athletes and Lance Armstrong that will be positive and will give others the courage to do something that they may have thought was not possible because of their condition.”
The swim kicked off, adjacent to the famous Panama canal, with a point-to-point 1.2 mile course parallel with the coastline. Lance came out of the water in 10th position just 33 seconds back, had a solid transition, and was out onto the bike course. You might think that this would be where he would try and outpace his competition since time trialing was a specialty as a pro cyclist, but the truth of the matter in triathlon is that you survive the swim, you have to do well on the bike, but you win in the run. At the end of the 56 mile ride Lance had moved up nicely into 2nd place to Chris Lieto. Then, after the second transition Lance started out on the run 3rd thanks to a stellar move by Bertrand Billard, but then then Lance quickly made his move that simply shocked the triathlon world.
After passing through mile three, Lance upped the pace and passed Lieto – he now was leading his first pro race after nearly 25 years! But there was still a lot of racing left, and some very solid competitors who now had him in their sights. After nine miles it was clear that his primary opponent was New Zealand’s two-time Olympic medalist Bevan Docherty. Lance still held about a one minute lead, but Docherty – who had never lost at this distance – was closing steadily. As the miles ticked down, so did the gap, and with about a mile to go he caught Lance and was on his way to a well earned victory in a time of 3h50m13s. Lance would go on to come in a solid second place, just 37 seconds back to Docherty.
“The ride was harder than I expected,” Lance said afterwards. “Obviously, it started to get warmer and it was windy and the run was just an oven. I did what I could and stuck with my pace and I just didn’t have enough in the end… I played it conservative – I knew he was going to have to make a big effort to catch me – he caught me and he deserved to win.”
Lance’s Numbers for Ironman Panama 70.3
1.2 mile swim: 19:22 (1:01 / 100m)
Transition 1: 2:09
56 mile bike: 2:10:18 (avg 25.8 mph / 41.5 kmh)
Transition 2: 2:05
13.1 mile run: 1:17:01 (avg 5:52 mi / 3:39 km)
Total time: 3:50:55
How You Can Race with Team LIVESTRONG and Lance
Just recently we announced a new partnership with Ironman to raise more than $1 million for people affected by cancer by funds raised through Team LIVESTRONG. Lance will be competing in multiple Ironman events throughout the year, and Team LIVESTRONG has a limited number of entries in each of them. People interested in joining us should visit www.TeamLIVESTRONG.org for more information, but note athletes who are already registered for one of these Ironman or Ironman 70.3 events can still race as part of Team LIVESTRONG.
“I’m excited, but I’m humbled,” Lance said. “It’s a real honor to partner with them (Ironman) and, I tell you, if today’s any indication with the amount of people out on the street and the amount of people wearing yellow bands or wearing LIVESTRONG gear, we’ll get there no problem. We have a huge body of support. We look forward to telling this story around the world.”
Upcoming races include:
Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 Texas
Ironman 70.3 Florida
Ironman 70.3 Hawaii
Ironman World Championship Kona, Hawaii (based on qualifying)
Join Team LIVESTRONG and Lance this year and run, ride, swim for the 28 million affected by cancer worldwide.
Photos courtesy of live.ironmanlive.com