Cebu – August Benedicto pulled off a big August Sunday coup, cutting loose in the last loop of the closing run leg to beat Aussie Mark Jansen and capture the overall championship in the Megaworld IRONMAN 70.3 Philippines at The Mactan Newtown in Lapu-Lapu here.
The veteran campaigner, who placed 15th in the last pro IM 70.3 race here in 2019 while dominating the Asian Elite twice before the pandemic, rallied from as far back as 40th after the opening swim leg then kicked his way back into contention with a strong finish in the highlight bike event, a 3-loop race against time at the Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway.
He moved to fourth heading to the deciding run and rode on the momentum, driving past Lanao del Norte’s Satur Salem, Jonathan Pascua and Jansen in the 12.8km mark and storming to victory in 4:29:16 over the 1.9 km swim, 90km bike and 21k run racecourse in the country’s newest triathlon hub.
He had times of 35:17 (swim), 2:57:21 (bike) and 1:29:43 (run) in overcast skies.
“Sa last loop nang kumalas ako, mga last 7 kms. Marami kami sa bike kasi naunahan nila ako sa swim. Nilampasan ko lahat. Mga 15 siguro ang nauna sa akin (swim),” said Benedicto, who also ran away with the 35-39 category diadem in the event which drew close to 2,000 triathletes from 46 countries.
“I thank God for giving me the strength and to all the Cebuanos for their support,” added Benedicto, who drew inspiration from the cheers of the crowd that lined up the roads. “Kahit na groge at laspag na, but hearing their cheers, na-energized ako.”
Meanwhile, Ines Santiago bucked the odds, including the effects of menstrual cycle, as she reigned in the distaff side of the event, which staked 12 age-group titles, nailing the overall crown, along with 40-44 trophy in 5:23:14.
“I’m very grateful for the nice weather, I really enjoyed it that I was able to push myself,” said the 40-year-old Santiago, a businesswoman from Pulupandan, Negros Occidental and a part-time teacher at the Univ. of Asia and the Pacific.
“Actually, when I woke up, I got my period and that was a tough challenge. I started bleeding at the run but you know, girl power!,” added Santiago, who, along with the rest, also cited the succcessful staging of the event organized by The IRONMAN Group/Sunrise Events, Inc.
“When you join the IRONMAN, the only thing that you have to worry about is your training. You don’t have to worry about anything on the racecourse because you’re sure that there’s ample hydration, marshals, volunteers. So it’s a very, very nice community,” said Santiago.
They were also all praises for racing on the country’s newest, longest bridge at CCLEX that links Cebu City and the Municipality of Cordova.
“The bike course was very interesting since it’s a new bridge, the roads are very, very nice. The scenery was really great and thankfully, the wind was also cooperative, so all in all, it was a really nice course,” added Santiago.
“I’m very happy with the new bridge, it’s so good, so smooth,” said Benedicto. “I’m good in bike but I feel so safe in that bridge.”
Salem actually flashed his superb riding skills again to get on track for a second endurance race title after topping the Sun Life 5150 Bohol last month but lost steam in the run, together with Jonathan Pagaura, enabling Benedicto, Jansen and John Alcala to snatch the top 3 places in the blue-ribbon event presented by AIA Vitality and organized by The IRONMAN Group/Sunrise Event, Inc.
Jansen clocked 4:36:05 for runner-up honors while Alcala came in third in 4:37:54 followed by Salem (4:38:39), Jailani Lamama (4:39:38), Leonard Rondina (4:43:09), Czech Petr Lukosz (4:43:39) Jorry Young (4:44:01), Mervin Santiago (4:44:08) and Abdul Rahman Toroganan (4:46:00).
Lukosz, tipped to rule the event after topping the full IRONMAN in Subic last March, moved from 10th in swim to sixth in bike but also faded in the last half of the grueling run and wound up seventh.
Pagaura actually trailed Salem by just over a minute after the bike leg but tired out like Lukosz, falling to 17th in 4:55:39 with a closing 1:58:01 clocking.
Other winners were A.J. Rejas (F18-24, 6:09:04), C.J. Gonzalez (F25-29, 5:36:09), Leyann Ramo (F30-34, 5;32:00), Mitch Otsuru-Park (F35-39, 6:33:46), Nerissa Stafford (F45-49, 6:09:25), M.E. Endaya (F50-54, 6:25:00) and Tanya Lee-Parker (F55-59, 5:48:11);
Kenneth Bonda (M18-24, 4:55:50), Alcala (M25-29, 4:37:54), Rondina (M30-34, 4:43:09), Lukosz (M40-44, 4:43:39), Jansen (M45-49, 4:36:05), Michael Rudolph (M50-54, 5:10:00), Herve Potus (M55-59, 6:00:00) and Henry Clark (M60-64, 5:36:49).
Team Spectrum Nephro Mayo, on the other hand, took the overall championship in team relay with a 4:11:40 clocking, beating Team Go4less1 (4:14:02), and Team Spectrum Renal Specialty (4:15:01).
Team Go4lessW1 topped the female relay division in 5:27:17, foiling Team Christifidelis Briz (5:28:49) and Team Tripulante Sa Mactan4 (5:51:30) with TSN Mayo also claiming the male relay plum.
Team Spectrum Renal Specialty nailed the mixed relay title in 4:15:01, beating Team Spectrrum Mayo Kidney Care (4:18:07) and Team Andotsports (4:26:02).
Other backers were Athletic Brewing Co., Hyperice, Santini, Wahoo, Fulgaz, City of Lapu-Lapu, CCLEX, Municipality of Cordova (Cebu), City of Cebu, Lalamove, Alaska, Lightwater, Prudential Guarantee, RLC Residences, Regent, Rudy Project, Sante and Teresa Marble Corp. and media partners Cignal, the Philippine Star and Sportograf.com.