The second weekend in June saw races all over the world: Switzerland, Kraichgau, Japan, Australia, and here in the United States: Boulder, Colorado and Cambridge, Maryland. Wattie Ink. pros Heather Jackson, Josh Amberger, Joe Gambles, and Sam Appleton hit the podium at three of those races, with Amberger and Appleton claiming the top step at their respective events.
We'll start in Cairns, Australia, where Amberger won his first Ironman in only his third crack at the distance. The swift Aussie went away early, slipping the rest of the field with Clayton Fettell, another über-swimmer. Those two made landfall with over a two-minute gap and quickly got to work over the hilly Queensland circuit. Amberger knew that Cameron Wurf would be coming up at some point on the ride, so he bided his time, and went with the strong rider when he bridged the gap at 50 miles. Amberger husbanded his energy, knowing that he'd gone a little too hard at his last race at Ironman South Africa. Soon Wurf's lights went out, exhausted from chasing, and Amberger took a sizable lead to T2. From there, he knew he'd have to run well, with a group of super runners finishing the ride about ten minutes in arrears. Run well he did, focusing on form and energy management to run 2:53, holding off none other than a charging Joe Gambles, who posted an impressive 2:44:30 on his way to second place, distancing great athletes such as Tim Van Berkel, Braden Currie, and David Dellow. As victor at one of the regional championships, Amberger qualifies automatically for Kona, and Gambles won't be far behind on points after his big haul in Cairns.
Next we'll shift our focus to the rare air of Ironman Boulder, where Heather Jackson, needing only to complete the race to punch her ticket back to Kona, went for it as only a former hockey enforcer would: chasing down Boulder local Rachel Joyce on the bike and then nearly holding on to the victory during the run. "The ultimate goal for Boulder was to validate for Kona as unscathed as possible," Jackson says. "I saw Boulder more as an opportunity to get a great training block in with Joe [Gambles] and practice racing the full distance again without having to travel overseas. I also got it done way earlier than Lake Placid last year, so now it's mid- une and I have plenty of time to recover and map out exactly how we want to lead into Kona. I honestly hadn't done too many long rides or runs going into Boulder, as I chose to race Peru 70.3 and Chattanooga 70.3, so I was happy with my performance given I was about six weeks further along when I raced Placid last summer."
Over to Cambridge, Maryland, where Sam Appleton simply dusted the professional field at the classic Mid-Atlantic 70.3. Appleton led Andrew Yoder out of the water by three seconds, extended his lead to 1:50 by the end of the bike, and closed out affairs in 3:46:34, beating defending champion Cody Beals by a monstrous 8:16. Appleton has been on a tear of late, winning last month's Santa Rosa 70.3, as he moves into the mid-summer portion of his 2017 program.