Sri Chinmoy Triathlon Festival 2006 Race Report
With a sigh of relief, the Sri Chinmoy Triathlon Festival returned to its birthplace. First staged in 1984, the Festival spent its formative years nestled under the trees at Yarralumla Bay, a lakeside setting at once soothing and energising.
The move in 2003 to Black Mountain Peninsula, enforced by concerns over water quality, was not a natural or happy progression for the Festival, which never adjusted comfortably to the transplant.
With numbers significantly reduced from the heady heights of the late 90s when the weekend featured the National Long-Course Championship, the Festival was able to return to its roots - not only in its aesthetic, serene location but also in the intimacy and family feeling associated with its early years when triathletes still entered the changing rooms between legs, and the occasional competitor was seen riding with the shopping basket between the handlebars.
The only hype associated with this event is that there is no hype.
The Sri Chinmoy Triathlon Festival has always emphasised the spirit of participation and the joy of personal satisfaction to be derived from the sport. So it is appropriate the Festival gets underway with Friday's "Joyathons," races for Primary and Secondary aged children during the day, and the Open Joyathon for novices in the evening.
There are no competitors over the entire weekend to match the intensity, focus and exuberance of the Primary Junior Joyathletes. Many a life's lesson can be gleaned from the way they throw themselves into the enjoyment of the moment. Theirs are the most concentrated brows, brightest eyes and widest smiles, lighting up Yarralumla Bay with their dynamic enthusiasm.
The Secondary Joyathon brings an entirely different atmosphere. Larger, stronger, faster and louder, the big kids' approach to fun is from another realm, yet just as committed as their younger brothers and sisters. Here the star athletes of tomorrow emerge, nurtured and honed by a focused and disciplined training program. This year again the outstanding contribution to the atmosphere was provided by Daramalan College with over 80 participants, their own marquee and some VERY vocal supporters.
The Open Joyathon saw outstanding performances from 1st and 2nd placed women Kate Griffiths (who would back up in the "Classic" Tri on Sunday) and Tracey Robinson - both defeating the entire men's field. Special mention also to ever-green competitor Peter Macartney who warmed up for the Sprint Triathlon on Saturday and the Long-Course on Sunday by taking 2nd outright in the men's race even while competing in the over 50's division.
Due to concerns over the density of traffic on Canberra's roads on a Saturday afternoon, the Sri Chinmoy Sprint Triathlon was held in the morning for the first time in its 17-year history. The cycle course reverted to its original 21 km, the same course which saw World Champions Greg Welch and Michellie Jones dominate the race in early 90s. The morning start did not deter Belinda Halloran who returned to the scene of many victories in her former existence as Belinda Cheney. She stamped her class on the course from the outset, finishing comfortably ahead of Tegan Makowski and Rosemary Barnes. The men's race was likewise lead from the start by Ben Harley, whose finishing time of 54:24 is the quickest recorded here in 15 years. For Ben the race was the first leg of an experimental double which included Sunday's 'Classic' Tri.
The Sri Chinmoy Off-Road Triathlon has had two completely different courses starting from Yarralumla Bay and Black Mountain Peninsula. Athletes enjoyed the mountain bike course through Black Mountain Reserve, while preferring the run route along Stirling Ridge. The return to Yarralumla Bay placed the Stirling Ridge run back on the cards, but the mountain bike route around Black Mountain became more remote. The solution was to swim from the Bay across to Black Mountain Peninsula and start the bike from there. A notable feature of the race was the stand-out performance of athletes in the 30 - 50 years age categories. There was a titanic struggle in the women's division with Leone Jansen and Sam Reinhardt playing cat-and-mouse for the whole race until Leone finally edged Sam out in the final run by a mere 6 seconds.
Sunday morning dawned clear and cool, with the bike compound abustle well before the sun appeared. First to start were the Long-Course athletes, who after the traditional 2.2 km swim (the only leg which has remained completely unchanged since the first Sri Chinmoy Triathlon held in 1984), embarked on a new cycle course venturing far afield, from Coppins Crossing to Uriarra Crossing with views across to the Brindabellas, up and down Mt McDonald, across the Cotter River and a final long climb back to town. The new course is considered the toughest yet to feature in a triathlon in Canberra, and was greeted warmly by the better cyclists in the field. First woman was the visiting up-and-coming Kate Bevilaqua from Perth. Also notable was the performance of Belinda Soszyn who came in 8th overall with a rare sub-5 hour time in the over 50 division. Local boy Jeremy Kimpton who has previously won the Sprint Triathlon stepped up to the longer distance with aplomb to take out a convincing victory founded on solid cycling and running. Special mention must go to Geoff Llewellyn and Ken Murtagh who each completed their 21st Long-Course races; and to Lachlan Lewis who in completing his 18th, also set a new endurance record - for the longest time spent on the course of 8:18:17!
Meanwhile the starting orders for the Sri Chinmoy "Classic" Tri were issued at 8 am, and the faster athletes had already passed the Long-Course tail-enders before the end of the swim. The "Classic" Tri saw two extraordinary solo performances. Ben Harley backed up his win in the Sprint Triathlon to totally dominate the men's field, taking out the fastest swim, cycle and run splits to record the largest ever victory margin of 13 minutes. In the women's race Michelle Wu was even more dominant, eclipsing her nearest rival by a whopping 19 minutes and placing 3rd outright in the men's field! Michelle was particularly pleased to record a PB for the 10 km run.
After 3 years away from home, the overwhelming response has been a strong preference for the Festival to remain at Yarralumla Bay. Organisers welcome all comments and suggestions from competitors to enhance the Festival experience for all in 2007.
Complete results for all races (overall and by age group)>>
Photo galleries from all races>>