Reigning Challenge Wanaka champion, Dylan McNeice, has again made his mark on the international triathlon circuit as he took his second major title in only his second long distance race at this weekend’s Challenge Taiwan. Meanwhile two-time Challenge Wanaka champion, Belinda Granger (AUS), won the women’s race, claiming her 15th long distance victory in the process.
His two from two win proved that his victory at January’s Challenge Wanaka was no fluke as once he again he led from start to finish. The 27-year-old asserted himself early on, leading a competitive field by over three minutes out of the swim in 47:00 and never relinquishing his lead, taking the title in 8:16:21.
McNiece’s closest rival out of the water was Todd Skipworth (AUS), an Olympic rower-turned-triathlete and also a rookie in the professional long course ranks. Skipworth leapfrogged between second and third place throughout the bike course with Georg Potrebitsch (GER), eventually reaching T2 just ahead of the German with the fastest bike split of the day in 4:28:40. Within a few kilometers on the run Potrebistch managed to pull ahead and maintained his position to the finish line taking second in 8:27:06. Skipworth would ultimately drop back to fifth, passed by both Fredrik Croneborg (SWE) and Petr Vabrousek (CZE) who crossed the line in third and fourth respectively. But while Vabrousek’s finish marked an historic 125th long course race for the Czech athlete, Croneborg’s performance was equally remarkable. The smiling Swede was a swift yet silent achiever, working his way steadily through the men’s field and capping his stellar day with a race best run split of 2:52:33. Also of note in the men’s race was Guy Crawford (NZL) who, despite a debilitating mechanical issue on the bike fought hard to hold onto sixth place.
Typically humble, McNiece was disbelieving of his win. “I was running and I was at the front and I thought, ‘Geez I’ve been at the front all day again today. This is just what people are going to always expect of me!’ It really is a hard way to race. It’s a good way to race because you’re always in control and it’s your own race and your own pace, but today and in Wanaka both I suffered the last 10k. I was stopping and walking, I started cramping and my stomach was a mess.”
“It’s just like after Wanaka,” he continued. “I still don’t even know that I won. It takes a long time to settle in. At the moment I’m just happy to have finished, just happy it’s done. But in the next few weeks it will settle in and be a great feeling.”
The women’s race featured an equally dominant champion, with Challenge Family ambassador Belinda Granger (AUS) claiming her 15th title in 47 career long course finishes.
Fresh off of a two-week training camp in Phuket, Granger initially seemed too far in arrears to set the first women’s course record in Taitung. She exited the water 6:23 back from notably strong swimmer Hillary Biscay (USA) and 4:50 from fellow Australian Kate Bevilaqua. But the swim deficit only served to light a stronger than usual fire underneath the already powerful cyclist, and by T2 Granger’s 4:55:34 bike split propelled her to the women’s lead.
“My swim was shocking,” admitted Granger, “But sometimes that’s a blessing in disguise. It makes you kick it up a notch, where when you have a really good swim you can become complacent. So I had to chase from the start. Hats off to Hillary, she was having a storming bike and I didn’t catch her until 60k. Then she stayed with me, legally, until 90k. The only reason I got rid of her is because I knew she would stop for her special needs bag. I don’t use special needs on the bike so I took off like a maniac!”
Granger’s ride, followed by an equally strong run, built a comfortable buffer over Biscay, and she posting a winning time of 9:23:15. Biscay, who boasts an even more impressive long course resume with 59 finishes to her credit, held tough on both the bike and the run, finishing in 9:37:40 for second place. Kate Bevilaqua rounded out the women’s podium, despite struggling with stomach issues throughout the bike leg.
The Challenge Family celebrates the sport of triathlon through its global series of long distance events and festivals that are changing the face of long distance racing around the world with its focus on athlete experience. Featuring spectacular courses in iconic destinations, Challenge Family events focus on delivering the race of a lifetime to every athlete, and creating a memorable spectator experience that captures all the excitement and emotion of this inspirational sport. The Challenge Family series currently features 18 events around the world including the world’s largest long distance triathlon, Challenge Roth in Germany. Other Challenge Family races take place in Germany, Holland, Austria, Canada, UK, France, Spain, Italy, Denmark, New Zealand, Thailand and Taiwan.