LAKE STEVENS — On a day of nearly perfect racing conditions, Australians Luke Bell and Joe Gambles waged a determined battle over 70.3 miles, with Bell pulling ahead in the final few steps Sunday to win the Lake Stevens Ironman triathlon.
Bell and Gambles were virtually stride for stride as they neared the finish line in downtown Lake Stevens before Bell eased ahead to cross the finish line one second ahead of Gambles.
The 29-year-old Bell, who is from Melbourne, Australia (and has homes in San Diego and Boulder, Colo.), was clocked in four hours, 15 seconds. He received the first-place prize of $5,000.
Gambles, also from Melbourne, was timed in 4:00:16. His runner-up paycheck was $3,000.
“Man, that was crazy,” said race director Bill Burke. “For a race to be over 70 miles in length, those two guys were almost connected at the hip throughout the swim, throughout the bike. Literally, it came down to the last 30 feet.
“You just don’t see races of over four hours in length come down to one second,” he said. “The crowd (around the finish line) was going crazy. It was one of closest finishes of any 70.3-mile race in history.”
Bell and Gambles “are both Aussies, so they’ve raced against each other quite a bit,” Burke added. “They see each other four or five times a year (in competition). And they were just in a duel.”
Chris Legh, also from Melbourne, was third in the men’s race at 4:01:43. He earned $2,000.
The women’s winner was Mary Beth Ellis of Boulder, Colo. ($5,000), with a time of 4:33:42. Second place was Linsey, Corbin of Missoula, Mont. ($3,000), at 4:38:22; and third was Fiona Docherty of New Zealand ($2,000) at 4:40:59.
The annual Lake Stevens triathlon begins with a 1.2-mile swim in Lake Stevens, out and back from the public boat launch; followed by a 56-mile bike ride through the country west of town, including two laps around Lake Roesiger; and then a 13.1-mile run north of town and finishing with a leg along the northern shore of Lake Stevens.
More than 1,400 competitors began the race, which included staggered age-group starts. There were 576 men and 300 women who finished the race.
The youngest competitors to start the day were 15. The oldest was 78.
Entrants came from around the country and Canada, but also from elsewhere in the world, including several Australians. The majority of competitors, though, were from Washington and elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest.
Race conditions could hardly have been better, Burke said.
“Today was the perfect day to race,” he said. “Calm waters, no wind, low temperatures, and a cloud cover. It made for just ideal, perfect conditions. The sun really never came out until the last hour of the event.”
The Lake Stevens triathlon has become increasingly popular every year, Burke went on. Two years ago there were only a few hundred entrants. This year there were almost 1,500.
“Every man, every woman who participated came up to me afterward and said this has to be one of most challenging bike courses in America,” he said. “It is beautiful, but it is also challenging.”
There were also team competitions for men, women and coed. The men’s winner was the team called Amp, with August Swanson, Peter Ffitch and Michael Covey. They were timed in 4:54:29.
The women’s winner was the Ironheads, with Kendra Baran and Bonnie Jensen. Their time was 5:07:37.
A team called Wideload won the coed division, with team members Stephen Mauri, Kerry Mauri and Matt Eccles posting a time of 4:57:47.
Seventy-five competitors earned positions in the field for the 2008 Foster Grant Ironman 70.3 World Championships on Nov. 8 in Clearwater, Fla.
Lake Stevens Ironman triathlon, Lake Stevens, Sunday
Luke Bell 4:00:15; Joe Gambles 4:00:16; Chris Legh 4:01:43; Timothy Marr 4:13:58; Ben Hoffman 4:17:30; Chris Tremonte 4:19:13; Boyd Conrick 4:20:44; Trevor Wurtele 4:21:24; Mario De Elias 4:21:57; Bryan Rhodes 4:23:10; Ben Greenfield 4:24:03; A. J. Lafrenz 4:25:31; Adam Zucco 4:27:33; Michael Montgomery 4:27:40; John Bergen 4:28:40
Mary Beth Ellis 4:33:42; Linsey Corbin 4:38:22; Fiona Docherty 4:40:59; Kelly Couch 4:42:15; Magali Tisseyre 4:42:39; Emily Finanager 4:45:12; Amy Kloner 4:50:03; Kaytee Petross 4:51:12; Rhae Shaw 4:51:19; Tracy Orcutt 4:52:42; Michelle Shoup 4:57:00; Malia Greening-Bechtel 4:58:20; Molly McCorkle 4:59:45; Jennifer Hanley-Pinto 5:00:11; Anne Basso 5:00:52