Perfect conditions produced some super-fast swim times: Estonian Marko Albert led out of the water in 21:25mins followed closely by James Seear (AUS), with the main contenders including Alexander, Bowstead (NZL) and Appleton in the chase group.

Appleton opened up a 30-second lead on the chase pack early on in the 90km bike as Bell suffered a mechanical problem that forced him out of the race. Bowstead and Alexander pushed hard and, by the end of the bike leg, had closed the gap.

Alexander took the lead on to the 21.1km run, but Appleton was quickly onto his shoulder, where he remained until the last few kilometres when Alexander finally broke his young challenger.

“I put a lot of surges in today, on one of the downhills I was running sub-three minute kilometres, and I still couldn’t drop Sam,” Alexander said. “I was disappointed after Kona last year and took some time off; I trained through Christmas and actually feel fitter than I did last year at the same time.”

Women’s race

Before the women’s race Aussie favourites Rebekah Keat and Liz Blatchford had joked it would be a battle of the “unfittest”, but nothing could have been further from the truth. Blatchford, Rebekah Keat and Gina Crawford (NZL) led out of the water and then spent the entire bike leg within close sight of each other.

Keat knew she needed to build a lead on the bike and took off like a scalded cat. “I knew Liz and Gina were fit and I needed to go out hard and try and hold on,” she said afterwards. Blatchford took the opposite approach and held a steady pace, hoping Keat would hit a wall.

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“I only had one pace today, so I just had to run my own race. Bek took off out of transition quickly and she got a minute up the road. I held steady and she blew up and started to come back to me, so I dug deep and managed to get the win. It was fun out there today,” Blatchford says. Crowley managed to overtake Crawford late in the run leg to claim third.

Results, elite men:

1. Craig Alexander (Australia) 3:46.26
2. Sam Appleton (Australia)  3:46.43
3. Mark Bowstead (New Zealand) 3:51.14
4. Jeffrey Symonds (Canada) 3:52.21
5. Marko Albert (Estonia) 3:54.48

Results, elite women:

1. Liz Blatchford (Australia) 4:19.34
2. Rebekah Keat (Australia) 4:20.03
3. Sarah Crowley (Australia) 4:20.52
4. Gina Crawford (New Zealand) 4:22.12
5. Amanda Wilson (Australia) 4:24.27

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