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Benedicto rallies, grabs IRONMAN crown

LAPU-LAPU CITY — August Benedicto pulled off a big August Sunday coup, cutting loose in the last loop of the closing run leg to beat Aussie Mark Jansen and capture the overall championship in the Megaworld IRONMAN 70.3 Philippines at The Mactan Newtown in Lapu-Lapu here.

The veteran campaigner, who placed 15th in the last pro IM 70.3 race here in 2019 while dominating the Asian Elite twice before the pandemic, rallied from as far back as 40th after the opening swim leg then kicked his way back into contention with a strong finish in the highlight bike event, a 3-loop race against time at the Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway.

He moved to fourth heading to the deciding run and rode on the momentum, driving past Lanao del Norte’s Satur Salem, Jonathan Pascua and Jansen in the 12.8km mark and storming to victory in four hours, 29 minutes and 16 seconds over the 1.9 km swim, 90km bike and 21k run racecourse in the country’s newest triathlon hub.

He had times of 35:17 (swim), 2:57:21 (bike) and 1:29:43 (run) in overcast skies.

“I broke away around 7 kilometers in the last loop. They edged me in swim so I was bunched together with a big group in bike. I think there were 15 (competitors) ahead of me,” Benedicto, who also ran away with the 35-39 category diadem in the event which drew close to 2,000 triathletes from 46 countries.

“I thank God for giving me the strength and to all the Cebuanos for their support,” added Benedicto, who drew inspiration from the cheers of the crowd that lined up the roads.

“Even if I was already worn out, I felt energized whenever I hear their cheers.”

Meanwhile, Ines Santiago bucked the odds, including the effects of menstrual cycle, as she reigned in the distaff side of the event, which staked 12 age-group titles, nailing the overall crown, along with 40-44 trophy in 5:23:14.

She bested Leyann Ramo and Cianyl Gonzalez, who clocked 5:32:00 and 5:36:09, respectively, for the overall plum.

“I’m very grateful for the nice weather, I really enjoyed it that I was able to push myself,” said the 40-year-old Santiago, a businesswoman from Pulupandan, Negros Occidental and a part-time teacher at the University of Asia and the Pacific.

“Actually, when I woke up, I got my period and that was a tough challenge. I started bleeding at the run but you know, girl power,” added Santiago, who, along with the rest, also cited the successful staging of the event organized by The IRONMAN Group/Sunrise Events Inc.

“When you join the IRONMAN, the only thing that you have to worry about is your training. You don’t have to worry about anything on the racecourse because you’re sure that there’s ample hydration, marshals, volunteers. So it’s a very, very nice community,” Santiago said.

Salem actually flashed his superb riding skills again to get on track for a second endurance race title after topping the Sun Life 5150 Bohol last month but lost steam in the run, together with Jonathan Pagaura, enabling Benedicto, Jansen and John Alcala to snatch the top three places.

Jansen clocked 4:36:05 for runner-up honors while Alcala came in third in 4:37:54 followed by Salem (4:38:39), Jailani Lamama (4:39:38), Leonard Rondina (4:43:09), Czech Petr Lukosz (4:43:39) Jorry Young (4:44:01), Mervin Santiago (4:44:08) and Abdul Rahman Toroganan (4:46:00).

Lukosz moved from 10th in swim to sixth in bike but also faded in the last half of the grueling run and wound up seventh.

Pagaura actually trailed Salem by just over a minute after the bike leg but tired out like Lukosz, falling to 17th in 4:55:39 with a closing 1:58:01 clocking.

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