Italian Massimo Cigana bounced back from an injury-hit season with a runaway victory on a drizzly and humid Laguna Phuket Triathlon course, notching up his second Laguna Phuket championship and setting the pace for next Sunday’s hotly-awaited inaugural Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship on the paradise Thai island.
Cigana, 2007 Laguna Phuket Triathlon champion, returned to winning ways in spectacular style, after just 10 days’ training following a spell of almost six weeks on the sidelines with a foot injury, to delight the legions of Italian fans who travelled to watch him Phuket.
Among the front pack at the 1.8km swim exit, Cigana took the lead 3km into the 55km bike ride then scorched ahead on the island’s picturesque bike and 12 km run courses, lined by cheering residents, to complete the triathlon nearly 10 minutes in front of closest rival Frederik Croneberg of Sweden.
Cigana finished in 02:35:26, with a swim time of 00:25:49; bike time of 01:21:58; and run time of 00:45:23. Croneberg finished in 02:44:45. The professional male top three was completed by Denmark ’s Aleksandar Markovic in 02:48:46.
“It was fantastic to return to winning ways here in Phuket and a great warm-up for the Ironman 70.3 next Sunday,” said Cigana. “The rain meant that I had to be careful on the bike course, but I’m still very happy with my time.
“This is always an amazing race and the prospect of the Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship next weekend makes it a really special atmosphere in Phuket.”
Another former Laguna Phuket Triathlon champion, Belinda Granger of Australia , was first in the female category with a time of 02:55:08, nearly five minutes ahead of Great Britain ’s Emma Ruth Smith who finished at 03:00:15 in her Laguna Phuket debut.
Two-time former champion Samantha McGlone of Canada , aiming to make it a hat-trick of Phuket victories, had to settle for third place in 03:03:56.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” said Granger, who won Laguna Phuket in 2008. “This is by far my favourite race in the world and to win it again is just fantastic.
“I had to adjust my style in the rain, but once I got into the lead on the bike course there was no looking back.”
The professionals were racing among a field of more than 800 amateur athletes from 33 countries, as well as 35 relay teams from 19 countries, in this 17th Laguna Phuket Triathlon, now a hotly-anticipated race on the international triathlon calendar.
Clinton Mackevicius of Australia created a record for the Laguna Phuket Triathlon by becoming the first amateur athlete to finish in the top three overall, with a time of 02:44:57.
First Thai male was Pasayos Yongsakulchai who finished 30th overall in 03:05:54; and first Thai female Mayuree Maidaeng, 85th overall in 03:21:40.
Among the amateur entries was The Biggest Loser Asia reality show personality Garry Holden, who shed 45 kilos on the TV series. Garry, who weighed 125 kilos a year ago, completed his first-ever triathlon in a creditable 04:16:44.
First relay team across the finishing line was Thai Airways Angels & Demons on 03:16:5, followed by Sheraton A on 03:18:29 and Physical on 03:19:37.
Cigano, Granger and their fellow pros in the Laguna Phuket Triathlon will now spend the week preparing for the challenge of next Sunday’s Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship, with its pro purse of US$75,000, amid a triathlon training carnival and Tri-Trade Show being staged at Laguna Phuket.
They will join a field of some 40 fellow pros vying for the inaugural title, and be among more than 100 Laguna Phuket Triathlon athletes going on to compete on the extended Ironman 70.3 Phuket course in the same week.
On the charity front, Laguna Phuket Triathlon athletes raised more than THB 175,000 online to support Laguna Phuket’s preferred charity, the Developing Sustainable Schools Program, whose current project is reconstruction of the 30-year-old roof at Baan Jao Krua School in Phang Nga province.
Athletes in next Sunday’s Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship can continue the fundraising by registering to fundraise online at http://www.lagunaphuket.com/CSR/athlete-sponsorship-programme.php General donations are accepted both online and at the Laguna Phuket Tri-Trade Show.
Photo by: Sirisawan Hemtanon