Following wins at Gamagori, Japan, and Mooloolabawhere he became the Australian national champion last weekMcCormack won Wildflower in his first ever half-Ironman.
Australia made it a trifecta as another sprinter-turned-distance manat least for a dayCraig Walton got second, and last year's Wildflower winner Chris Legh came across in third.
On the women's side, Barb Lindquist made it an American sweep when she led a trio of U.S. racers to the finish line in a time of 4:37:42
Walton led the men out of the water with an overpowering swim, breaking James Bonney's course record with a 21:49 split over 1.2 miles. Nobody was even close. The rest of the legitimate challengersincluding McCormack, Kerry Classen, and Wes Hobsoncame out in a pack ninety seconds down.
Peter Reid came out of the water further back than expected, and was obviously laboring. He'd been suffering from a stomach ailment and had not eaten for two days prior to the start. He would retire before the end of the race after a game try.
Walton, meanwhile, was blistering the bike course. He clearly wanted to get free of McCormack and all challengers before the run, and his bike split of 2:18:00 was only a minute off of Zack's record set last year.
But his ride was only third best of the day. The top split belonged to Steve Larsenhe of the Mongoose Bicycles commercial.
Larsen, reigning NORBA Mountain Bike Champion and former Motorola pro road rider, was competing in his first-ever road triathlon (he dabbled in XTerra racing last year). Larsen tore through the bike course, and in a rare occurance actually rode through Jurgen Zack.
"He looked like a roadie," said Zack. "I thought that's what he was, out on a ride, trying to challenge the triathletes for a few miles. I couldn't believe anybody riding like that could actually be in the race."
Larsen eventually would ride a 2:14:06 and smash the 2:17:00 record that Zack set last year when he finally wrested it from Andrew MacNaughton, who'd held it since '91.
As for McCormack, anybody who thought he'd play his first half conservatively was mistaken. If it wasn't for Larsen's ride, McCormack would hold the bike course record today with his split of 2:17:00.
The two short-course Aussies were well-clear of the field on their arrival back at T2. None of the long-course experience in the fieldCam Widoff, Zack, Reid, Leghseemed to phase this pair who, prior to this day, had done a grand total of a single half-Ironman between them.
Third into transition was Larsen, followed closely by Legh, Mike Pigg, Wes Hobson, Chuckie V, and Kerry Classen. Representing themselves well were first-year pros Lance Muzslay and Brian Lavelle, who were just behind.
Legh outran all the chasers, running a fine 1:17:51, but McCormack, or Macca as he is called back home, ran in without much struggle for the win. His time of 4:00:12 was a new course record, but the elusive four-hour barrier at Wildflower stands for another year. Walton finished second in 4:02:13, and Legh came home in 4:07:14.
Certainly the surprise of the day was Steve Larsen. He ran a surprisingly strong 1:25:00 on a very hilly, hot course to hold on for fourth place ahead of hard-charging Chuckie V. Hobson, Pigg, and Classen were next across, with fine rookie performances by Muzslay and Lavelle rounding out the top ten.
Asked about how he kept himself going strong over this distance, McCormack said:
"I've been working over the past several weeks with the G-Push folks (fluid replacement providers for the race) and my plan worked fabulous for me. I did the race on three bottles of super-concentrated G-Push on the bike200 calories a bottlealong with three Clif Shots. Other than that, it was just clear water at the bike aid stations to lean out the mix, and then just regular-strength G-Push on the run. I felt fantastic the whole way.
"I want to do the Ironman, but not for a year or two. I can't imagine doing this course twice through. But I've stopped listening to those who're telling me not to do any of the long stuff. The Ironman, and races like this, that's where it's at. I love the sprints, but I don't want to stick only to those my whole career."
Americans will be seeing plenty of McCormack this year, as he'll be staying in San Diego with Slowtwitch journalist Kelly Rees over the summer.
May 5, 2001; Lake San Antonio, California
1.2M swim; 56M bike; 13M run
1. Chris McCormack (AUS) 4:00:12
2. Craig Walton (AUS) 4:02:13
3. Chris Legh (AUS) 4:07:14
4. Steve Larsen (USA) 4:11:14
5. Chuckie V (USA) 4:11:40
6. Wes Hobson (USA) 4:15:34
7. Mike Pigg (USA) 4:15:44
8. Kerry Classen (USA) 4:17:09
9. Lance Muzslay (USA) 4:19:04
10. Brian Lavelle (USA) 4:20:51