Fireworks expected for women’s race IM 70.3 Melbourne

Amelia Watkinson as one of the favorites for the IM 70.3 Melbourne victory (Picture: Ironman press release)

A strong field of professional female triathletes from home and abroad will go head-to-head this Sunday 12 November at Ironman 70.3 Melbourne. Sunday’s race will see a mix of experienced campaigners and up and comers on the IM 70.3 circuit line up on St Kilda beach for a shot at the title.

Sunshine Coast based Kiwi Amelia Watkinson finished second at last year’s event and is looking forward to returning to Melbourne this weekend. “I’m looking forward to testing the body and really racing hard,” said Watkinson. “Since picking up COVID last month I’ve been able to string together a short but strong block of training.”

Watkinson enjoyed the atmosphere on the streets of Melbourne last November, with the city-based race giving spectators a front row seat to the action. “Last year was a great atmosphere, it’s exciting to race in a major city and be amongst the hustle, yet also have the bay as the backdrop, and second place always makes your fire burn a little brighter,” she said. “I think the dynamic will be different this year, the season timing has brought together a range of long and short course athletes with quite different tactics. I know the swim will be fast and the flatness of the bike course will mean less opportunities to get away, however two hours in the aero bars will play to our advantage. I’m looking forward to contesting a tight and exciting race.”

One athlete out to challenge Watkinson for the title is another international who now calls the Sunshine Coast home, Dutch athlete Lotte Wilms. Wilms has had great success in recent years, with victories at the Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast, Ironman 70.3 Geelong and most recently Ironman Austria.

“I expect some great racing from all the women,” said Wilms. “It’s the end of the season but I believe there is still enough fire in all the competitors to create a great race. It’s always hard to know what to expect from the race because there is so much variation in the field, with long course and ITU athletes and new coming up talent but it is a four hour plus race so a lot can happen.”

Australia’s Natalie Van Coevorden is relatively new to the Ironman 70.3 scene, with Sunday’s race to be just her third as a professional. The Commonwealth Games representative is looking forward to getting out onto the course in Melbourne after a mid-race puncture ruled her out of contention at the Garmin Noosa Triathlon last weekend.

“Sunday definitely didn’t go to plan in Noosa, I was in the front group of six at 32km and my tyre popped,” said Van Coevorden. “Getting a flat was probably the last thing I really thought could go wrong so I am excited for another opportunity here in Melbourne. I know I have a good year of training behind me and I’m carrying some confidence in this distance from my second in Bahrain last year. The body is feeling good and maybe a little more fresh without the run load of Noosa last week.”

Van Coevorden has been criss-crossing the world this year as she hunts down a spot on Australia’s triathlon team for next year’s Paris 2024 Olympic Games and the 30-year-old is looking to finish the season well. 

“Being the last race of the year, we always find an extra push of motivation and I want to end the season on a high,” she said. “Melbourne is a stepping stone towards jumping across to middle distance full time and maybe qualifying for the IM 70.3 World Championship in Taupō would be a great opportunity to have to end 2024 pretty close to home. 

“Ironman 70.3 is pretty new to me still so everything is a bit of a learning curve,” said Van Coevorden. “I feel from watching from the outside Ironman 70.3 is getting faster so I am taking my taper pretty similar to how I would going into an Olympic distance with just a bit more load.” 

Also set to line up this weekend is Belgium’s short-course specialist Hanne De Vet, former Ironman race winner Chloe Lane and AFLW player turned triathlete Kate Gillespie-Jones.