Preview: women to battle it out at Ironman 70.3 Geelong

Title defender Grace Thek is ready for IM 70.3 Geelong. (Picture: press release IM)

A strong field of female professional triathletes from home and abroad will go head-to-head for the 2024 Ironman 70.3 Geelong title.

Sunday’s race will feature 18 female professionals, with the field including a host of IM 70.3 race winners and former IM 70.3 Geelong champions, along with a number of new athletes looking to make their mark on the sport.

Included in the field are the last five IM 70.3 Geelong champions, with Grace Thek, Lotte Wilms, Ellie Salthouse, Hannah Berry and Radka Kahlefeldt all out to claim their second victory at the event.

Thek’s win in Geelong last year was a special one for the 32-year-old, after finishing either second or third at the event for five years beforehand.

“After five years on the podium, it was incredible to finally get on the top step last year,” said Thek. “Geelong holds a special place in my heart, it was both my first IM 70.3 and first pro race in 2018 and I consider it to be a hometown race for me, so it was extra special to take the win front of my family, coach and friends.

“Geelong is my favourite race on the calendar and this will be my seventh consecutive year racing, I still can’t quite believe it as 2018 felt like yesterday,” she said. “I’ve had a bit of a rough trot with injuries and niggles lately but after a couple of weeks of consistent training I can’t wait to race and test out the form. It’s going to be hard work trying to defend my title and claim the Aussie long course champs title in the process, but I’m up for the challenge.”

Thek has had an injury interrupted last few months, returning to racing at Ironman 70.3 Tasmania in February where she finished second.

“Tasmania was a great start to the year and a great opportunity to test the fitness and blow out the cobwebs after not racing for seven months prior,” she said. “I’m hoping to build on this in Geelong, with hopefully some faster transition times and one step higher on the podium.”

The defending champion is looking forward to taking on a strong field across 113km of racing on Sunday. 

“The women’s field is one of the strongest I’ve seen assembled on Aussie soil for an Ironman 70.3 and I am super excited to battle it out on the racecourse,” said Thek. “With the Aussie Long Champs title also on the line, it will be fast and fierce racing from start to finish. I am excited to see how the race unfolds and hopefully I can play an active part at the pointy end of the race.”

Brisbane’s Ellie Salthouse has stood on the top step of the IM 70.3 podium at races all over the world, including in Geelong in 2021, and she’s looking forward to returning to the Victorian event.

“I’m feeling fit and ready to kick off my 2024 season. It has been over three months since my last race so I’m eager to get back out there and see where my current fitness is at,” said Salthouse. “This year has attracted a strong field in Geelong, which always helps to get the best out of me. 

“I had a great win here in 2021, on a day where everything just came together for me,” she said. “I have a lot of family down in Victoria who always come out to support me, so I think that really helps elevate my performances here. I love the honest course as well, with so many factors to consider, from the temperatures to the wind and undulations.” 

Like Thek, Salthouse is also keen to test herself against the high-calibre field.

“I’m so pleased that the Aussie racing scene has attracted such a strong field in Geelong this year. I think we will have a really solid swim, especially with a high likelihood of a wetsuit swim,” she said. “I think the bike will break up a little, due to the undulating course and the potential for strong cross-winds out on the course. We have some strong cyclist in the field, which will definitely keep the pace honest. The run is always pretty quick here in Geelong, so I am expecting nothing less on Sunday. As far as my expectations go, I’m really just looking to see where my fitness is at and implement a few new things that we’ve been working on over the off-season.” 

New Zealand’s Hannah Berry returns to IM 70.3 Geelong for the first time since winning the race back in 2020, with the 33-year-old spending last summer training and racing at home.

“It has been so nice to be back at home for a good block of time. Last year I was away from home for six months straight, so I was so ready to be back home by the end of that and have really just loved having my family and friends around me again,” said Berry. “Training is obviously just so easy at home too and I have a pretty good set up around me here, so it has been great to be home for training as well.”

Berry is expecting some close racing throughout the day on Sunday.

“I’m expecting there to be plenty of fire power in the swim and bike in this race, with quite a few athletes in the front pack,” she said. “Potentially it will come down to a bit of a run battle. We could see some really tight racing I think, it’s going to be an exciting one.”