New Zealand triathlete Bevan Docherty has finished in an impressive third place on debut at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in the blazing heat of Las Vegas overnight.
The two-time Olympic medallist made his move early on the run to push up to second place on the first of three laps of the 21.1km run before being passed by defending champion, Craig Alexander of Australia.
Docherty held on strongly to finish third place ahead of fast finishing Americans Tim O'Donnell and Andy Potts as the temperatures soared to 37C deg, with German Sebastian Kienle claiming the upset victory.
Meanwhile seven-time Ironman New Zealand champion Joanna Lawn enjoyed another strong performance for fifth place, running through the field from 10th off the bike. It was a repeat for Lawn who finished fifth on the tough Las Vegas course last year.
Kienle surprised by winning the world championship, coming from three minutes down out of the swim to make his move on the bike to open up a three minute lead. The 27 year old was able to hold off the world's premier runners led by two-time winner Alexander and Docherty.
It was a superb performance by the New Zealander, who has only competed over this distance in competition twice before, once 12 years ago and a victory in Panama over Lance Armstrong earlier this year.
Coming off a strong fourth placing in the rich Hy Vee Des Olympic distance triathlon at Des Moines last weekend, Docherty was unsure of his chances in his first Ironman 70.3 world championship.
"I really didn't know what to expect. I am so new to this game I just wanted a good race. I managed to hold it together and I had a good race," Docherty said.
"I knew if I did manage a good race I could get on the podium. There was a small chance I could win the race but Sebastian rolled the dice and was able to get away and we couldn't even touch him.
"I was happy to end up with a podium in third. I still have a lot of learning to do though.
"The conditions were really not as bad as I was expecting. With the race starting at 6.30 in the morning the first two-thirds of the race were actually quite comfortable. The hardest was that last lap with the sun starting to come and the heat getting quite intense then. I had also cracked by that stage so the last lap seemed like and eternity. But the heat overall wasn't too bad. I guess that is one good thing about starting the race at 6.30 in the morning."
In a city where fortunes and won and lost on the throw of a dice, Kienle took a huge risk to lay everything down on the bike with the hope of surviving on the run.
"They told me I had to improve my swim because you can't win it on the bike. Well I proved something different," the German said.
"I took a big risk on the bike but you have to risk something to win it. I never had the feeling I had the title in hand until the finish line because just look at the people chasing me, the fastest in the world."
It was a similar story in the women's race where US-based British athlete Leanda Cave claimed her second Ironman 70.3 world title, holding on to a buffer off the bike to
Cave, who has also won the Olympic distance world title, pushed hard on the bike after a strong swim to open up a telling three minute lead.
American Williamson, like Docherty making her debut, produced the fastest finish with a 1:23.19 run for the 21.2km, to close within a minute of the winner before running out of real estate.
Another American heather Jackson was third ahead of defending champion Melissa Hauschildt (AUS) with the super impressive Lawn finishing fifth.
Lawn's run of 1:29.23 was second only to Williamson of the top-10 finishers, which is a testament to the kiwi's preparations and also expectations with the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii in five weeks.
Of the other New Zealand professionals, Aucklanders Callum Millward was 19th and James Bowstead 27th with Taranaki's Shanon Stallard 29th.
Elite men: Sebastian Kienle (GER) 3:54.35, 1 (race record); Craig Alexander (AUS) 3:55.36, 2; Bevan Docherty (NZL) 3:56.25, 3.
Other New Zealanders: Callum Millward 4:14.06, 19; James Bowstead 4:28.31, 33; Shanon Stallard 4:32.45, 29.
Elite women: Leanda Cave (GBR) 4:28.05, 1; Kelly Williamson (USA) 4:29.24, 2; Heather Jackson (USA) 4:32.32, 3.
Also New Zealanders: Joanna Lawn 4:36.08, 5; Rachel Challis 4:55.56, 18; Julia Grant 5:03.41, 22.