Triathlon Wizards of Oz: Skipworth, Salthouse Surprise at Challenge Melbourne


That is apparently what happens when Event Management warns a bunch of triathletes about impending weather. If you subsequently glanced at Twitter, you might’ve thought the end of the world was set to coincide with Challenge Melbourne.

But when it came time to race, the thunderstorms did not materialize. In fact, it was quite pleasant, with a “slight northerly breeze” at the starting line, as they apparently say in Oz. 

Set at Brighton Beach, athletes competing for the $20k prize purse would complete a 1 lap swim in Port Phillip Bay, 3 laps of a closed bike course (luxury!), and a 3 lap run overlooking the Bay. Former champs Leon Griffin (2015) and Annabel Luxford (2014) were both toeing the line, looking to reclaim their respective titles. Joining Griffin in the men’s race was Per Bittner, the sole German infiltrating a loaded Aussie field that included Tim Van Berkel and Todd Skipworth. Challenging (pun not intended. Well, maybe a little bit…) the top-seeded Luxford in the women’s field were Yvonne Van Vlerken, Carrie Lester, and Ellie Salthouse.


*Huge letdown.

We’re off to see the Wizard… (read: Race Day)

*author note: I clacked my ruby slippers a number of times. Unfortunately, I was not magically transported to Melbourne for race coverage. If anyone knows where to file a complaint about this, please help.

Todd Skipworth (5th place finisher in 2015) was first out of the water, a full minute clear of his competition (a pack including Caleb Noble, Lachlan Kerin, Tim Green, Nuru Somi, Leon Griffin, Van Berkel, and Per Bittner). Skipworth continued to lead on the bike, but with a chase pack closing in, including an optimistic Tim Van Berkel, who had someone live-tweeting his race. Unfortunately, bad luck struck after the 2nd bike leg for Van Berkel, as he dropped out with a mechanical. All wandering spectating eyes were on Per Bittner to take down Skipworth then, since we know those German dudes can bike.

Skipworth entered T2 still in the lead, with Bittner now in 2nd place. Yes, an Aussie actually beat a German off the bike today. Josh Rix was 3rd out onto the run, but was soon passed by Leon Griffin, who continued to run all the way to the 3rd place podium slot. He’ll have to come back next year and give that whole repeat-champ thing a re-try. Rix ended up in 5th, as Nuru Somi also got by him on the run course to claim 4th.

  1. Todd Skipworth, 3:51:13
  2. Per Bittner, 3:56:05
  3. Leon Griffin, 3:58:41
  4. Nuru Somi, 4:01:13
  5. Josh Rix, 4:03:30

Over in the women’s race, Annabel Luxford jumped to an early lead on the swim, with youngin’ Natalie Van Coevorden and Ellie Salthouse not far behind, while the better-known Yvonne Van Vlerken trailed by 4:30. Luxford’s lead came to an end early, however, when she pulled out of the race early into the bike, leaving Salthouse to lead Van Coevorden. Behind the two short-course superstars, Carrie Lester followed in 3rd +3:15, trailed by Lisa Marangon and then Van Vlerken 7 minutes off the lead.

Salthouse hit T2 with a 30 second lead over Van Coevorden and remained in control, slowing putting time on Van Coevorden while Lester ran 5+ minutes back in 3rd – and that’s where they finished, with Ellie Salthouse taking the top spot in only her second go-round at this distance, and Van Coevorden in her 70.3 debut. Yvonne Van Vlerken pulled the plug after trailing her competition through the bike, leaving Katy Duffield and Lisa Marangon to finish in 4th and 5th.

  1. Ellie Salthouse, 4:11:03
  2. Natalie Van Coevorden, 4:15:14
  3. Carrie Lester, 4:19:50
  4. Katy Duffield, 4:31:06
  5. Lisa Marangon, 4:31:36

*I am now a huge Carrie Lester fan based solely off this picture:


photo credit: Sunset from Melbourne Beach – January 17, 2015 via photopin (license)

photo credit: shots at an oscar party : academy of friends, san francisco (2014) via photopin (license)

About the Author

Adrienne Taren
Adrienne is a MD/PhD in Neuroscience researching stress, your brain & the neuroscience of mindfulness training. She is also a fairly decent triathlete/runner/writer and an average ultra-distance swimmer, if there is such a thing. Visit her blog: Follow @SeeSpondyRun