Don staked an early lead and rode it to a win in the intermedix Ironman 70.3 Augusta competition Sunday.
The 35-year-old won his second event of the season – the first coming in Calgary, Canada – and his first in Augusta. It was his first time running the Augusta course.
“Once I got on the bike, it’s about rhythm,” said Don, who finished with a time of 3:44:50. “The course, I found it had a really nice rhythm – nice undulated mixture of roads. On the run, I went really hard on the first 5K and then settled down and just got into a rhythm.”
Don, a three-time Olympic triathlete, said he had high hopes for a win in the world championships Sept. 8, but while riding in fourth place, a punctured tire set him back. In his first event since, Don had a smoother ride through the 56-mile bike course.
“When you get a mechanical (problem), that’s life,” he said. “I was unlucky. You’ve got to get back on the horse, as they say, and you can’t dwell on the past, because it’s my job. It was good I could do that today.”
Australian Melissa Hauschildt won the women’s division at 4:03:27.
Hauschildt, who has ties to Georgia as captain of the Dream Team youth triathlete team in Athens, won the event for the second consecutive year.
“It was probably the best swim I’ve ever had,” she said. “I came out of the water in second, within sight of the first girl. I knew it was going to be a good day starting off like that, and I took the lead on the bike.”
Viktor Zyemtsev, from Ukraine, finished second overall at 3:47:36. Nils Frommhold, from Germany, finished third at 3:47:53.
Almost 3,500 athletes competed on the course, which began with a 1.2-mile swim in the Savannah River. After leaving the water, competitors rode a 56-mile bike course that included a loop through South Carolina. The final portion of the course was a 13.1-mile run in downtown Augusta. The finish line was at Augusta Common.
As in past years, the event drew considerable praise from participants and fans. It has become the largest Half-Ironman in the world and sold out in June.
“Augusta is obviously being showcased, and I think we’re doing a great job,” Augusta Sports Council CEO Brinsley Thigpen said. “All the feedback we’ve heard, both of the winners that came through the finish line, said how great Augusta was, how great the course was, and that’s really nice to hear.”