By Nick Creely
For Cranbourne pro Triathlete Levi Maxwell, this latest win won’t be forgotten in an instant.
The gruelling nature of it, the 12-hour live television broadcast, and the eyes in the crowd fixed firmly on his next move.
But in the first full distance triathlon in mainland China on 20 October, Maxwell once again triumphed in an extraordinary performance to stream clear with a time of 8:08:41 – a shade under nine minutes clear of the next best athlete to claim victory in the Challenge Anhui event.
In an international field sprinkled with Aussies, British, Dutch, German, American and French athletes, Maxwell enjoyed a strong swim to start to record the fourth fastest swim in 48 minutes, before entering into the bike course, which is four laps in total.
Riding the 180 kilometres in four hours and 30 minutes – which was the second fastest of the day – Maxwell kept in touch, and ready to pounce.
In the run, the Cranbourne champion then flourished, making his move at the 25 kilometre mark at an uphill section, surging clear up the hill to open up the race-winning gap.
Incredibly, Maxwell ran at a pace of 3.55 minutes per kilometre, as well as travelling at an average speed of 40 kilometres per hour on the bike.
Maxwell told Star News Group that the final push, one that led to his impending victory over another fellow Aussie, Steven McKenna, was extremely difficult, but was proud that he could stream clear to win comfortably after a gruelling challenge all day.
“The weather is slightly warmer than here in Victoria. But it was still quite chilly first thing in the morning and I remember thinking in the first 30 minutes of the bike that it’s cold,” he said.
“However, towards the end of the race, it was sunny and mid to high 20s which feels pretty warm.
“Those last 10 kilometres of the run hurt a lot.
“But with the win in my grasp, I knew I had to endure the pain, and push to the line. At approximately the 41 kilometre mark there was an ‘obstacle’ which was a set of stairs to get you over the bike course and to the finish line.
“I knew once I made it over these, and didn’t fall over on them that the race was mine and I could relax and soak it up.”
But that the pain of getting to the finish line was worth every second of the eight hour journey – it was an emotion-filled moment that he’ll never forget for a variety of reasons.
“This race win means a lot to me. At a personal level it’s validation that I can produce a world-class time at the full distance, and potentially have a future in the sport,” he said.
“I am also proud to produce a win for the people and sponsors who support me. Their hope, time, belief and support now aren’t wasted.
“It’s extra special as one of my first sponsors, a bike shop owner by the name of Anthony Moustakas from CBD Cycles had passed away two weeks before the race. So to win and be able to dedicate the win to him, was very emotional and makes it extra special.”
In the immediate aftermath, Maxwell described the chaotic scenes of the crowd and the well-wishes from people he didn’t know.
“It’s the biggest endorphin rush,” he said.
“You cross the line after battling for eight hours and hear the crowd going nuts and the commentator calls out that you’re the champion.
“It’s the best feeling in the world, but this race was another level. The crowd was massive, thousands in the arena, and then ones who had access, swamped you wanting photos and autographs.
“After 15 minutes or so of this the Challenge athlete liaison Belinda Granger came and saved me and took me to the quiet of the athlete recovery zone.
“It’s here in the quiet that the pain hit me, and the realisation that I had won.
“I then read a message from my partner saying how proud she was and I was flooded with thoughts of everyone who has made the dream possible, filling me with pride and emotion.”
As a result of the win, Maxwell has snuck into the top five world bonus ranking for the Challenge series, and was full of praise for what the Challenge community has been able to provide not only himself, but his fellow athletes.
“Challenge Family has made an effort to fill a void in the triathlon community by listening to what athletes want, and delivering it,” he explained.
“I really like Challenge family as they make it all about the athlete, providing great experiences through their events.
“They also value what the professional athletes bring to the sport, and have taken measures to ensure the race is fair for the athletes by, introducing a 20 metre draft rule during the bike leg.
“Other series are only 12 metres, which in bigger fields provides a significant advantage to the faster swimmers, who come out the water together.
“I strongly recommend athletes choose Challenge events for the best experience, and value.”
Now back in Australia, Maxwell is just looking to recover after putting his body through the rigours.
“The delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after an event like this is excruciating,” he said.
“The first 24 hours is not so bad, as you still have adrenalin and the high of a win masking it. But it usually hits you bad 48 hours later, and can last for a couple weeks.
“To then jump on a bus, two planes, and then your car with a total of 20 hours of travel the morning after the race, adds some extra sting.
“You have to be very mindful of hydration and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) risk. So I try to drink a lot and move around plenty, as well as use my 2XU compression tights to lower the risks and help aid recovery.
“I had two days off after the race mainly due to travel. I did a light walk jog session for six kilometres on Thursday, which was still very rough.
“I’ll likely take another easier week and slowly add some volume, before trying to ramp up the training again. The full distance Triathlon takes a huge toll on you mentally and physically.
“And I’ve made the mistake in the past, rushing back into things too quickly, and ending up sick or injured.”
As Maxwell looks to gear up for another successful home season and potentially another Challenge series race overseas he thanked his sponsors, Anker Concrete, 2XU Australia, Giant Bikes Australia, Highview Accounting and Financial, Pro4mance Endurance Sports Nutrition, Casey Cycles and Giant Ormond for their support.
If anyone would like to follow Maxwell’s journey can give him a follow on Instagram, @levi_maxwell_aus_triathlete