PORT Macquarie triathlete Tim Berkel has a heavy schedule as he sets his sights on the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in September.
The world championships in Las Vegas might seem a little way off on the triathlon calendar but in between Berkel has targeted two more half-distance events.
Good results in those two events should mean he has the requisite number of points to qualify for the world championships.
Berkel goes into the American season buoyed by a solid second placing to fellow Aussie and dual Ironman world champion Chris McCormack in Japan on Sunday.
The men’s professional field at Tokoname did not have the depth Berkel would have preferred but he took his chance at racing one-on-one with the sport’s best.
The splits tell the story of the event. Berkel left the water first – all of six seconds ahead of the Port Macquarie triathlete.
In between the two Aussies was eventual third placegetter, Fredrik Croneburg of Sweden.
Potential disaster struck Berkel just 5km into the bike leg when he lost his gels.
But such is the sportsmanship of McCormack, 11 years Berkel’s senior, that he shared a couple of his own with him.
The mutual respect lasted well into the run leg as the Aussies ran – and chatted – together until the 13km mark.
“I put in a bit of a surge to try and drop Macca but it didn’t last and he was with me again before I knew it,” Berkel said.
He tried the same tactic about four kilometres later but McCormack stayed close.
“I really just couldn’t shake him,” Berkel said.
As the Aussies entered the finish chute, McCormack put in a sprint and Berkel found he just couldn’t go with him.
He had to make do with second place - all of two seconds in arrears.
“I’ll have to learn how to sprint,” Berkel joked afterwards. “But racing against a legend like Macca and finishing second is a real honour.
“I have a lot of respect for him.”
Sunday’s second place follows Berkel’s finish
in precisely the same position at the 2012 Ironman Australia event here in Port Macquarie in May.
He’ll be looking to go one better when he races Ironman 70.3 Muncie at Indiana on July 7.
Eight days later he heads to Ironman Vineman 70.3, just north of San Francisco.
“It’s a pretty full schedule but I took a fair bit of confidence from racing so close with Macca in Japan that I think I can really do well,” Berkel said.