PORTUGAL'S Filipe Azevedo and Australia's Sarah Crowley captured the pro elite titles at the grueling Alveo IRONMAN 70.3 Davao held at Azuela Cove on Sunday, March 26.

Dubai-based Azevedo, who has an impressive track record, having won the 2019 IM 70.3 Shanghai and the Middle Distance Triathlon National Championships in his home country of Portugal last year, and Crowley, a World Triathlon Championships 2019 third placer, each pocketed a cash prize of $30,000.

The 30-year-old Azevedo had a fierce battle with Ognjen Stojanovic from Serbia and Tuan Chun Chang from Taiwan in the swim but gained a nearly four-minute lead over Chang by Transition 2.

The Portuguese ace fueled his title bid in the bike leg with a blistering pace of 2:00:17 and then held off his rivals' fightback in the punishing run that lasted 1:20:38 in hot conditions, eventually prevailing in 3:51:09.

After posting a strong bike split, Stojanovic mounted an impressive comeback effort by turning in the fastest time in the closing 21-kilometer run (1:18:02). However, it was not enough to catch up to Azevedo who maintained his lead en route to bagging the title.

The Serbian settled for the runner-up position with a total time of 3:52:28, while Tuan Chun Chang rounded out the podium in third place with a time of 3:57:12. American triathlete Robbie Deckard (4:09:01) and Romanian Zsombor Deak (4:14:27) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

Crowley, for her part, powered through the bike leg to fuel her title bid and held off her rivals' fightback in the grueling closing run to crown herself the pro-female women's champion.

Crowley checked in with an impressive 4:20:14, beating American Lauren Brandon's 4:22:49 and United Arab Emirates' Lottie Lucas (4:25:09). Crowley, who hails from Brisbane, continued to dominate the competition with an impressive winning streak after sweeping three Australian IRONMAN races last year, including the IM Western Australia held in Busselton last December.

Brandon led out of the water nearly two minutes ahead of French Julie Iemmolo, Lucas, and Crowley. However, with a remarkable display of endurance, the 40-year-old Crowley launched a powerful surge in the next leg to take the lead and then showed incredible resilience to dominate the early section of the run, maintaining her pace with superb staying power.

Iemmolo secured fourth place with a time of 4:37:25, while Ai Ueda from Japan finished fifth in 4:43:30. Unfortunately, multi-titled athlete Dimity-Lee Duke struggled during the swim and couldn't bounce back, finishing in sixth place with a time of 4:59:21. American Amy Vantassel came in seventh place with a time of 5:07:31.

At least 55 slots for the 2023 World Championships slated August 26 and 27 in Lahti, Finland was at stake in the just-concluded 1.9k swim, 90k bike, and 21k run Davao race that drew over 1,700 participants from 49 countries, including top pros, 30 age-group, and 25 women berths. MLSA