Ronnie Schildknecht and Ironman Switzerland fit together like twins. The 33-year-old from Switzerland has put together some of the best performances of his career at Lake Zurich. He appeared on track for another big day when he entered T1 only 3:41 behind a group of four leaders that included Estonia’s super-swimmer, Marko Albert, and last year’s runner-up, Jan van Berkel (SUI).
Schildknecht hammered early on the bike and caught up to van Berkel after 110 km. After taking the lead, though, he started to struggle with cramps in his legs at the 140 km mark of the challenging bike course. While Schildknecht was trying to stretch his legs and to cool down his body, van Berkel regained the lead.
The field of 2,500 athletes found themselves dealing with extreme heat up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit and strong winds.
After the first of four laps, Schildknecht caught van Berkel, who would eventually drop out of the race. Schildknecht was then on his own and appeared to be in control, but former ITU world champion Ivan Rana (ESP) had a fast run that forced Schildknecht to a personal best time. His 8:33:39 got him to the line over seven-minutes ahead of Rana (8:40:55). Germany’s Per Bittner (8:46:23) rounded out the podium.
That makes Schildknecht the first athlete in Ironman history to win a single event seven times in a row. “It was my clear goal to win here again,” he said, “but it was an extremely tough day.”
For the women, the hometown crowd was surprised to see 23-year-old Swiss athlete Celiné Schärer, who was making her Ironman debut, in fourth place overall entering T1.Her 52:38 swim put her well ahead of the rest of the women in the field. She was 5:43 ahead of Anja Beranek (GER), the reigning Ironman 70.3 European champion, and 8:40 up on countrywoman Regula Rohrbach (+8:40), who led a group out of the water that included defending champion Erika Csomor (HUN) and former world time trial champion, Britain’s Emma Pooley.
After being dropped in the swim, Beranek was untouchable on the bike. She caught Schärer after only 60 kilometers and pulled away.
Riding in the top-10 overall, Beranek headed into T2 with a lead of 4:56 on Schärer. Rohrbach was in third (+13:33), followed by Pooley and Csomor. Csomor was the only woman able to make up time during the run—she started the marathon just over 17 minutes back and, at the halfway point, was 9:59 behind the leader and 6:51 behind Schärer.
Beranek paced herself, though, and kept energy for the second part of the marathon. She celebrated her first Ironman triumph in 9:21:31. Schärer’s impressive Ironman debut ended in a 9:28:28 runner-up finish, followed by Ironman Austria champion Csomor (9:33:17).
Ironman Lake Placid
Like last year, Andy Potts started off his Ironman Lake Placid title defense by leading everyone out of Mirror Lake. This time he swam 46:48 (a bit slower than his 45:10 course record swim in 2012), and left T1 with close to a three-minute lead.
Once on the notoriously demanding bike course, Potts extended his lead. He led by 7:21 after 56 miles, and upon completing of the 112-mile jaunt in the Adirondacks, his 4:48:33 ride put him ahead by 10:39.
Taking a generous lead into the marathon and with the course record out of reach, Potts ran a controlled 3:02:41 marathon, throwing in the occasional surge to test himself, to defend his title in 8:43:29. Potts becomes the only man to defend the title at Ironman Lake Placid. Daniel Fontana finished second in his first Ironman race in North America (8:48:29), while American Ian Mikelson had his best race at Lake Placid, going 8:51:07 for third.
American Jennie Hansen entered T1 11:12 back of leading swimmer Katy Blakemor and needed the full day to win her first Ironman title.
Blakemore left T1 with a 16 second lead overall, but Dede Griesbauer quickly got to the front and led the rest of the bike ride. She rode 5:23:02 and entered T2 with a 3:35 lead over Australian Carrie Lester. However, thanks to the fastest ride of the day (5:20:25), Hansen quietly made up ground and was only 8:38 back.
While Griesbauer and Lester battled up front (Lester took the lead just after the four-mile mark), Hansen pushed towards the front, seemingly determined not to get another runner-up finish as she did at Ironman Texas and Ironman Lake Placid last year.
Hansen posted the top marathon split last year, so Lester and Griesbauer had good reason to be concerned. Hansen passed Lester just past the 12-mile mark and stayed in front for good—her 3:05:04 marathon earned her first Ironman victory in 9:35:06. Sporting a smile throughout the run, the energetic Blakemore moved up two positions to get second in 9:42:35. Lester toughed out a third-place finish (9:47:59).
Ironman 70.3 Calgary
Jon Bird (CAN) led the men’s field out of McKenzie Lake with a blistering 22:04 split. Tim Don (GBR) was next out, four seconds back, while Brian Fleischmann (USA) and Matty Reed (USA) were caught swimming solo and ran up the boat ramp a minute behind in third and fourth positions. Next up, two minutes later, was a chase pack of four that included Tyler Butterfield (BMR), Damon Allen (USA), Rich Allen (USA) and Grant Burwash (CAN).
Entering T2, Butterfield, Don and Trevor Wurtele (CAN) were within seconds of each other. Don took the lead early, with Butterfield and Wurtele chasing hard. Despite cramping during the middle stages of the run, Don held on for the win in 3:42:22. That put him just 36 seconds ahead of Wurtele, while Butterfield rounded out the podium with a 3:43:39 clocking.
In the women’s race, Anna Cleaver (NZL) exited the water 16-seconds ahead of her closest rival, Tenille Hoogalnd (CAN), with Lisa Mensink (CAN) coming out seconds later in third. Three Canadian women—Karen Thibodeau, Rachel McBride and Magali Tisseyre—were 90 seconds behind Cleaver in fourth through sixth positions, with pre-race favorite Heather Wurtele sitting in seventh, almost two-minutes off the pace.
Finishing the bike, McBride had a small advantage over Wurtele. The latter took a few kilometers to get back into race mode—she took a bit of a break after her course-record win at Ironman Coeur d’Alene last month—before she ran herself into the lead. Wurtele’s 4:11:23 got her to the line more than two minutes ahead of McBride (4:13:50), while Mandy McLane’s solid run was rewarded with the final podium placing (4:14:11).
The first edition of Challenge Vitoria featured 600 triathletes and the stars of the day were Portugal’s Pedro Gomes and an impressive Ana Casares, who took the podium in 8:38:36 and 9:52:39 respectively.
Nobody was a match for Gómes. The Portuguese athlete came out of the water in third position and then overcame everyone on the bike course, enjoyed the run and found the podium 13 minutes ahead of his runner up, Madrid triathlete Alejandro Santamaría. He held off Carlos López, who finished third 50 seconds later.
The women’s race was tight from beginning to end. Casares arrived first to T2, and then started the run course closely followed by Basque triathlete Gurutze Frades, the current Spanish Champion.
But Casare did not lose even a single second to her rival and maintained her lead throughout the marathon.Frades finished second while Yvette Grice took third.