It looks like Kona is shaping up to be an exciting race this year with double Olympic champion, Alistair Brownlee confirming his place after his first win at IRONMAN Cork last weekend.
There was one slot available for both the Pro Men and Pro Women and soon after finishing Alistair confirmed he would indeed accept his place, also confirming his intentions to focus on long-distance racing in the second half of the season. It now looks like he will be on the start line for both the 70.3 World Champs and now the Ironman World Champs.
The race probably wasn’t as straightforward as Alistair would have hoped for his Ironman debut. With heavy rain, strong winds and cold waters, the swim was eventually cancelled with a resultant bike-run format. The Pro’s were set off at 30-second intervals making following the race somewhat difficult. Many athletes set off with numerous layers and donning rain capes, but for some, the conditions were too much, and those were seen heading back to T2 early. Brian McCrystal (IRE) took advantage of the cancelled swim, the local athlete who comes from a cycling background and known for his biking prowess soon established a sizable lead over Brownlee and Markus Thomschke (GER). He clearly had all his cards laid out and entered T2 with over 15 minutes to 2nd and 3rd place.
The challenging bike course that included a 20% climb, combined with the conditions made it an extremely hard day out for all athletes, Pro and Age Group alike. Ali looked to be suffering over the 42km, however fastest on the road was Brownlee who by the 25k mark had caught early leader McCrystal by 12 minutes and coming close to virtual race lead. Brownlee eventually caught the Irish athlete on the road, and it looked like all but disaster would prevent the ITU superstar from claiming his first Ironman victory. In the final 10km, Brownlee did seem to slow and suffer somewhat, afterwards stating… “I was quite enjoying it up to about 30km on the run… but that final 10km was not much fun at all!”. He eventually crossed the line with a 2.51 marathon split to take victory in the inaugural Cork Ironman.
In the women’s race, Emma Bilham (SUI) tackled the inclement weather conditions best to take victory over Pleuni Hooijman (NED) and Amanda Wendorff (USA). Pre-race favourites Linsey Corbin (USA) and Anja Ippach (GER) unfortunately succumbed to the weather conditions, for many it really did look like a battle for survival.