Matt Trautman (SA) and Amy Forshaw (GBR) produced the race of their lives today when they crossed the line in glorious sunshine as Champions for the very first time at the 4th annual IRONMAN Wales.
As the pros led the 1850 registered competitors for the 1km walk through the town onto Tenby’s North beach for their 2.4 mile swim, the streets were already jammed with crowds who had turned out in their thousands to cheer them on right from the 7am start through to the midnight finish.
Renowned for being one of the toughest bike and run courses on the IRONMAN Tour, the sun might have been shining, but the easterly wind and choppy conditions added a third discipline of toughness for all the hardy competitors, who were escorted by the RNLI.
The men’s pro race saw an exciting race unfold. Despite the tough water conditions Spain’s Peru Alfaro San Ildefonso led the way out of the water in an impressive 48:29, a full 1:20 ahead of local hero Olly Simon, and about 3:30 minutes ahead of three of the men’s favourites, Trautman, Daniel Niederreiter (AUS) and Fraser Cartmell.
Simon was quickly dropped from the picture (and eventually pulled out of the race), which left Trautman, Niederreiter and Cartmell in a group that chased San Ildefonso for much of the first 60 km – at that point the threesome were 14 seconds behind the Spaniard. The group became a foursome, with Trautman driving the train for the next 60 km before he finally pulled away on one of the many climbs along this challenging course. Only Cartmell could keep up with the South African, but it took everything he had to keep the gap to just 10 seconds off the bike. San Ildefonso (5:55) and Niederreiter (7:24) were far enough behind at the end of the bike that the race appeared to have become a two-man affair for the win.
For 28 km, it looked like the famed IronWar, the famous 1989 IRONMAN World Championship race between Mark Allen and Dave Scott 25 years ago and Cartmell and Trautman seemed determined to reenact that epic race here in Tenby.
Trautman, being so new to the sport, probably doesn’t realise that Mark Allen pulled away from Scott with about three miles to go – he ruined the re-make with a move at 25 km that Cartmell simply couldn’t answer. By 29 km the gap was over two minutes. By 35 km it was just under four.
Trautman never looked back and cruised to his first IRONMAN title in 9:07:28, setting a new bike course record along the way, with Cartmell a close second and San Ildefonso taking third place on the podium.
On his win Trautman commented, “That was an unbelievable event and such a tough course.
Fraser put up such a good fight and I had to work super hard. With this being my first year racing as a pro, it makes the win even more special. Tenby is an amazing venue – the crowd support here was unbelievable and despite being such a tough course the crowd make it all worthwhile.”
Cartmell has won every IRONMAN event in UK, except this one and was hardly disappointed with his runner-up finish. Celebrating with Trautman on the finish line, Fraser said, “This was really really good – it’s unbelievable how this town comes out. I can’t think of another race that equals it.”
With a small female Pro field competing here in Tenby it was left to the age group women to lead the way through the swim and most of the challenging bike course. Great Britain’s Andrea Mason (30-34) led out of the water in 59:44, with Germany’s Heike Funk (45-49) following in 1:01:19. By the end of the long climb up the “zig zag” and the 1 km run to T1, Forshaw, who was 10th out of the wter in 1:08:13 had moved herself up to fourth as she started the bike in pursuit of the leaders.
For much of the ride, Funk led the way, with Forshaw finally closing the gap over the last third of the ride to come off the bike just ahead. Once on the run the race quickly became a forgone conclusion. Forshaw gained almost a minute per km on Funk, who suddenly found herself trying to hang on to the 45 to 49 title. Julia Bohn (GER) ran her way to second place and third went to Amy Ogden (GBR), who took the 35 to 39 title, while another British athlete, Jill Cliff, ran a 3:52 marathon to move herself to fourth and beat Funk in the 45 to 49 category. Rounding out the top five was Switzerland’s Sandra Fontana, who won the women’s 25-29 category.
Amy Forshaw was delighted with her first win, commenting “That was the hardest swim I’ve ever done. I knew that I’d be chasing out of the swim, so I had to keep to my plan and focus on consistency and a solid performance. The crowds were amazing right from 6am – I admire all the athletes that competed in the swim today – it was really tough.”
Once the leading athletes had crossed the finishing line, the town came alive with spectator’s who packed the run streets to scream encouragement to all the athletes, all the way to the finish line – 50% of whom were competing in their first IRONMAN.!
Mayor of Tenby Sue Lane, who together with Cllr. Tom Richards, Chairman of Pembrokeshire Council, was on the finishing line throughout the event handing out medals commented on the success of the day, “Tenby is thrilled to be hosting IRONMAN Wales as we know how popular it is with all the locals, spectators and athletes. It offers a superb venue and we very much hope that IRONMAN will be here to stay for the future.”
Kevin Stewart, MD IRONMAN Britain & Ireland said, “Being known as one of the toughest IRONMAN events in the world doesn’t deter huge number of athletes from around the world wanting to come and race here. I know that the way Pembrokeshire and Tenby embrace this event plays a huge part in the athletes’ experience.”