Cyril Viennot (FRA) and Tamsin Lewis (GBR) had the race of their lives when they crossed the line as Champions for the very first time at the 10th Anniversary IRONMAN UK.
When the Pros led the 2.4 mile swim start at 6am this morning at Pennington Flash, the storms had given way to offer warm, calm conditions that couldn’t have been kinder for the 1751 registered competitors, cheered on by the supporters who had come out in their thousands to spur the athletes on.
The Men’s Pro race saw an exciting race unfold. As predicted it was Harry Wiltshire (GBR) who led the swim into T1 with Belgium’s Axel Zeebroek. The duo had 3 minutes on the chasing pack made up of IRONMAN Wales Champion Scott Neyedli(GBR), Georg Potrebitsch (GER) and Mike Aigroz (SUI) with Kirill Kotsegarov (EST) and Cyril Viennot trailing 4:24 behind the leaders.
With Harry’s recent back injury forcing him to retire 60 miles into the bike, Axel Zeebrok pushed hard to maintain the lead, which he managed to hold onto through the first half of the run. However Viennot found his form on the second lap of the bike and cut down Zeebroek’s lead to 1:43.
Sensing Viennot was hot on his heels, Zeebroek put in a surge during the first half of the run, but it wasn’t enough to hold off the Frenchman. Viennot seized control of the race and by the 15 mile mark his lead was 26 seconds. Knowing how tough this past six months has been since turning pro and facing an accident that put him out for 3 months, Viennot didn’t let up over the next 6 miles to give himself a comfortable cushion of more than five minutes.
Crossing the finish line in 8:44:10, Viennot claimed his maiden IRONMAN title signalling that he is well and truly recovered and ready to aim for more success later in the year. On his win Viennot said, “I’m really pleased to have won my first IRONMAN here in the UK. It was definitely very tough – the run course more than the bike for me, but this is a really great race.”
Great Britain’s Joe Skipper, produced a stunning 2:48:12 marathon performance making up 11 minutes on the run to leapfrog Zeebroek in later stages into a well-deserved second place, a step up from his bronze of last year. Rounding out the podium was Kirill Kostegarov (EST), who produced a 2:55:41 run to edge out Zeebroek for third place.
An emotional Skipper said on the finish line, “This is a brilliant race, but it’s so tough and that was definitely tougher than last year. I pushed myself so hard. The crowds were fantastic and really helped drive me and I’m so pleased to have pushed through to get second place this year.”
In the Women’s Pro race, Tamsin Lewis (GBR) joins Australia’s Melissa Hauschildt, to become only the second woman to win an IRONMAN on a debut performance in 2014, taking today’s 10th Anniversary IRONMAN UK title in the process in 9:52:12.
After a run of bad luck this season that included sustaining a broken fork at IRONMAN 70.3 Mallorca, the sun shone on Lewis as she crossed the line for the first major victory of her career.
Opening the day with the second-fastest swim, Lewis found herself with a 3:50 deficit to Katja Konschak (GER) who lead the women into T1. Lewis clawed back a big chunk of Konschak’s lead within the first 15 miles, reducing the gap to just 1:17.
Once Lewis grabbed the lead before the halfway mark of the first lap on the bike, she never looked back for the rest of the day. Having built up her lead to 14:13 off the bike, Lewis just needed to survive the run to take home her first IRONMAN title. However, the Brit was unrelenting in her pursuit of victory. A 3:18:04 for her first-ever marathon in her first-ever IRONMAN it was the icing on a brilliant performance.
Post-race, Lewis paid tribute to the spectators lining the course through the Lancashire countryside, commenting: “I loved the spectators – I was nearly in tears. One of the reasons why I wanted to do this race was because I knew the crowds would be amazing.”
After falling behind Joanna Carritt (GBR) on the bike, a race-best 3:14:34 marathon saw Konschak claim second place in 10:11:25. Carritt held it together in final few miles to seal third place and her third podium finish at IRONMAN UK in four years.
Once the Pros had crossed the finish line, the crowds continued to inspire and drive all the age group athletes along the marathon course in Bolton’s town centre to the finish line, in their bid to achieve the IRONMAN badge of glory, right up to the 17 hour cut off. Many of the Pros returned together with 3 time World IRONMAN Champion Craig Alexander to hand out medals to the worthy finishers.
With competitors of all ages from 18 to 70 tackling this ultimate challenge, comprising a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run, for a whole variety of personal reasons, many were raising funds for highly worthwhile causes including official charities Scope and Macmillan research.
Kevin Stewart, Managing Director of IRONMAN UK said, “We’ve had fantastic feedback from the athletes about the support of the crowds along the course. Despite this being one of the toughest IRONMAN events, it never ceases to deter such a huge number of UK and international athletes wanting to come to race here in Bolton. We couldn’t achieve this success without the support of Bolton Council and the local authorities.”
With entries for IRONMAN UK 2015 going on sale tomorrow at 4pm, organisers are anticipating the race to sell out within 50 hours again and would urge anyone considering competing in 2015 to enter at www.ironmanuk.com as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.