We take you through the men’s race at the Ironman World Championships in loving detail.
In the men’s race, it was once again an Australian who took home Ironman’s greatest prize, but with Chris McCormack dropping out of the race and defending champion Craig Alexander losing time on the bike to fade out of contention, it was 30 year-old Pete Jacobs – second last year – who clinched the title.
The non-wetsuit swim leg had a predictable victor, with the US’s Andy Potts leading from the clear, salty waters of Kailua Bay in 50:32. Australian contender Pete Jacobs was fourth out of the water in 51:28, in a pack including fellow Aussie and defending champion Craig Alexander (51:35), Belgium’s Frederik Van Lierde (51:36) and Germany’s Faris Al-Sultan (51:39). After a split in the field, other favourites Marino Vanhoenacker of Belgium followed in 52:11, with Australia’s two-time world champion Chris McCormack down at 52:34, while German pairing of Andreas Raelert and Kona first timer, Ironman 70.3 World Champion Sebastian Kienle, were nearly five minutes off the pace, more than 30-men back.
There were plenty of lead changes at the start of the bike, with packs becoming established only to splinter as slower swimmers mixed things up in the growing heat and strengthening wind. Eventually, a non-drafting group stabilised including France’s Romain Guillaume, Luxembourg’s Dirk Bockel, Australia’s Luke McKenzie, Al-Sultan, Vanhoenacker, Van Lierde and Alexander.
After his tumultuous swim, McCormack suffered a flat tyre before half-way, enough for him to pull out of the race, while Kienle, and Raelert behind him, pursued hard.
Kienle, one of the most impressive bikers in the sport, dragged himself to the leaders just before the turn around point, and as the crosswinds really started to hammer the riders, he set off into the distance with Vanhoenacker.
While the pair were making time on the lava-lined and sun-drenched roads, the wind was taking its toll on some of the key contenders, including Alexander, who started to slip backwards through the field.
Jacobs, joined by Bockel and Van Lierde, pushed on through the devastating winds to limit the leaders’ gains which was lengthening beyond five minutes. With around 60km to go, Kienle suffered a flat tire, forcing him to stop on the roadside and undertake a hasty repair and Vanhoenacker to go it alone as the German lost time in his best discipline.
Putting on a show of staggering cycling strength, Vanhoenacker had eked out a lead of nearly nine minutes as he led out onto the run after the day’s fastest bike split – 4:25:49. Looking dominant and in complete control Vanhoenacker began the marathon in search of the world championship.
With a characteristically great swim already behind him and having posted the fastest run splits in the 2010 and 2011 editions of the race, Jacobs was out to prove that he had developed his bike to challenge the best in the Ironman world – and still be able to put in a steaming run. By posting a 4:35:15 bike, fourth fastest on the day, the Australian showed he was on track, coming off the bike in second place, 8 minutes 43 seconds down on Vanhoenacker.
Leaving Bockel and Van Lierde behind, Jacobs paced quickly out onto the blistering run course, looking none the worse for his 112 miles in the saddle. Also in the podium mix were 2005 Champion Al-Sultan, who came in less than a minute behind Jacobs and Kienle, another minute back and who despite having to fix his puncture, went on to post the day’s second fastest bike split.
Taking bigger chunks off his deficit each kilometre, Jacobs continued to look strong, even comfortable, while Vanhoenacker began to suffer. Perhaps paying the price for going it alone at the head of the bike race, Vanhoenacker was visibly weaving going into the mysterious Energy Lab section of the course, where Jacobs overtook as the Belgian slowed, stopped and vomited before finally admitting defeat and dropping out of the race by way of a medical support van.
As Jacobs continued his relentless pace, Van Lierde was forced to contend with a hastening Raelert, who after a negative split on the bike, was thrashing himself over the run course.
With a solid four-minute buffer in the bank and less than two miles to go, Jacobs slowed to take in his moments of glory. With a look of ecstatic happiness and disbelief, the Aussie began to high-five what seemed like every spectator lining the course, an enormous grin on his face. Grabbing an Australian flag in the final few metres of Ali’i Drive, Jacobs, jumping with unbridled joy took the tape, the deafening applause and the Ironman World Championship in 8:18:37 after a 2:48:05 marathon.
Raelert was next to join Jacobs at the finish after putting in the day’s second fastest run (2:47:23) to overtake Van Lierde and claim the podium’s second spot in 8:23:40. Van Lierde held onto third place in 8:24:09, edging out Kienle, whose puncture may well have cost him a podium position in his Kona debut, and Al-Sultan, whose consistency throughout the day earned him a strong fifth place finish.
Top 5 Men
1. Pete Jacobs (AUS) 8:18:37
2. Andreas Raelert (GER) 8:23:40
3. Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) 8:24:09
4. Sebastian Kienle (GER) 8:27:08
5. Faris Al-Sultan (GER) 8:28:33
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