Frederik Van Lierde wins the Ironman World Championship in 8:12:29

Ironman World Championship - Frederik Van Lierde

Frederik Van Lierde was victorious this year after coming third in 2012 (Photo: Nils Nilsen/Ironman)

Belgium’s Frederik Van Lierde ran into the lead during the second half of the marathon at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, to take his first win at the event in 8:12:29.

In a race that saw favourites such as Pete Jacobs (AUS), Craig Alexander (AUS), Eneko Llanos (ESP), Bevan Docherty (NZL) and Andreas Raelert (GER) fall by the wayside, Van Lierde became the first European to win the event since 2006.

After the 3.8km swim, which was led out by Brandon Marsh (USA), Clayton Fettell (AUS) and Jacobs, the defending champ was first onto the bike but was soon overtaken by Ironman bike course record holder Andrew Starykowicz (USA), who burned to the front of the race.

Behind him, a chasing pack formed including most of the big pre-race favourites, including Van Lierde, with Raelert and Sebastian Kienle (GER) further still behind.

Luke McKenzie (AUS) broke away from the group and briefly caught Starykowicz before the American ploughed on in the direction of T2. Behind, the riders were beginning to spread out, with some of the big names already lagging behind the pace, though Kienle was making progress to wipe out his swim deficit.

Starykowicz was first into transition with the day’s fastest bike split of 4:21:50 and began the marathon with his robotic-looking run style. About a minute later, McKenzie reached T2 with Van Lierde and Kienle around three-minutes behind him.

McKenzie made short work of the opening miles and was soon in the lead, though Van Lierde was running at a faster pace to close the gap.

The Aussie held onto first place for 17 miles, but couldn’t stave off being overtaken by the inexorable Belgian, who took the lead and continued running hard. Far from giving up, McKenzie recovered over the next few miles to cement second place while Kienle was also looking untouchable for third.

Van Lierde crested the final hill and knew he had the race sewn up. Running back through town, his usually unreadable face cracked into a wide smile and holding up a Belgian flag, he crossed the line in 8:12:29 after running a 2:51:18 marathon.

A delighted McKenzie claimed second in 8:15:19, comfortably ahead of Kienle, who completed the podium in 8:19:24.

James Cunnama (RSA) ran a solid 2:52:39 marathon to leapfrog to fourth place in 8:21:46 while Tim O’Donnell (USA) overtook eight other athletes to round out the top five in 8:22:25.

The day’s fastest run split came from Bart Aernouts (BEL) who completed the marathon in 2:44:03.

Despite relatively calm winds and cloud cover for much of the day, several of the favourites’ races fell apart this year. Raelert, Docherty and Dirk Bockel (LUX) all DNF’d while Eneko Llanos was 11th behind the best-performing ex-champion Faris Al-Sultan (GER). Alexander finished 21st with fellow Aussie Jacobs clearly struggling to a 32nd place pro finish and 79th overall.

On the British side, Daniel Halksworth put in a great swim, but faded a little on the bike and run to finish his first Kona race in 24th place while Paul Amey had a solid day to finish 17th pro.

Top 10 Kona Finishers 2013

1. Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) 00:51:02, 4:25:37, 2:51:18 8:12:29
2. Luke McKenzie (AUS) 00:51:17, 4:22:27, 2:57:20, 8:15:19
3. Sebastian Kienle (GER) 00:54:13, 4:22:35, 2:58:38, 8:19:24
4. James Cunnama (RSA) 00:51:13, 4:34:22, 2:52:39, 8:21:46
5. Tim O’Donnell (USA) 00:51:04, 4:35:39, 2:51:07, 8:22:25
6. Ivan Rana (ESP) 00:51:06, 4:40:36. 2:47:54, 8:23:43
7. Tyler Butterfield (BER) 00:51:24, 4:30:12, 2:58:22, 8:24:09
8. Bart Aernouts (BEL) 00:57:26, 4:39:48, 2:44:03, 8:25:38
9. Timo Bracht (GER) 00:51:21, 4:34:47, 2:56:07, 8:26:32
10 Faris Al-Sultan (GER) 00:51:19, 4:29:58, 3:05:46, 8:31:13

See the rest of our 2013 Ironman World Championship coverage here.