Faris Al-Sultan stormed to a dominating win at the Frankfurter Sparkasse European Ironman Championship ahead of Jan Raphael and Michael Göhner. Despite cold and wet conditions Al-Sultan recorded the fastest bike split and then held on to the title with a sub 3 hour marathon. Caroline Steffen took the women's title in a similar fashion with a course record bike split of 4:51:07, but had much more of a fight on her hand at the end of the run.
As the lead men emerged from the waters of the Langener Waldsee after their 2-lap swim, Belgian Neo Pro Bart Colpaert was quickest in 45.59. He though had a group of 5 athletes that included Faris Al-Sultan and Sylvain Sudrie hot on his heels.
A quick transition allowed German Pro Horst Reichel to be on the bike first, but it didn't take very long for Al-Sultan to move to the front of the race. The pace of Al-Sultan caused the other swim leaders to fall off the pace though and by the 30k mark only Sudrie had managed to stay with him. A bit further back several smaller groups were chasing hard but all were losing time to the 2005 Ironman World Champion. With a third of the bike segment done Al-Sultan finally dropped the French Pro and was alone in the lead, but now a group of 12 that included Thomas Hellriegel, Luke McKenzie, Bert Jammaer and Cameron Brown was riding a bit more than 4 minutes behind him. The gaps though got larger and larger and by the time Al-Sultan reached the bike-run transition his lead over Sudrie was almost 9 minutes and George Potrebitsch and Luke McKenzie got there shortly after.
Al-Sultan never really faltered during the run either and while some of the faster runners managed to take some time back, his 2:57:25 marathon was plenty fast to take the win in Frankfurt.
"With the victory here the monkey is now off my back and I have a lot of confidence going into the 2nd half of the season," said the new European Ironman Champion Faris Al-Sultan. "The conditions in Hawaii are much more to my liking. As it was here today is not so much my thing."
Jan Raphael and Michael Göhner finished second and third to make this a German sweep on German soil. McKenzie was in fact the first non-German in 6th place and Sudrie after being near the front most of the race seemed to have paid for his attempts to stay with Al-Sultan and dropped from the leader board.
Lucie Zelenkova led the women out of the water in 47:59, with Simone Benz next at 48:12 and Caroline Steffen and Dede Griesbauer another minute later. Virginia Berasategui and Sam Warriner reached transition 3 and 5 respective minutes behind the fast Czech, and Yvonne Van Vlerken had lost about 9 minutes.
As expected Steffen looked very smooth on the bike and the 2010 Ironman Hawaii runner-up reeled in Zelenkova rather fast and moved into the lead. By the time she reached 30k her lead over Zelenkova was up to 2:19 and as Steffen continued to pulled further and further away, Dede Griesbauer crashed approaching one of the famous climbs on the course and had to drop out. Steffen recorded a course record setting 4:51:07 bike split and reached transition almost 14 minutes ahead of Zelenkova and almost 15 .5 minutes in front of Warriner.
Early on during the run Steffen looked good and in control but the cold temperatures seemed to impact her and she started to walk a few sections and slowed down. That allowed Zelenkova to gain time back on the fast Swiss woman and with about 3k to go, the lead was down to 2.5 minutes. Spotters reported that Steffen was seemingly running scared and with short steps and Zelenkova came closer and closer. Steffen held on for the win and crossed the line first in 9:12:13. Zelenkova finished second 1.5 minutes later and a very fast running Sonja Tajsich grabbed third.
"It was simply too cold for me. I like Hawaii conditions. I am using up many more calories when it is so cold. It was very important for me today to win," said Steffen. "I was worried that I would be second again."
Frankfurter Sparkasse Ironman European Championship
Frankfurt, Germany / July 24, 2011
1. Faris Al-Sultan (GER) 8:13:50
2. Jan Raphael (GER) 8:19:31
3. Michael Göhner (GER) 8:20:26
4. George Potrebitsch (GER) 8:22:29
5. Stephan Vuckovic (GER) 8:26:03
6. Luke McKenzie (AUS) 8:26:51
7. Cameron Brown (NZL) 8:31:47
8. Bert Jammaer (BEL) 8:32:26
9. Patrick Vernay (NCL) 8:32:59
10. Bart Colpaert (BEL) 8:33:54
1. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 9:12:13
2. Lucie Zelenkova (CZE) 9:13:46
3. Sonja Tajsich (GER) 9:14:14
4. Yvonne Van Vlerken (NED) 9:15:37
5. Samantha Warriner (NZL) 9:18:04
6. Meike Krebs (GER) 9:22:43
7. Silvia Felt (GER) 9:26:21
8. Susan Dietrich (GER) 9:28:08
9. Heleen Bij De Vaate (NED) 9:32:51
10. Virginia Berasategui (ESP) 9:37:00