Eneko Llanos outdueled three-time ITU Duathlon world champion Paul Amey and broke 8 hours for the first time; Leanda Cave outdueled Linsey Corbin to win her first Ironman title as both women smashed the 9-hour barrier for the first time at Ironman Arizona.
On a day blessed with perfectly sunny skies and mild temperatures, Llanos, a three-time XTERRA World Champion, 2003 ITU long course world champion and 2nd place finisher at the Ironman World Championship, redeemed a disappointing DNF at Kona last month due to stomach troubles. He surprisingly won it with a race-best 4:20:54 bike split that outpaced super bikers Michael Weiss (8th), Jordan Rapp (DNF) Sebastian Kienle (6th) and topped duathlete extraordinaire Amey by 1:43 – which provided nearly all of his 1:51 margin of victory.
While Amey actually outran Llanos 2:45:55 to 2:46:09, Amey's effort to overcome the bike deficit was the straw that broke the duathlete king's back two thirds of the way through the run. Amey stormed into the lead on mile 9 of the marathon, but he could not make the pass stick as Llanos proceeded to methodically reel him back in over the next mile. The two then ran elbow-to-elbow for six more miles. Finally, nearing the end the second of three 8.6-mile run loops, Llanos' even-paced run took the measure of Amey's brave redline surge and the Spaniard pulled away to victory.
The Ukraine's Viktor Zyemtsev, who started the day with an out-classed 52:17 swim and followed with an equally disappointing 4:35:02 bike that left him 19 minutes off the leader’s pace, stormed past a crumbling field to the final place on the podium with a race-best 2:43:30 run that brought him home in 8:14:36 with a 2:08 margin on 4th place Torsten Abel of Germany, 4:19 better than 5th place Stephane Poulat of France and 4:53 better than 6th place Sebastian Kienle of Germany.
Llanos’ win was his second Ironman win of the year, as he won Ironman Texas in May.
His 7:59:38 time set a record for Ironman races in the United States, topping by 4 seconds the mark set two weeks ago by Ronnie Schildknecht of Switzerland at Ironman Florida.
Jordan Rapp, the 2009 Ironman Arizona champion who had an inspiring comeback from life threatening injuries to a 4th place finish last year, and was coming off a win at the ITU long course world championship last month, struggled to overcome gastric troubles that made for a slow swim and a problematic bike. Eventually Rapp’s will could not overrule his body and he found it necessary to withdraw at an aid station.
Cave, the 2002 ITU Olympic distance world champion and 2007 ITU long course world champion, overcame time lost to a flat tire and outdueled Linsey Corbin with a sizzling 8:49:00 time that topped the Montanan's own personal best by 5 minutes and 33 seconds. The win was Cave's first at the Ironman distance and comes on the heels of her breakthrough 3rd place finish at the Ironman World Championship in Kona last month. Corbin took her defeat well, exulting in her very first sub-9 hour (8:54:33) performance that might well have won had Cave not had a quantum leap of a day herself.
Like Llanos, Cave's victory was not wire to wire, as Amanda Stevens broke into the lead with a race-best 48:43 swim that put 3:25 on Cave, 3:03 on Meredith Kessler, and 8:17 on Corbin. Stevens' 4:51:51 bike held her lead despite giving back 1:40 to Corbin and 45 seconds to Cave, while adding 1:45 to her lead on Kessler. Stevens hung stubbornly to her lead for the first of three laps of the run before surrendering the lead to Cave's dominating, race-best 2:58:18 marathon – her first sub-3 hour clocking. When the Cave's run was over, the Great Briton outran 2nd place Corbin by 3:36, third place Kessler by 11:27 and 4th place Stevens by 24:54.
At the line, Cave's 8:49:00 finish was 5:33 faster than Corbin, 11:14 better than Kessler, and 20:39 better than Stevens.
The women’s contest was also notable for a total of 7 sub-5 hour bike times led by Corbin (4:50:11), Cave (4:51:06), Michelle Vesterby of Denmark (4:51:27 bike split and 5th overall finish), Stevens (4:51:51), Kessler (4:53:36), Jessie Donavan (4:54:14 and 11th overall finish) and Kathleen Calkins (4:54:46 and 7th overall finish).
While all three podium women praised 2010 winner Chrissie Wellington for raising the bar of expectations for women Ironman triathletes, Cave's impressive finish was still 12:47 slower than Wellington's 8:36:13 race-record last year.
Ford Ironman Arizona
November 20, 2011
S 2.4 mi. / B 112 mi. / R 26.2 mi.
1. Eneko Llanos (ESP) 7:59:38
2. Paul Amey (GBR) 8:01:29
3. Viktor Zyemtsev (UKR) 8:14:36
4. Torsten Abel (GER) 8:16:44
5. Stephane Poulat (FRA) 8:18:55
6. Sebastian Kienle (GER) 8:19:29
7. Jeremy Jurkiewicz (FRA) 8:19:38
8. Michael Weiss (AUT) 8:21:36
9. Trevor Wurtele (CAN) 8:22:21
10. Christophe Bastie (FRA) 8:26:10
1. Leanda Cave (GBR) 8:49:00
2. Linsey Corbin (USA) 8:54:33
3. Meredith Kessler (USA) 9:00:14
4. Amanda Stevens (USA) 9:09:39
5. Michelle Vesterby (DEN) 9:11:23
6. Kelly Williamson (USA) 9:12:18
7. Kathleen Calkins (USA) 9:12:40
8. Sara Gross (CAN) 9:18:03
9. Susan Dietrich (GER) 9:19:47
10. Charisa Wernick (USA) 9:22:37