Alistair Brownlee, Emma Bilham win Ironman Ireland

At age 31, legendary two-time Olympic champion and Ironman 70.3 World Championship silver medalist Alistair Brownlee came one step closer to his Ironman World Championship debut with a victory in his very first Ironman on a chilly, rainy day in Cork, Ireland. Emma Bilham of Switzerland also captured first Ironman victory, by a whopping 29:32 margin over runner-up Pleuni Hooijman of Netherlands.


Thanks to cold, rough seas, organizers canceled the swim and turned the inaugural Irish Ironman into a duathlon.

Because Alistair’s mighty swim prowess was put on the shelf, the legendary Brownlee was forced to overcome a much greater deficit going into the marathon, as home country fave Bryan McCrystal opened with a by-far race-best 4:37:50 bike split that gave him a 13:26 lead on the short course Hall of Famer. Marino Vanhoenacker of Belgium, who figured to contest for the overall, said he had a hard time handling the cold and found himself unable to make power so he withdrew early on the bike.

With McCrystal 2.5 miles ahead, Brownlee went to work chopping the Irishman’s run lead like a skinny lumberjack. In the first 10k, Brownlee ran 38:02 and cut 4:42 from McCrystal’s lead. Through 15km, Brownlee reduced McCrystal’s lead to 6:30, while Markus Thomschke of Germany stood 3rd, 9:59 arrears.

Just under halfway through the marathon, Brownlee’s split was 1:16:04, which put him 3:49 behind McCrystal. At 25.3km, Brownlee cut his deficit to 1:26, while Thomschke lurked 9:51 behind McCrystal.

Because the pros started the race staggered in intervals, Brownlee passed the 30.3 kilometer mark behind McCrystal but 33 seconds ahead on elapsed time. Brownlee made up 13:58 in the first 30 kilometers of the run.

After a race-best 2:51:31 marathon, Brownlee finished in 7:49:20 with a 1:59 margin of victory over McCrystal and 9:26 over 3rd place finisher Thomschke. Justin Metzler of the U.S. closed fast with a second-best 2:56:02 marathon to take 4th place, 8:54 behind the winner.


Anja Ippach of Germany led the women’s pro wave at 24km by 56 seconds over Linsey Corbin of the U.S., 1:16 over Bilham, 1:28 over Pleuni Hooijman of Netherlands, 2:31 over Amanda Wendorff of the U.S. and 4:24 over Michelle Heneghan of Ireland. Through 63km, Ippach led Corbin by 56 seconds, Bilham by 2:52, Hooijman by 3:57 and Wendorff by 6:22.

By 115km, Ippach widened her lead to 3:52 over Bilham, 6:30 over Hooijman and 7:38 over Corbin. After a women’s-best 5:28:05 bike split Ippach led into T2 by 2:25 over Bilham, 8:36 over Hooijman and 14:05 over Wendorff.

After 5km of the run, Bilham cruised past and dropped Ippach for the lead. Minutes later, Ippach slowed to a walk, then dropped out with lower back pain.

After a women’s by-far-best 3:16:16 marathon, Bilham crossed the line in 8:50:18 with a 29:32 margin of victory over Pleuni Hooijman (3:40:06 run split) and 38:12 over 3rd place Amanda Wendorff.

Prior to this breakthrough Ironman win, this year Bilham placed 5th at Cannes International and 6th at ITU long distance worlds. In 2018 she won Alpe d’Huez and in 2017 she won Pays d’Aix 70.3 and Cannes International. In 2016, Bilham won Barcelona 70.3 and took 2nd at Gerardmer long course.

Ironman Ireland, Cork
Youghal, Cork, Ireland
June 23, 2019
B 112 mi. / R 26.2 mi.


Pro Men

1. Alistair Brownlee (GBR) 7:49:20 B 4:54:46 T1 3:04 R 2:51:31
2. Bryan McCrystal (IRL) 7:51:19 B 4:37:50 T1 3:05 R 3:10:25
3. Markus Thomschke (GER) 7:58:46 B 4:49:10 T1 2:52 R 3:06:44
4. Justin Metzler (USA) 8:08:14 B 5:10:07 T1 2:06 R 2:56:02
5. Seppe Odeyn (BEL) 8:13:20 B 5:10:04 T1 2:29 R 3:00:48

Pro Women

1. Emma Bilham (SUI) 8:50:18 B 5:30:30 T1 3:33 R 3:16:16
2. Pleuni Hooijman (NED) 9:19:50 B 5:36:41 T1 3:04 R 3:40:06
3. Amanda Wendorff (USA) 9:28:32 B 5:42:10 T1 4:37 R 3:41:46
4. Michelle Heneghan (IRL) 9:50:01 B 6:04:05 T1 4:40 R 3:41:17