Chrissie Wellington smashes field to win ITU Long Distance Worlds in Almere

Julien Loy’s second straight ITU long distance world championship victory, this time by 2 minutes 14 seconds over fellow Frenchman Francois Chabaud at Almere, was good. But 2007 Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington’s crushing by 17 minutes 31 seconds of a tough Almere field, which included recent Ironman distance world best record smasher Yvonne Van Vlerken, was simply great.

By winning, Wellington avenged the only beating in a major event in her remarkable 19-month pro career – a 5th place finish last July 15 at the ITU long distance World Championship at L’Orient.

Since then, the 31-year-old from Great Britain, who four years ago was devising sanitary water systems in Nepal, has been unbeatable in major long course events. Wellington won the extremely tough, high-altitude long course 2007 Alpe d’Huez by 30 minutes, her debut Ironman in Korea, and a smashing upset Ironman Hawaii victory with a 2:59:58 closing marathon. In 2008, she set a course (but not race) record winning the 2008 Ironman Australia in 9:03:55, set a race record with a sub-nine hour win at the Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt, took a second win at Alpe d'Huez where she finished just 90 seconds back of the men’s overall winner, and an 18-minute win at Timberman 70.3.

And now Wellington has underlined her long course dominance with this, her third world title, second as a professional, starting with her 2006 overall age group title at the ITU Worlds in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The women’s elite race

Wellington, whose only weakness was reputed to be in the water, emerged from the 4k swim with a third-best 1:10:05, giving up 2 minutes 50 seconds to her nearest pursuer, Lucie Zelenkova of the Czech Republic. After her dominant, race-best 3:03:19 split for the 120k bike, 6 minutes 15 seconds better than eventual runner-up Charlotte Kolters of Denmark, Wellington’s lead had increased to 4 minutes 9 seconds. But after her coup de grace, a 1:54:18 split for the 30k run, Wellington hit the tape in 6:12:44 and roughly three miles ahead of her rivals.

Wellington’s overall time would have placed her 17th and her run ranked 9th against the men’s elite field.

In a showdown of recent women’s Ironman-distance world best markers, Wellington smashed the Netherlands’ home country favorite in every discipline. Back in July, Wellington set a personal best of 8:51:24 at the Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt, just a minute back of the standing 1977 record. Two weeks later, Van Vlerken responded with an astonishing 8:45:48 at Quelle Challenge Roth, shattering Paula Newby-Fraser’s 11-year-old women’s Ironman-distance world best, also set at Roth.

This set up the shootout at Almere. On the famously flat, fast course, Van Vlerken finished third overall at Almere, 19 minutes and 12 seconds back of Wellington’s flying feet . Wellington beat her rival by 9:35 on the swim, 8:16 on the bike, and 1:28 on the run.

This absolutely dominant win removes any lingering questions Wellington might have a hard time dealing with the half a dozen challengers who broke nine hours in a one-month frenzy this July at Ironman Frankfurt, Quelle Challenge Roth and Ironman Austria.

The men’s elite race

Loy emerged fifth out of the water in 1:00:48, just 17 seconds behind a group led by eventual third place finisher Martin Jensen of Denmark, which also included ITU world cup short course veteran Stephane Bignet of France, Paul Ambrose of Great Britain, Sebastien Berlier of France, and Ivan Tejero of Spain. Happily for Loy, he had five minutes in hand against dangerous Ironman veteran Francois Chabaud of France and Jimmy Johnsen of Denmark.

When the bike was over, Jensen's race-best 2:47:08 bike gave him a 5 minute 52 second lead over hard-charging Jimmy Johnsen of Denmark (2:48:32 bike), and a few seconds more over a six-man pack that included Loy (2:53:02 bike) Chabaud (2:48:39 bike), Bignet (2:53:04 bike), Kevin Lisska of the United States (2:53:48 bike) Berlier (2:54:08 bike) and Paul Ambrose of Great Britain (2:53:59 bike).

Loy got to work right away, blazing to a 15:49 first 5k – a minute faster than Chabaud and Berlier, and eating away 96 seconds of Jensen’s big lead. Loy’s 16:51 second 5k took another 1:45 from Jensen, and just past 20k Loy zoomed by Jensen unhindered for the win.

When it was all over, Chabaud put up the best fight on the run, just 2 minutes 9 seconds slower than Loy’s race-best 1:45:05 30k. That was almost precisely Loy’s winning margin – 5:43:22 to Chabaud’s 5:45:36. Jensen struggled in with a 1:54:42 run to a 5:46:59 overall finish, taking third place a minute and 23 seconds back of Chabaud.

ITU Long Distance World Championship
Almere, Netherlands
August 31, 2008
S 4k/ B 120k/ R 30k


Elite Men

1. Julien Loy (FRA) 5:43:22
2. Francois Chabaud (FRA) 5:45:36
3. Martin Jensen (DEN) 5:46:59
4. Sebastien Berlier (FRA) 5:48:24
5. Jonas Colting (SWE) 5:49:35
6. Stephane Bignet (FRA) 5:50:34
7. Jimmy Johnsen (DEN) 5:51:57
8. Kevin Lisska (USA) 5:58:29
9. Paul Ambrose (GBR) 5:59:43
10. Huib Rost (NED) 6:02:32
11. Petr Vabrousek (CZE) 6:04:36

Elite Women

1. Chrissie Wellington (GBR) 6:12:44
2. Charlotte Kolters (DEN) 6:30:15
3. Yvonne Van Vlerken (NED) 6:31:56
4. Lucie Zelenkova (CZE) 6:34:00
5. Ingrid Van Lubek (NED) 6:40:33
6. Tiina Boman (FIN) 6:41:27
7. Joan Blassfoss (DEN) 6:42:17
8. Ana Lidia Borba (BRA) 6:44:48
9. Tine Deckers (BEL) 6:44:56
10. Martina Dogana (ITA) 6:49:00
13. Kelly Couch (USA) 6:54:52
15. Heidi Grimm (USA) 7:08:37
17. Liz Vitai (USA) 7:11:23
20. Florence Chretien (USA) 7:49:30