Tim Don ran down bike leader Brent McMahon to take the win at the 2015 Ironman 70.3 St. George. Heather Wurtele reeled in Meredith Kessler on the way to the women's title at this North American Championship event. Jodie Swallow who led after the bike just ahead of Kessler finished third.
Very strong fields had assembled for the men's and the women's race in St. George, Utah despite many other big triathlon events happening this weekend around the world - and exciting action was not only promised but also delivered on this very challenging course.
The pro men started at 6:50 am in comfortable 60 degree temps at the Sand Hollow Reservoir in Hurricane, Utah. The water temperatures were just a slight bit warmer and that made it a wetsuit legal affair. Aussie Todd Skipworth led the men out of the water in 22:53 with Canadian Jon Bird right on his heels. Ben Collins reached the shore 4 seconds after the leader and 10 more men managed to stay within a minute of the swim leader. Brent McMahon, Andreas Realert and Tim Don were among those folks, but Tyler Butterfield, Leon Griffin, Maik Twelsiek, Trevor Wurtele, Kyle Buckingham and Ben Hoffman were among those who were at least one minute out with Hoffman a full 3:40 behind. Sebastian Kienle was expected to be a factor in this race too and should have been among those missing the front bunch, but the 2014 Ironman World Champion ended up not starting in St. George.
Ben Collins then took charge on the bike but he could not shake Brent McMahon, Tim Don, Todd Skipworth, Jon Bird and Andrew Yoder. Swim leaders Skipworth and Bird were the first guys to get dropped from the lead bunch and about 20 miles into the bike segment the Aussie and the Canadian were around 1.5 minutes behind. Maik Twelsiek and Tim Reed pushed hard further back, with the German managing to escape all other chasers. 32 miles into the race Twelsiek was riding in 5th place just under 2 minutes behind the leaders. Tim Reed and Andreas Raelert were next at about 2:40 and with them were Kevin Collington, Skipworth and Bird. Yoder was the first guy to get dropped from the front group and at mile 42 he was about 30 seconds behind the now leading trio. Twelsiek meanwhile could not get closer and now hovered at about 2.5 minutes behind Collins who was leading up front. Don had a small mechanical issue towards the end and had to stop, and that meant Yoder moved back into the top 3. McMahon was first back into transition with a very fast 2:10:40 bike split, but Collins was right there too with a 2:10:42. Yoder was next 30 seconds later with a 2:10:25 and Tim Don reached T2 1:11 behind McMahon. Fastest bike split of the day belonged to Aussie Luke McKenzie who went 2:09:55.
McMahon quickly dropped Collins and ran alone in the lead, and Don moved past Yoder to retake 3rd place, but up front the Canadian pulled further away and at 1.7 miles had a 26 second lead over Collins and a 1:31 advantage over Don. Collins struggled though and started to fall back further and that meant 2nd position for Don, but during the first half of the run Don had a hard time to get closer to McMahon. But Don found more speed in the second half of the run and pulled even with the Canadian at the 10 mile marker. Meanwhile behind them Andreas Raelert had moved into third place. Don soon after pulled away from McMahon and stormed to the 2015 North American Championship title with a 1:14:02 run and a 3:51:56 total time. McMahon was next in 3:53:22 and Andreas Raelert finished 3rd in 3:53:39, narrowly missed the runner-up spot with his race best 1:12:46 run.
“I was happy with how St George went. I had a solid swim staying near the front and out of trouble. On such a challenging bike course I just wanted to ride within myself and stay near the front. At about 88km I had a small problem with my bike and had to stop. I lost touch with the leaders,” said Don to slowtwitch. “On the run last year I suffered in the last 8km or so, so this year my goal was to save some gas for the last half. I stuck to my plan and was able to come home strong with a bit of left in the tank as well. The organization and local support was just amazing out there. A true championship course and venue.”
Meredith Kessler was first out of the water at the Sand Hollow Reservoir but Jodie Swallow was right there too. Mary Beth Ellis, Annabel Luxford, Alicia Kaye and German ITU athlete Ricarda Lisk all managed to stay within 10 seconds of Kessler, but the rest of the field was 2:09 or more behind.
A group of 5 established at the front of the women's race and contained Luxford, Swallow, Kessler, Ellis and Kaye and these 5 were still riding at the front 20 miles into the race. Heather Wurtele was leading the chasers that included Rachel Joyce and multiple World Champion Mirinda Carfrae a full 3:30 later. Melanie McQuaid was 4.5 minutes behind and Linsey Corbin over 6 minutes. 32 miles into the bike segment Wurtele had reduced her disadvantage to under 3 minutes. Swallow went to the front of the race to push the pace and Ellis seemed to struggle most of the ride to hang on to the other 4. In the final miles Kaye, Ellis and Luxford had to let go of Swallow and Kessler and the two of them stormed into T2 with 2:26:18 and 2:26:15 bike splits. Alicia Kaye reached the transition area next 22 seconds later thanks to a 2:26:59 effort on the bike. Kaye and Ellis were 4th and 5th off the bike just under a minute behind Swallow. Wurtele meanwhile had ridden a race best 2:25:29 and that brought back to T2 just 1:41 off the pace.
Kessler pulled away from Swallow and Luxford looked strong running in third place. At 70.3 California at Oceanside just a few weeks back Heather Wurtele finished second to Heather Jackson, but the fast Canadian would not settle for anything but the top spot this time. Halfway through the run Wurtele was running in second place and only 11 seconds behind Kessler and a couple miles later she moved into the lead. Wurtele ran 1:21:57 to capture this big title in 4:17:58. Kessler was second with a 1:24:56 run and Swallow finished 3rd with a 1:27:12 effort.
“It was one of those great days where I just felt on, and honestly I had my reservations going in having done a pretty big training block for IMTX prep,” said Heather Wurtele to slowtwitch. “I knew I'd have my work cut out for me like last year with the big group of fast swimmers out in front, but despite riding really hard - on my own after the first few miles, my run legs were there and I was super happy to be able to run through the field. It was definitely a battle with one pass and repass by Meredith on the last long uphill, but I was able to open up a gap at mile 9 and really make it hurt for the long downhill section back into town. I love the tough course here in St. George, and I love when tough competition brings the best out in me! Super thrilled to win the race and be the North American 70.3 Champion.”
2015 Ironman 70.3 St. George
St. George, Utah / May 2, 2015
1.2m swim / 56m bike / 13.1m run
1. Tim Don (GBR) 3:51:56
2. Brent McMahon (CAN) 3:53:22
3. Andreas Raelert (GER) 3:53:39
4. Tim Reed (AUS) 3:56:07
5. Ben Hoffman (USA) 3:56:21
6. Leon Griffin (AUS) 3:57:35
7. Trevor Wurtele (CAN) 3:58:57
8. Luke McKenzie (AUS) 3:59:32
9. Kevin Collington (USA) 3:59:39
10. Ben Collins (USA) 4:00:32
1. Heather Wurtele (CAN) 4:17:58
2. Meredith Kessler (USA) 4:19:27
3. Jodie Swallow (GBR) 4:21:324.
4. Annabel Luxford (AUS) 4:22:40
5. Alicia Kaye (USA) 4:23:12
6. Rachel Joyce (GBR) 4:23:35
7. Mary Beth Ellis (USA) 4:26:54
8. Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) 4:27:31
9. Beth Gerdes (USA) 4:33:55
10. Linsey Corbin (USA) 4:35:37
All images courtesy St.George Tourism Bureau / @AtoZion