Timo Bracht defeated a stellar field on his way to take the Frankfurter Sparkasse Ironman European Championships in Germany in a course record time of 7:59:15. Sandra Wallenhorst took the women's title in 8:58:08.
Terenzo Bozzone emerged first from the Langener Waldsee with Eneko Llanos and Andreas Raelert not that far behind. Faris Al Sultan, Mathias Hecht and Hektor Llanos also managed to stay close to the Kiwi.
2008 Ironman Germany runner-up Eneko Lllanos moved into the lead early on during the bike segment as 2008 champion Chris McCormack and 2007 champion Timo Bracht were trying to overcome their 3+ minute swim deficits. Raelert, Bozzone and Al Sultan also rotated to the front of the first pack to keep the second pack containing McCormack, Bracht and Jan Raphael at bay. By 30km Macca and company had come as close as 2:30, but by 80km it was back up to 3:16. The hard pace by Llanos and Raelert in the front group though started to cost Bozzone and Al Sultan, and by 140km it was McCormack in third and Bracht in fourth. The lead of Llanos and Raelert was still over 3 minutes though, but Raelert didn't look quite as fresh anymore. Llanos arrived in T2 with no one else in sight and an over 2 minute cushion over Raelert. Macca and Bracht were next with just a bit more than 3 minutes.
Early on during the run Raelert was passed by McCormack and Bracht, but Llanos remained elusive. At about 15km of the marathon McCormack surged away from Bracht in pursuit of Llanos and slowly started to gain time on the Spaniard. Just before the 30km point McCormack caught Llanos and for a while they ran side by side, with Bracht a little more than a minute behind the duo. Bracht started to gain on the leaders in the next 5km and that is abot the time when McCormack paid for his earlier pace. McCormack dropped back into third position and soon Bracht also had Llanos in his sight. When the German passed the Spaniard it was quite clear that there would not be a sprint finish. Bracht swiftly gained 30 seconds on Llanos and crossed the line in a new course record time of 7:59:15 with his very impressive 2:43:06 marathon run time. Llanos crossed the line about a minute later in second and McCormack held on to the final podium spot.
"Ouch that really hurt. Its amazing how far 6km is when you hit the wall," said McCormack on his facebook page. "Great race to Timo and Eneko. These European races are so bloody fast it is incredible."
Andrea Brede was first out of the water among the women, but many eyes were scouting the waters for the emergence of Yvonne Van Vlerken and Sandra Wallenhorst, the 2 podium finishers at the 2008 Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. Wallenhorst entered the swim bike transition 3:22 behind Brede and Van Vlerken was another 2 minutes further back. For Van Vlerken that was certainly a swim she would be happy with.
Wallenhorst pushed hard on the bike and was in the lead by the 30km mark. She was closely pursued by Heike Funk, Brede and Nicole Leder. At that time Van Vlerken was in 7th position, 3:04 behind Wallenhorst, but soon would start to gain time again. At the 97 km mark, Van Vlerken was 1:50 behind Wallenhorst and 50km later she had caught the German. Coming into T2, Wallenhorst was first, but Van Vlerken was only 20 seconds behind, and that promised for a battle many experts had anticipated.
Out on the run, Wallenhorst looked smooth and relaxed but Van Vlerken inched closer and closer. After 6km, the flying Dutchwoman took the lead and slowly eased away from the German. At the halfway point of the marathon Van Vlerken's lead was 47 seconds, and that was as big as it was going to be. Nicole Leder was running very fast too and had steadily moved into third place. Wallenhorst found a second wind though and slowly reeled in Van Vlerken in the next 6km. From there it was all Wallenhorst and she crossed line first in 8:58:08. Van Vlerken hung on for second place and Leder took the final podium spot.
"It was a tough day with humid and very warm weather conditions especially on the run course. My swim for me was good and on the bike I felt strong legs." said Wallenhorst to slowtwitch. "The marathon course with its several bridges was not easy. Herbert Steffny, my running coach, told me to run in control for the first half of the marathon. This obviously worked and I could pass Yvonne van Vlerken in the second half. I am very happy with my win in this big race with lots of really good competitors."
Frankfurter Sparkasse Ironman European Championships
Frankfurt, Germany / July 5, 2009
Top 10 men
1. Timo Bracht (GER) 7:59:15
2. Eneko Llanos (ESP) 8:00:05
3. Chris McCormack (AUS) 8:02:49
4. Andreas Raelert (GER) 8:03:13
5. Mathias Hecht (SUI) 8:11:40
6. Faris Al-Sultan (GER) 8:20:09
7. Frank Vytrisal (GER) 8:25:04
8. Nils Goerke (GER) 8:29:24
9. Terenzo Bozzone (NZL) 8:29:24
10. Hans Mühlbauer (AUT) 8:34:13
Top 10 women
1. Sandra Wallenhorst (GER) 8:58:08
2. Yvonne Van Vlerken (NED) 9:02:17
3. Nicole Leder (GER) 9:05:15
4. Andrea Brede (GER) 9:13:56
5. Tiina Boman (FIN) 9:34:23
6. Mirjam Weerd (NED) 9:39:51
7. Mareen Hufe (GER) 9:41:09 * AG F30-34
8. Ute Streiter (AUT) 9:47:01
9. Marion Waid (GER) 9:51:51 * AG F40-45
10. Manuela Heimerl (GER) 9:58:11 * AG F20-25