Hanson, Naeth rule Texas

Matt Hanson ran 2:45 and had a solid day in the other disciplines too and captured a big win at Ironman Texas. Angela Naeth was a tenacious huntress on the way to the women's title. And that means the champions of the inaugural Ironman Chattanooga last fall are now the 2015 Memorial Hermann North American Ironman Champions and earned the golden ticket to Kona.

The men

Todd Skipworth, Barrett Brandon and Ben Hoffman were the early leaders of the 2.4-mile point-to point swim in Lake Woodlands with Faris Al-Sultan and Jeremy Jurkiewicz not far behind. Towards the end of the swim Skipworth and Brandon pulled away from the others and exited the water at 48:05 and 48:09 respectively. Al-Sultan and Jurkiewicz were about 40 seconds adrift and Hoffman had lost almost 1.5 minutes towards the end of that swim. Andreas Raelert was 30 seconds behind the Hoff.

Once on the bikes Raelert and Hoffman closed in on the leaders and soon after it was Hoffman leading the charge at the front of the race. Brandon however put in a surge around mile 20 and took over the lead again. The second group on the bike course contained David Plese, Matt Hanson, Ronnie Schildknecht, Joe Skipper and Jarmo Hast and further back in the third group Lionel Sanders and Jordan Rapp were pushing to get closer. For a little while Sanders and Rapp were riding together but Rapp dropped off and eventually pulled out. Sanders caught the second group and marched through them, but he was then chased by Skipper. Meanwhile Al-Sultan, Brandon and Jurkiewicz could not stay with Raelert and Hoffman and Skipworth also had to let the two go. But Sanders and Skipper moved up to Raelert and Hoffman and at mile 75 the lead bunch was back up to four athletes. Al-Sultan started to struggle too and pulled out in what was rumored to be his final full distance race. Skipper pulled away from Sanders and showed his intention to put on a show here in Texas. By mile 100 he was 1:10 ahead of Sanders and 2:18 up on Hoffman. Raelert meanwhile had collected a drafting penalty and fell almost 10 minutes out of the lead. Hanson who has been putting on amazing running displays all over the country was sitting 7:16 behind the race leader and that promised to be an exciting finale. Skipper added a few more seconds to his advantage and was up 1:42 on Sanders and 3:34 on Hoffman when he reached T2, and his 4:10:08 bike split proved to be quickest of the day.

Hanson started the run about 9 minutes behind Skipper and started to chip away from the moment he left T2. Sanders also pushed hard and by mile 4 he had reeled in the fast riding young Brit. But Skipper pulled away again and 9 miles into the run he had a nice advantage again. Hanson meanwhile was running in fourth position 6:45 down and Schildknecht had moved himself into fifth place. 13 miles into the run Hanson was running in 3rd position 3:42 behind Skipper and barely a minute behind Sanders and did not look like he had overplayed his cards. Soon after Hanson charged into the lead and pulled away. Hoffman meanwhile had dropped to fifth place behind Schildknecht. Up front though Hanson put on a running clinic and completely stomped the competition with a closing 2:45:48 run and a total time of 8:07:04 to grab the win in Texas. Skipper hung on to second place and Schildknecht rounded out the podium. Lionel Sanders struggled towards the end but hung tough to finish fourth. Hoffman who experienced nose bleeding during the run dropped all the way back to eight place.

“On the bike I settled into my target power and was caught by Lionel Sanders after 20-25k. We caught 3 groups and just kept leapfrogging. I would let Lionel get away first and then I would leap frog across to them. Once we took the lead I said to him let's take 10-minute turns at the front. We did this a few times and to my surprise I found I had a gap on him so I decided to push on,” said Skipper to slowtwitch. “Overall it was just one of them days where everything clicks and it feels effortless. Once I got onto the run I thought I had a good chance of winning as I regularly run sub 2.50 off the bike and am more known for being a strong runner then cyclist but the heat and humidity was like nothing I have ever experienced before. It felt like a death march and the whole run felt like survival. I'm ecstatic to get 2nd as this is a breakthrough result for me.”

The women

Rachel Joyce and Leanda Cave were at the front of the swim in the women’s race and had a little gap but Katy Blakemore managed to bridge up to the two Brits and those 3 pulled away from all others. Joyce was first out of the water in 53:08, with Cave next 5 seconds later and Blakemore another second behind. Tami Ritchie followed at 1:10 and Kelly Williamson at 2:09. A bit further back Heather Wurtele was lurking at 3:07 behind Joyce. Speedy transitions by Joyce and Cave though opened up the advantage over most of those behind them.

Wurtele did her transition similar to the Brits up front and then during the first 20 miles closed in to only 1:50 down. A bit further back Angela Naeth and Heather Jackson were also riding well and by mile 40 Naeth had moved into third position behind Cave, Joyce and Blakemore. Naeth then really stepped on the gas and at mile 57 the Canadian moved into the lead. Wurtele who was as close as 1:40 at one point started to fade a little and by mile 60 she was 2.5 minutes behind the leading trio of Naeth, Joyce and Cave. Joyce also lost a bit of steam and at mile 70 she was 1:10 behind the two front-runners, and lost one more minute by the time she reached mile 80. Corinne Abraham slowly put herself in the picture and reached the 100-mile mark in fourth place 4:11 behind the 2 leaders and 30 seconds behind Joyce. At the end of the bike segment Naeth was first to climb off her bike after a 4:41:38 bike split, and Cave was next. Abraham reached T2 about 3.5 minutes later in third position with the day’s best bike split of 4:40:40. Joyce followed next at 4:50 and Wurtele in 6:53.

Out on the run Naeth eventually pulled away from Cave and Joyce reeled in Abraham again. And from there Naeth ran to the title with a 3:09:13 marathon. Leanda Cave ran 3:12:02 to finish second and Rachel Joyce earned third place with her 3:14:00 closing run.

“I'm absolutely stoked for the win. It was a relentless battle to the end. I had a stellar time racing with Leanda Cave up front. I picked her for the win at the swim start. I know she loves the heat and humidity just as much as I do! The crowds were amazing. I love the 3-loop run course. I wish all courses were like this,” said Naeth to slowtwitch. “And I'm happy to say I'm going to Kona!”

Memorial Hermann Ironman North American Championships
The Woodlands, TX / May 16, 2015
2.4m swim / 112m bike / 26.2m run

Top men

1. Matt Hanson (USA) 8:07:03
2. Joe Skipper (GBR) 8:16:26
3. Ronnie Schildknecht (SUI) 8:21:03
4. Lionel Sanders (CAN) 8:24:54
5. Pedro Gomes (POR) 8:26:42
6. Jeremy Jurkiewicz (FRA) 8:31:30
7. Matthew Russell (USA) 8:33:28
8. Ben Hoffman (USA) 8:33:55
9. David Plese (SLO) 8:36:32
10. Jarmo Hast (FIN) 8:3948

Top women

1. Angela Naeth (CAN) 8:55:19
2. Leanda Cave (GBR) 8:58:12
3. Rachel Joyce (GBR) 9:05:02
4. Kelly Williamson (USA) 9:08:34
5. Corinne Abraham (GBR) 9:12:20
6. Sarah Piampiano (USA) 9:13:47
7. Heather Wurtele (CAN) 9:15:11
8. Katy Blakemore (USA) 9:18:02
9. Rebecca Preston (AUS) 9:26:23
10. Sofie Goos (BEL) 9:27:58