Llanos, Pedersen rule Frankfurt

Eneko Llanos had an impressive sub-8 performance at the European Ironman Championships in Frankfurt, Germany while several other favorites faltered. Camilla Pedersen ran down Jodie Swallow in her first Ironman outing and recorded a very fine sub-9 time.

Very warm temperatures around 29 degrees Celsius (85 F) and beautiful sunny skies welcomed a loaded field to Frankfurt for the 2013 Ironman European Championships and while the athletes would have likely been appreciative of slightly cooler weather, the fans who had been dealing with an unusually cold and rainy spring were not complaining and showed up in massive numbers to support the athletes on course.

The men

Brit Harry Wiltshire led the men out of the water in 46:00, and if that name sounds somewhat familiar that would not be surprising. Wiltshire's name was in the news because of the "Harrygate" incident at the 2011 ETU Championships in Pontevedra, Spain, but this former ITU athlete switched in 2012 to non-drafting races after his 6-month suspension. Right with him though were most of the favorites who were expected to be near the front after the swim, and that big bunch of 23 athletes included current Ironman World Champion Pete Jacobs, Marino Vanhoenacker, Michael Raelert, Eneko Llanos, Ivan Rana, Andi Böcherer and 2007 ITU World Champion Daniel Unger who made his Ironman debut here. Current 70.3 World Champion Sebastian Kienle came out of the Langener Waldsee in 49:25 and that was not unexpected.

Vanhoenacker swiftly moved to the front of the field on the bike and that big group started to get smaller and smaller. Around the 60k mark the lanky Belgian Pro had an advantage of 2:26 over a group of about 15 athletes that was led by his former Team Commerzbank teammate Jan Raphael. Another 30k later his lead was almost 3 minutes, but that group was now down to Llanos, Böcherer, Raphael, Jacobs, Raelert, Axel Zeebroek and Christian Kemp. Many had expected for Kienle to close the gap to the leading bunch by now, but Kienle seemed not to fire on all cylinders. At 114k Vanhoenacker was 3:41 ahead of the chasers but Kemp was no longer present, and Kienle was riding 8 minutes behind. As the race continued Raelert dropped from that chasing bunch that had diminished to 5 athletes. Vanhoenacker managed a 4:20:26 race best bike split on a course that is not considered to be fast, and that brought him bike to the bike-run transition with an almost 5 minute lead. Böcherer led the chasers into transition and now the race was on. Raelert reached T2 over 10 minutes behind Vanhoenacker in 7th position.

Vanhoenacker though did not look so hot during the run and Llanos pulled back a minute of that advantage with a swift transition and a fast opening 2k. Raphael though moved past Llanos and his opening sub-36 minute 10k allowed him to catch and pass the Belgian, but Llanos looked relaxed and comfortable a few seconds behind the German and just a couple kilometers later Llanos had taken over the lead. Jacobs moved past Raphael soon after, but that was short lived. Raphael and Zeebroek soon rolled past the Aussie and had gained a minute on him at the halfway point of the run. Kienle also moved past Jacobs and appeared to charge towards a podium placement, but in the end that did not happen. A bit further back Vanhoenacker had started to walk and dropped back further and further. Up front though it was all about Eneko Llanos, and the fast Spaniard who had taken the Asia-Pacific Championships in Melbourne, Australia earlier this year was operating in a different time zone. His closing race best 2:44:12 marathon allowed Llanos to take the Ironman European Champion title in 7:59:58. Having again beaten an incredible lineup of athletes makes this man surely a big threat for Kona later this year, but as we all know, winning races elsewhere often does not translate into Kona success.

Raphael's gritty effort all day allowed him to capture the runner-up spot and what might matter even more - being the top German in Frankfurt.

The final podium spot went to Dutch Pro Bas Diederen who was somewhat invisible most of the day. He got out of the water with the main bunch but finished the bike about 10 minutes behind Llanos and Raphael in a group that also contained Fraser Cartmell, David Dellow, Daniel Halksworth and Christian Ritter. But his closing 2:47:58 marathon combined with the carnage up front allowed him to move into third place at the end.

The women

The women's field in Frankfurt was not quite as impressive nor as deep as the men's one, but a good race was promised and delivered. Jodie Swallow started her day with a superb swim and came out of the water in 46:09 with the leading men. Lucie Reed, Camilla Pedersen and Anja Beranek were next, but they were almost 2 minutes behind the 2010 70.3 World Champion.

Swallow continued to lead the race and kept the competition at bay, but by the 60k mark her lead over the hard charging Beranek was down to a bit over a minute. Swallow though found another gear and pulled away again, and around the halfway point of the bike segment her advantage had grown to 2:42 over Beranek, 4:17 over Pedersen and about 7 minutes ahead of Regula Rohrbach and Mirjam Weerd. Pedersen eventually reeled in Beranek, or maybe better said it appeared that Beranek paid for that hard effort in the first 120k. At 144k Swallow was 5:02 ahead of Pedersen and 7:48 on Rohrbach, Beranek and Weerd, and that advantage kept growing. Swallow recorded a race best 4:50:37 bike split and set off on the run with no other competitor in sight. Pedersen reached the transition about 5:30 after the leader.

Swallow's pace was good and the Brit looked fast too, but Pedersen who had recently beaten her at Challenge Aarhus appeared to have an even quicker turnover on this multi lap run course. Early on Swallow stayed on pace with Pedersen, but as the marathon continued the lead started to shrink and Pedersen did indeed reel in Swallow. The gritty Brit though did not make it easy and tried to stay with the Dane who was racing her first Ironman race. Pedersen though proved too strong and pulled away and took the win and the European Ironman Championship title in 8:56:01. The Dane struggled the last few steps and collapsed as soon as she crossed the line, exhausted and happy we surmise. Swallow held on to second place and German Kristin Moeller ran all the way to 3rd place.

Ironman European Championships
Frankfurt, Germany / July 7, 2013

Top men

1. Eneko Llanos (ESP) 7:59:58
2. Jan Raphael (GER) 8:07:19
3. Bas Diederen (NED) 8:12:07
4. Axel Zeebroek (BEL) 8:14:41
5. Andreas Böcherer (GER) 8:15:13
6. Christisn Ritter (GER) 8:16:30
7. Michael Raelert (GER) 8:16:58
8. Maxim Kriat (UKR) 8:18:10
9. Sebastian Kienle (GER) 8:18:38
10. David Dellow (AUS) 8:19:03
15. Daniel Unger (GER) 8:30:04
19. Marino Vanhoenacker (BEL) 8:34:00

Top women

1. Camilla Pedersen (DEN) 8:56:01
2. Jodie Swallow (GBR) 8:58:43
3. Kristin Moeller (GER) 9:01:55
4. Sofie Goos (BEL) 9:07:43
5. Elizabeth Lyles (USA) 9:09:44
6. Eva Nystrom (SWE) 9:11:47
7. Mareen Hufe (GER) 9:12:24
8. Mirjam Weerd (NED) 9:13:11
9. Daniela Sammler (GER) 9:14:51
10. Susan Blatt (GER) 9:16:51