Chris "Macca”"McCormack finally won the race that eluded him so long and here is how it unfolded.
The swim started pretty much on time and under very clear skies but very surprisingly the 2005 champion Faris Al Sultan (GER) was not among the starters. He was apparently suffering from a lingering stomach flu. Led by standup paddler and surfing legend Laird Hamilton, the field soon would break into smaller packs. By the time they hit the turnaround a group of about 40 led by Tom Evans (CAN) had formed. As they were heading back to the pier though, the lead men appeared to be content to draft of female swim leader Linda Gallo (USA). But in the end it was Francisco Pontano (ESP) somehow emerged first from the water in 51:23. He was immediately followed by a pack that included Luke McKenzie (AUS), Tom Evans, Jan Raphael (GER), Chris Lieto (USA), Tim DeBoom (USA), Craig Alexander (AUS) and Luc Van Lierde (BEL). Defending champion Normann Stadler arrived in T2 approximately 2 minutes behind
Once on the bike it became clear very fast that Chris Lieto wanted to take charge. He soon managed to gain a nice advantage over a fairly large pack of riders that contained most favorites. But no matter who went to the front of the chasing pack, Lieto kept padding his advantage. Meanwhile speculations had circulated that Normann Stadler was not completely feeling well, and that would turn out to be true. By mile 23 he had stopped by the side of the road to throw up, but he would soldier on after that. But by about mile 53 Stadler dropped out and would eventually make the return trip on a stretcher. At the same time Torbjorn Sindballe (DNK) made his move to catch Lieto who by now had amassed a 4:30 lead. On the way back from Hawi, Sindballe was flying and he started to gain serious time on Lieto. At about the same time it was clear that Cam Brown (NZL) and Luke Bell (AUS) were not having a great day and shortly after they would drop out. Sindballe though was on a mission and shortly after mile 90 he caught and passed Lieto. He then arrived first in T2 with a great bike split of 4:25:26.
The sun was blazing down on the run course as the lead men started the marathon. Sindballe looked a bit labored as he left T2 and before too long he was re-captured by Chris Lieto. Third man on the run course was Marino Vanhoenacker (BEL) who had finished 6th in Kona last year. Several minutes further back though Chris McCormack, Tim DeBoom and Craig Alexander looked to be running the fastest. Lieto held on to his lead through the first 12 miles but he had the tenacious McCormack breathing down his neck. McCormack then made the pass and slowly started to build a lead.
By mile 20 he had a gap of 2:20 on fellow Aussie Craig Alexander and another 2:20 on Chris Lieto. Sindballe was a further minute back and DeBoom was next. Lieto though would crack as the other men maintained their positions and in the end it was indeed Chris McCormack who crossed the line first in 8:15:34. Second place finisher was Craig Alexander and third place went to the big Dane Torbjorn Sindballe.
Top 10 men
1. Chris McCormack (AUS) 8:15:34
2. Craig Alexander (AUS) 8:19:04
3. Torbjorn Sindballe (DNK) 8:21:30
4. Tim DeBoom (USA) 8:22:33
5. Marino Vanhoenacker (BEL) 8:23:31
6. Chris Lieto (USA) 8:25:49
7. Eneko Llanos (ESP) 8:26:00
8. Luc VanLierde (BEL) 8:30:01
9. Michael Lovato (USA) 8:33:28
10. Patrick Vernay (NCL) 8:35:10