In a repeat of last weekend in St. George, Sam Long sprung into the lead late in the bike and then ran away from the field, claiming victory at IRONMAN 70.3 Gulf Coast in Panama City Beach, Florida.
Long had a more difficult path to victory than he did last week in Utah, as he had a nearly four minute deficit in the swim to Nicholas Quenet to try and close. And unlike last week, both Jackson Laundry and Lionel Sanders were able to stick with his initial surge on the bike, with all of them gradually working their way to the front before Long rocketed away to victory.
1. Sam Long 03:36:00
2. Lionel Sanders 03:39:56
3. Jackson Laundry 03:42:24
4. Tim O’Donnell 03:45:07
5. Trevor Foley 03:46:06
Ups and Downs From the Race
The North American Trio Takes the Podium: Long, Sanders, and Laundry are seemingly tied at the hip. This should have been their third race together in six weeks (Sanders missed Oceanside 70.3 due to his crash in Miami). Instead, it was merely their second in a row. And it has to be somewhat worrying to both Sanders and Laundry that Long has been so dominant over the last 90 minutes of the race on consecutive weekends. Long's not just biking his way through the field and hanging on; he's putting time in on the run, too.
Sanders, for what it's worth, had a much better day here in Florida than he did in St. George. He missed Long slipping away on the bike as the course went through a winding sidewalk between big streets, but otherwise the bike and run legs were there. Perhaps it's because he opted to go back to his sleeveless kit? It seems like he always races better without sleeves.
And Laundry found himself on yet another podium with a good field. Mr. Consistency.
The Swim Doesn't Mean Much: The Gulf of Mexico was pretty angry this morning, with lots of chop and whitewater that made for pedestrian at best swim times. Long, Sanders, and Laundry were all four minutes down coming out of the water. Yet because of those choppy conditions, there were very few swim packs; it was a lot of solo swimmers coming in in trickles instead of a large group getting up the road. That wound up playing into race dynamics, as Quenet would be off the front for the first 42 miles of the bike course, and the chase never really getting organized until well over halfway. Your top four finishers were the only ones who would eventually bridge up toward Quenet, with Foley the best of those who missed that train. Speaking of Quenet...
Welcome to 70.3 Racing, Nicholas Quenet: I loved watching the way Quenet raced this morning. He'd emerged from the swim with a lead and started extending it, racing like his hair was on fire. Despite Dede Greisbauer imploring him to save his legs, both Joe Gambles and I enjoyed him trying his best to stay away. And although he failed in that effort on the bike (waving at Sam Long to come through him when the catch was made), and winding up disqualified due to missing the course on the run, it was another reminder that 70.3 racing right now is wide open.
Greisbauer and Gambles Make a Great Team: This announcing combination was great. Both were incredibly insightful due to their recent racing history, as well as being able to discuss the pros and cons of self-coaching on multiple occasions when referring to Long and Sanders. They also were able to identify a potential penalty situation on the bike in quick order and explain to the viewer what might have happened. Even their tosses to break were done well. It felt pretty polished and professional.
Outside Watch Actually Worked: No buffering. No stalling. No crashing. Now, there's two ways to look at this. On the one hand, we could say that they fixed all of their bugs, and that the platform is well ironed out from here. Or, alternatively, we could argue that it's likely that there were fewer viewers this morning than there were last weekend, and the reduced bandwidth needs meant that the platform ran more smoothly. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle; a Regional Championships will always outdraw most other weekends. But still, kudos for a smooth viewing experience.
All Photos: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images for IRONMAN