Hering Wins Return to IRONMAN Racing in Hamburg

Competing in her first IRONMAN since 2015, American Jackie Hering took the lead a little after the 10km mark in the run. Hering came off of the bike with a 2:00 deficit and quickly got to the front of the race. Would the time away from the distance catch up to her in the closing miles? In the end, Hering would go on to win IRONMAN Hamburg, serving as the European Championship, in 8:19:14. She put together a 2:52 marathon to hold off Denmark’s Maja Stage Nielsen by 2 minutes 39 seconds. Competing on home soil, German Daniela Bleymehl took 3rd. Fenella Langridge, the race’s early leader, was next in 4th. Els Visser, who lost time towards the end of the bike because of a mechanical, finished in 5th.

Asked about her day, Hering told her interviewer, “I’m slightly in shock… so… I’m going to cry. It was a really good day.” On the challenge of maintaining contact on the bike she added, “I kept getting dropped several times and had to work hard to catch back up.” Hering was adamant that her only goal in today’s race was finishing. She said, “It was extremely hard and extremely painful and I’m glad it’s over.” Stage Nielsen was content with her runner-up finish, saying, “I’m just so happy. You can’t do anything but smile when there’s so many amazing people out there.” Third place finisher Bleymehl explained how fast Hering and Stage Nielsen were moving, “The girls were pushing so hard. I was just thinking how can I run that fast…Of course you always want to win…but I’m very happy at the moment.”

The women took center stage, with no men’s professional field, at the European Championship in Hamburg today. The men’s only IRONMAN race will be contested in Frankfurt in mid-August. Racers were greeted with cool temperatures that never went over 18 degrees celsius/65 degrees fahrenheit. Six slots were on offer for the Nice World Championship, and those slots are expected to roll down quite a bit, with many of the top women already qualified. France’s Julie Iemmolo (50:38) and the United Kingdom’s Fenella Langridge (50:40) led out the swim and put almost 3 minutes on their chasers. Langridge and Iemmolo have been at the front of the swim in all of the races they have competed in this season. Langridge came out of the water 1st in Oceanside, 3rd in Texas, and 2nd at the Challenge Championship. Iemmolo was 1st out of the water in Mallorca and 2nd at Pays d'Aix. Neither woman has been able to secure a podium finish at a Pro Series event. Would that change today? Pre race favorite Kat Matthews came out of the water close to 3 minutes down with Stage Nielsen and Hering. Germany’s Laura Jansen came out 5 minutes down. Els Visser and Daniela Bleymehl were another minute back.

After last year’s horrific incident, where a press motorcycle hit an age group athlete resulting in the death of the driver, changes were made to the bike course. The out and back section where the incident occurred was removed. The course design is now a closed loop. Langridge and Iemmolo set off on the bike together. Langridge would eventually ride off of the front solo, building a more than 1 minute lead by the 60k mark. Stage Nielsen, Hering, Visser, and Bleymehl were all more than 4 minutes behind. Matthews’ day started to unravel at this point. Her whole bottle cage came undone. A pair of screws came loose or snapped, causing her to pull off to the side of the road. Not wanting to receive a littering penalty, she got back on her bike with the bottle cage in her hand. Shortly after this, she did receive a penalty for something completely different. Matthews saw Race Ranger light up red to the rider in front of her (Els Visser) and did not want to pick up a drafting penalty so passed her. The problem, however, was that Visser slowed down because of age group riders in front of her in a no pass zone. Matthews was given a disqualification for overtaking in a no overtake zone. Visser soon had some trouble of her own, getting a mechanical when she was only 2 minutes off of the front of the race. Langridge was able to hold onto a small lead heading into T2 but her lead had basically evaporated. Langridge set a short lived bike course record, eclipsed by Bleymehl who rolled in 26 seconds behind her. Iemmolo was able to hang with Stage Nielsen and Hering. They came in 2 minutes off of the lead. Visser dropped all the way to 11 minutes behind the leaders. Langridge, with her classic blitz through transition, turned her lead from 26 seconds into 34 seconds over Bleymehl, setting up the run battle.

Stage Nielsen passed Iemmolo quickly to move herself up into 3rd position. Visser quickly moved up into 6th. Langridge set off at a quick tempo and extended her lead over Bleymehl to close to 1 minute in the opening miles. By the 10k mark, Hering caught up to Stage Nielsen. The two appeared to have a short conversation and then Hering pressed on. With 6:21:00 showing on the clock, Hering passed Langridge and took the lead. Stage Nielsen passed Langridge 5 minutes later. Hering built a comfortable lead to the finish line and broke the tape in 8:19:14. Stage Nielsen took 2nd. Bleymehl finished 3rd. Langridge held on for 4th place, her best finish in the Pro Series this season. Visser ran 2:57 to finish 5th. Without the mechanical, she would have been fighting for a podium spot. This is Hering’s first IRONMAN with her new coach and her first in nearly a decade. She set a big personal best on the run, having never broken the 3 hour barrier before today. Hering now sits in 2nd place in the Pro Series standings. Langridge is now in 1st place. Stage Nielsen is in 4th. 70.3 Boulder is the next Pro Series race on June 8th. IRONMAN Cairns is the following weekend.

Quick Take #1: Jackie Hering turned in a complete performance in her return to IRONMAN racing. She said that IRONMAN training did not work for her while trying to raise her children. Now that they are older, she was ready to step back up in distance. Her stated goal was to just finish the race. She did a lot more than that and is now a contender in the Pro Series. Anybody who is able to win an IRONMAN Pro Series race will put themselves into that conversation. Hopefully we get to see her in a run battle with Kat Matthews in a future race.

Quick Take #2: Kat Matthews had a tough day but has handled it with class. She was seen cheering on the pro women on the run course after her day was cut short. Should there be more discretion on things like this? Kat owned her mistake and said it was absolutely the right call but she did not do what she did to try to gain any sort of advantage. Her instincts told her not to get a drafting penalty but passing was what caused her disqualification. Kat made the decision to race here and chase Pro Series points instead of going to T100 San Francisco. She will now have to find another IRONMAN race so that she gets in 3 total.

Quick Take #3: Els Visser’s mechanical cost her a chance at the podium, and maybe even contending for the win. Visser has raced 8 times already in 2024, with an impressive 3 wins and 6 podium finishes. Today’s result is not representative of her current fitness.

Quick Take #4: IRONMAN races really impact the series outlook. Cairns is coming up in a couple of weeks so expect another reshuffling at the conclusion of that race.