Rhodes and Granger claim 2008 Ironman Canada

Australia’s Belinda Granger and New Zealand’s Bryan Rhodes both won the 26th Ironman Canada titles with strong bike splits Sunday on the classic Penticton, British Columbia course.

Granger, who at age 37 is having the best season of her career, blasted the women’s field with a stunning 4:52:34 bike split – 11 minutes faster than runner-up and fellow Aussie Alison Fitch -- to take her eighth career Iron distance title and her third Ironman win this year in 9:17:58. Granger, a member of coach Brett Sutton’s Team TBB stable of triathletes, also won three Ironman 70.3 events this year and could take pride that she broke nine hours at Quelle Challenge Roth while taking fourth.

Granger was emotional at the finish, telling IronmanLive, "It was always my plan to have a good swim and rip that bike course apart. I had to concentrate coming in to town to stop crying, I was so emotional.”

Coming back strong after a DNF at Ironman Lake Placid, Fitch’s second place and 9:26:15 finish topped her Ironman performances of 5th at the 2007 Ironman Australia and 4th at 2007 Ironman Western Australia and a 4th place at the 2008 Honu 70.3.

Making a strong follow-up to her first Ironman win this June at Coeur d’Alene, statuesque Canadian Heather Wurtele combined a fifth best swim, third best bike and third best run of 3:29:31 to finish third in 9:39:51. Canadian Sara Gross, who took second here last year, fell back with a 5:26:09 bike but passed three time Ironman Canada winner Lisa Bentley on the run to take fourth in 9:41:31 by just 66 seconds over an obviously off-form Bentley. Desiree Ficker, the 2006 Ironman Hawaii second place finisher, had an encouraging fourth-best 5:17:52 bike but dropped to sixth with a discouraging 3:3:35:32 run, leaving her 13 minutes and 32 seconds back of Bentley.

Rhodes, who had five times previously finished in the top five at Penticton and who in 1999 lost a race-long duel by just 41 seconds to Chuckie Veylupek, won a home town victory of sorts. Rhodes, 34, spent three years in Penticton training and serving as a top swim instructor and said the home town love helped him get through a wicked headwind on the final stretch of the marathon. "I got to the turnaround and didn't think I could hold it,” he said, “but the crowd just got behind me and I ran faster.”

The win was also an encouraging return to form for the loveable Kiwi who suffered a cracked femur at Ironman New Zealand in March.

Rhodes secured his fourth career Ironman victory with a fourth-fastest 49:22 swim, a second-fastest 4:41:43 bike, and fourth-best run of 2:55:44. Rhodes, who previously won Ironman Malaysia in 2001 (at a personal best time of 8 hours 10 minutes) and in 2002 and took the notoriously difficult Ironman UK by a dominating 30-minutes margin in 2005, was 4 minutes 22 seconds ahead of runner-up and rookie Ironman competitor Bernhard Hiebl of Austria.

Hiebl, a 37-year-old Austrian soldier who took up triathlon in 1995, has two
top-20 ITU World Cup performances on his resume and won the 1999 Austrian Triathlon championship and the 2000 Austrian duathlon national title.

Canada’s Jasper Blake, the 2006 Ironman Canada perhaps best known for escorting his adventurous but wheelchair bound mother to the foothills of Everest to celebrate h er birthday, recorded a 11th-best 53:04 swim, a third-best 4:44:51 bike, and a second best 2:55:10 run to take third in 8:36:08 – 94 seconds behind Hiebl and 63 seconds ahead of fourth place Ukrainian Andriy Yastrebov. Up and coming Boulder, Colorado rookie pro Justin Daerr combined a 54:50 swim, 4:43:18 bike and 2:55:40 run to take 5th in 8:37:34.

Subaru Ironman Canada / Penticton, BC / August 24, 2008

S 2.4 mi / B 112 mi / R 26.2 mi

Top 10 men

1. Bryan Rhodes (NZL) 8:30:12
2. Bernhard Hiebl (AUT) 8:34:34
3. Jasper Blake (CAN) 8:36:08
4. Andriy Yaserbov (UKR) 8:37:11
5. Justin Daerr (USA) 8:37:34
6. Kyle Marcotte (CAN) 8:44:30
7. Matt Lieto (USA) 8:45:42
8. Courtney Ogden (AUS) 8:47:04
9. Nigel Gray (CAN) 8:50:35
10. Matt Seeley (USA) 8:51:17

Top 10 women

1. Belinda Granger (AUS) 9:17:58
2. Aliso Fitch (AUS) 9:26:15
3. Heather Wurtele (CAN) 9:39:51
4. Sara Gross (CAN) 9:41:31
5. Lisa Bentley (CAN) 9:42:37
5. Desiree Ficker (USA) 9:56:09
7. Tracy Robertson (USA) 9:59:27
8. Janelle Morrison (CAN) 9:59:54 *
9. Rachel Kiers (CAN) 10:04:47
10. Catherine Brown (CAN) 10:10:36 *

* = AG athlete