Lionel Sanders edged out fellow Canadian Taylor Reid, and Meredith Kessler of the U.S. led wire-to-wire over Holly Lawrence of Great Britain to triumph at Ironman 70.3 Mt. Tremblant.
Sanders overcame a 3:44 deficit after the swim with race-best bike and run splits to finish in 3:45:38, with a 44 second margin of victory over Reid and 2:28 over 3rd-place finisher and defending Tremblant 70.3 champion Jesse Thomas of the U.S.
The win follows Sanders’ 3rd place at Ironman 70.3 California and win at Ironman 70.3 Texas, in a largely successful 2015 season marred only by a heat-exhausted and woozy 4th place finish at Ironman Texas.
Kessler continued her near-perfect 2015 record with a 5:01 margin over Holly Lawrence of Great Britain and 7:50 advantage over 3rd place finisher Alicia Kaye of the U.S.
Kessler combined a 2nd-best (by one second) 24:19 swim and women’s-fastest 2:16:27 bike and 1:25:29 run splits to finish in 4:10:32 and defend her 2014 Mt. Tremblant 70.3 title.
The win was Kessler’s 3rd 70.3 triumph of the year, following victories at Auckland and Raleigh, and a course record performance winning her 4th straight women's title at Ironman New Zealand.
James Seear of Australia and Antoine Desroches of Canada opened a minute lead on the pro men with 23:14 and 23:32 swim splits. They were followed by eight contenders 1:07 to 1:52 back – Aussies Paul Ambrose and Richie Cunningham, Bermuda’s Tyler Butterfield, Canadians Taylor Reid and Cody Beals, Wildflower dominator and defending champ Jesse Thomas, Canadian Cedric Boily and Thomas Gerlach of the U.S. Looming 3:44 behind the leader was home country favorite and scary-fast cyclist/runner Lionel Sanders.
After 33km on the bike Beals led a pack of six men, all within 21 seconds. Chasers in order were Ambrose, Butterfield, Reid and Cunningham. Ominously – cue the theme music from Jaws - Sanders wasted no time advancing to 7th place and reducing his deficit to 52 seconds.
Two-thirds of the way through the rolling hills of the bike, Sanders took the lead. But the six early leaders were not daunted and fell in formation no more than 15 seconds behind. Just under 5 minutes back were Cedric Boily and Thomas Gerlach.
Unable or strategically unwilling to break away, Sanders maintained the lead at 81km with Thomas, Butterfield, Ambrose, Cunningham, Reid and Beals 3 to 58 seconds back. In the final 9km, Butterfield made a push to earn an 8 second lead on Sanders at T2. Thomas, Reid and Cunningham dismounted right behind with Ambrose 1 minute and Beals 2 minutes behind.
Once the run began things started to sort out. At 4km, Reid took the front with Thomas and Sanders 1 second back. Butterfield trailed by 40 seconds, Cunningham by 50 with Beals 2:35 arrears and Ambrose gradually fading to a 3:26 deficit.
By 10k, Sanders, Reid and Thomas were bumping elbows with Cunningham and Butterfield as their chasers were just over 2 minutes back. By 16.5 km, Sanders stepped up the pace incrementally, creating a small gap – 5 seconds on Reid and 16 seconds on Thomas, who appeared to have cracked. Cunningham, Butterfield and Beals maintained 4th, 5th and 6th places, falling further behind.
Having rationed his energy efficiently, Sanders finished strongest, posting a 1:11:14 run that was 33 seconds better than Reid, and accounting for most of his 44 seconds margin of victory. Reid’s close finish to fellow Canadian Sanders was by far his best result of 2015 after a 6th at California 70.3 and 19th at St. George 70.3.
Thomas’ 3rd-best 1:13:45 run split gave him the final spot on the podium, 1:44 behind Reid. Cunningham prevailed by 2 seconds over Butterfield in a finish line sprint for 4th, 3:50:02 to 3:50:04.
Meredith Kessler came to this race a heavy favorite after a 4th straight win at Ironman New Zealand, and wins at Auckland 70.3, Raleigh 70.3 and runner-up at St. George 70.3. Kessler wasted no time asserting herself as she led the swim in 24:34 with a 1 second lead on fellow purplepatch athlete Holly Lawrence of Great Britain and 2 seconds over Alicia Kaye of the U.S., who was coming off a win at Boulder 70.3. Home country favorite Magali Tisseyre trailed by 1:20.
After 33km of the bike, all three leaders were within 5 seconds of one another, Kessler running point. Riding alone, Tisseyre fell back to a 3:32 deficit with fellow Canadian Christine Fletcher 9:28 back in 5th place. At 60km, there was little change as Kessler stubbornly refused to let anyone else take a turn at the front, with Lawrence (+01 seconds) and Kaye (+4s) matching her pace. Still soloing, Tisseyre held on to 4th but had fallen 6:26 off the pace. The rest of the women's field cracked with Fletcher 5th at plus 14:31 and Charisa Wernick of the U.S. 6th, 18 minutes back.
By the end of the bike leg, Kessler’s women's-best 2:16:27 split cracked the leading trio, bringing her to T2 with a 1:04 lead on Lawrence and 4:21 on Kaye. Tisseyre was not listed as finishing the bike, leaving Fletcher 4th, 18 minutes off the pace and Wernick 5th, 25 minutes arrears.
Kessler kept up unrelenting pressure on the run. By 16km she opened up a 3:48 lead on Lawrence, who finished 3rd at Ironman 70.3 California in her debut at the distance, and 7:18 on Kaye, with Fletcher and Wernick a time zone away.
By the finish, Kessler’s 1:25:29 run brought her home in 4:10:32 with a 5:01 margin on Lawrence (1:29:36 run) and 7:50 on Kaye (1:28:50 run).
Ironman 70.3 Mt. Tremblant
Mt. Tremblant, Canada
June 21, 2015
S 1.2 mi. / B 56 mi. / R 13.1 mi.
1. Lionel Sanders (CAN) 3:45:38
2. Taylor Reid (CAN) 3:46:22
3. Jesse Thomas (USA) 3:48:06
4. Richie Cunningham (AUS) 3:50:02
5. Tyler Butterfield (BER) 3:50:04
6. Cody Beals (CAN) 3:53:25
7. Paul Ambrose (AUS) 3:57:27
8. Thomas Gerlach (USA) 4:02:38
9. Cedric Boily (CAN) 4:04:21
10. Pierre-Yves Gigou (CAN) 4:06:43
1. Meredith Kessler (USA) 4:10:32
2. Holly Lawrence (GBR) 4:15:33
3. Alicia Kaye (USA) 4:18:22
4. Christine Fletcher (CAN) 4:37:22
5. Charisa Wernick (USA) 4:40:50
6. Annie Gervais (CAN) 4:43:42
7. Cheryl Orlovsky (CAN) 4:46:40
8. Danielle Ohlson (USA)4:53:46
9. Marie-Renee Vial (CAN) 4:59:46
10. Amelia McCracken (USA) 5:02:15