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Three podium Brits at Ironman Texas
Posted by: John Levison
Posted on: Sunday 17th May 2015


Tags  Angela Naeth  |  Corinne Abraham  |  Ironman Texas  |  Joe Skipper  |  Leanda Cave  |  Matt Hanson  |  Rachel Joyce


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How tough is it to 'make it' as an Ironman professional? Ask Joe Skipper, who has been based out in the States for the past month preparing for Ironman Texas, the North American Championship race. He needed, really needed, a big result... and boy, did he deliver! "Thank god for the that otherwise I would have been lining up outside the job centre on Wenesday morning." Hopefully that can be avoided for a few months now, as based on his efforts in The Woodlands, Joe Skipper deserves supporting.

The race wins went to Matt Hanson (USA) and Angela Naeth (CAN) with great races, but Great Britain still took half of thesix professional podium positions.

MEN

A leading group of four in the water included Todd Skipworth (AUS), Barrett Brandon (USA), Faris Al-Sultan (GER) and Jeremy Jurkiewicz (FRA), with Kona second place finishers Ben Hoffman (USA) and Andreas Raelert (GER) around a minute back and in contention with the leaders.

The bulk of the field were in a large group seven minutes back on Skipworth, which included Joe Skipper, eventual winner Matt Hanson, Ronnie Shildknecht (SUI), Jordan Rapp (USA) and Chris Mcdonald (AUS) among others. The bike-run prowess of Lionel Sanders (fourth at last years Ironman 70.3 World Champs, having exited the water last), was just two minutes back on this grouping and looking dangerous.

As expected, Hoffman and Raelert were able to bridge up towards the early swim leaders. Behind, the expected bike charge of Lionel Sanders was beginning, and Skipper was not going to simply watch him go by - the pair then pulling away strongly, initially briding to the leaders and then continuing on their charge. This was as serious statement for Skipper. A logical thought may be how long could Skipper stay with Sanders. As it turned out, Sanders couldn't stay with Skipper's pace on two wheels.

Leaving the 2014 Ironman World Championship Silver medallist Ben Hoffman behind, Joe took the lead alone and pushed on to T2 to record a blistering bike split of 4:10:07. That, to the best of our knowledge, has only ever been bettered by Andrew Straykowicz at Ironman Florida in 2012 (4:04:39) and 2013 (4:02:17). It's even faster than Andreas Raelert's iron-distance world best setting 4:11:43 at Challenge Roth 2011, when he went on to finish in 7:41:33. This brought him in to T2 just over 90 seconds clear of Sanders (who himself rode a speedy 4:11:25), with an additional two minutes back to Hoffman. I often say however it's "bike splits for show, run splits for dough" - would Joe be able to collect a significant check after those two-wheeled efforts?

In scorching heat, Skipper was looking good and consistent in the early miles. While Sanders initially closed the gap, and Hoffman started well too, neither would get to see and pass the British athlete who was into a good rhythm and dealing with the climatic conditions as well as a man based in East Anglia could.

Form the main chase pack on the bike, the star performer on the marathon was Matt Hanson. He had course form, having run 2:41:38 last year on the way to an overall sixth place finish, but this year had massively improved bike ability to leave him in a position to use that to challenge for victory. Cutting in to Skipper's lead from the start, the pass was on the cards for at least an hour and would eventually come at around 17 miles. While Joe had no response to the American (who would record a very impressive 2:45:47 on route to a superb win), he kept his composure and had second place well and truly secured. A 3:04:35 marathon brought him home in second place, 3400 Kona qualifying points, a $15,000 cheque... and a who's who of Ironman behind. Inspirational stuff.

Women

With Rachel Joyce, Leanda Cave and Corinne Abraham in the line up, there was - potentially - a realistic chance of the sort of British podium sweep we've already seen in 2015 at Ironman South Africa. However, with the likes of Heather Wurtele (CAN), Angela Naeth (CAN), Sofie Goos (BEL) and many more, that was going to be a tough ask.

Joyce and Cave as is typical were to the front in the swim, joined by Katy Blakemore (USA) in 53:08 with Kelly Williamson (55:17), Wurtele (56:15), Goos, Naeth (59:37), Heather Jackson (59:39) playing catch up from the pre-race marquee names. Corinne Abraham (1:03:24) was ten minutes back in her weakest discipline, happy to reach T1 and see her bike.

The first half of the 112 miles on the bike saw Joyce and Cave in close order, while Naeth was on the move from behind to close down her swim losses, taking the lead in the second half of the bike section. While Cave match the pace of Naeth and the pair would reach T2 together, Joyce uncharacteristically lost five minutes over the second half of the ride. This also meant she was passed by Corinne Abraham, who was riding best of anyone en route to a 4:40:39, and just over three minutes back on Cave and Naeth at T2. With her run pedigree, that would have left her thinking that she could add another Regional Championship title to her Melbourne and Frankfurt wins of 2013 and 2014 respectively.

Naeth and Cave were evenly matched in the early stages until around 30 minutes in when Naeth was able to pull away. Cave maintained her pace however and the lead never expanded greatly, but Naeth's 3:09:13 to Cave's 3:12:02 was enough to win - with both athletes adding to their own personal Sub-9 portfolio's, their second and third respectively. As we said of her recent interview with the experienced Brit, Leanda Cave is not done yet.

The hoped for run speed from Abraham wasn't happening today, and Joyce in the early stages took back third position looking like she was on a mission to take back the top spot too, but 3:14:00 would be her final run time which would not be enough to gain any ground and Naeth and Cave. Behind, Kelly Williamson (3:01:02), set the fastest run time which took her to fourth place, leaving Abraham fifth.


Overall, a very tough day in hot and humid conditions - and a true breakthrough race from Joe Skipper.

IRONMAN Texas - Sunday 16th May 2015
2.4 miles / 112 miles / 26.2 miles

Pos Men Women
1st Matt Hanson (USA) 8:07:03 Angela Naeth (CAN) 8:55:19
2nd Joe Skipper (GBR) 8:16:26 Leanda Cave (GBR) 8:58:12
3rd Ronnie Schildknecht (SUI) 8:21:03 Rachel Joyce (GBR) 9:05:02
4th Lionel Sanders (CAN) 8:24:54 Kelly Williamson (USA) 9:08:34
5th Pedro Gomes (POR) 8:26:42 Corinne Abraham (GBR) 9:12:20
6th Jeremy Jurkiewicz (FRA) 8:31:30 Sarah Piampiano (USA) 9:13:47
7th Matthew Russell (USA) 8:33:28 Heather Wurtele (CAN) 9:15:11
8th Ben Hoffman (USA) 8:33:55 Kelly Blakemore (USA) 9:18:02
9th David Plese (SLO) 8:36:32 Rebecca Preston (AUS) 9:26:23
10th Jarmo Hast (FIN) 8:39:48 Sofie Goos (BEL) 9:27:58

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