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German double as Will Clarke excels in Fuerteventura
Posted by: John Levison
Posted on: Saturday 23rd April 2016


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Boecherer and Beranek make it a German double in the Canaries

Will Clarke bounces back to world class form with an impressive second…

…but the 2013 Ironman World Champion ends day with broken collar bone

MEN

A very high quality men’s field lined up on the beach this morning at Playitas Resort for the half distance Challenge Fuerteventura. When you have a German trio of Boecherer, Bracht and Dreitz, alongside former Ironman World Champion Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) amongst others, the headline Brits including Will Clarke and Joe Skipper, were set for a tough day.

For much of the race, it appeared to be a Frederik Van Lierde domination. Exiting the swim amongst the leaders, he was soon away on his own and a long way clear, until…

With Van Lierde out, Henrik Hyldelund (DEN) took the lead and would reach T2 in first place, followed around three minutes later Boecherer, Bracht, Dreitz and Will Clarke, who was mixing it well with the German uber-bikers.

The run was a close battle, as Hyldelund's lead was eroded by his chasers. Positions changed frequently, and at the midpoint of the run Dreitz was in front – but Boecherer and Clarke were still in contention. The Dreitz charge would fade over the final 10km, while Clarke was running strong to try and close the gap on Boecherer. It wasn’t quite enough and the German took a hard earned win, just 26 second ahead of the Brit, with Timo Bracht producing his trademark strong second half of the run to complete the podium, passing Dreitz.

That is a fantastic and much needed return to form for Clarke. After taking an extended break in mid-2015 to overcome ‘burnout’, his 2016 starting with a very disappointing performance at Ironman 70.3 South Africa, when he was well off the pace given his proven results. Confidence knocked, the Olympian could well have doubted his abilities to come back at that point – but it is fantastic to see him back, in what was a tough race against some very strong competition. Speaking to BMC-Etixx Pro Triathlon Team media, Will said:

“I am really stoked with my performance today. It is great to be back at this level and to be able to ride with some of the best athletes in the world. I had a tough year last year and this really feels like I turned the corner. The swim was perfect today. On the bike I rode by myself for the first hour. It was incredibly hard and fast today. I managed to enter T2 together with Boecherer and Dreitz. The race went perfect for me until that stage. Unfortunately I felt I missed some specific race fitness and had a bad patch on the run around the half way mark. But then it clicked and I managed to pull back a few athletes ahead of me and to run to second place. Just not enough to take the win today, but I am extremely pleased. I want to thank everybody for the amazing support over the last year, especially my family, the entire supports team of BMC-Etixx p/b Uplace and my coach Luc Van Lierde. It is a great feeling to be back and I really look forward to the rest of the season.”

It really is great to see Will back in the sort of form which should provide a huge confidence boost for his prospects for the rest of 2016.

Joe Skipper started today in confident mood, but will likely be disappointed to be going home with eighth, 12 minutes back at the finish. A 24:25 swim left him around three minutes in arrears of the pace-setters, when he’d be hoping for that gap to be closer to two. 26th overall out of the water, he moved up to eighth position at the start of the run thanks to his bike leg. Ten minutes behind Clarke at that stage, he held that position until the finish. Having had a great race already this year at Ironman New Zealand, and with a big summer target at Challenge Roth, he need not dwell on this one for too long.

WOMEN

Given the depth of the men’s field, a start-list of just six female Pro’s is perhaps a little disappointing, especially given that there are no other Ironman 70.3 or Challenge events on the calendar this weekend. That however didn’t prevent a close finish at the front of the race.

Great Britain’s Catherine Jameson was first out of the swim (22:50), with Anja Beranek (GER) and Emma Bilham (SUI) just under a minute in arrears. Eight and half minutes back, in by far her weakest discipline, former World Time Trial Champion Emma Pooley would have been glad to be back on dry land, with a challenging bike course ahead.

Beranek soon took the lead on the bike, and would reach T2 in first place courtesy of a 2:40:17 bike split. Bilham (2:43:48) and Jameson (2:44:43) arrived next, three and half minutes back, while Pooley’s 2:46:25 didn’t gain her any time at all – she’d have to run hard to make the podium.

By the halfway mark Bilham had reduced Beranek’s lead to around 90 seconds, while Pooley was cutting the deficit to Jameson – but still seven minutes behind in the battle of the Brits.

While Bilham continued to close, Beranek took the win by a minute, while in the battle for third place, Pooley’s charge meant she was able to pass Jameson in the very final stages to complete the podium.

Challenge Fuerteventura – Saturday 23rd April 2016
1.9km / 90km / 21.1km

MEN

1st – Andi Boecherer (GER) 3:59:09
2nd – Will Clarke (GBR) 3:59:35
3rd – Timo Bracht (GER) 4:00:56
4th – Andreas Dreitz (GER) 4:01:40
5th – Henrik Hyldelund (DEN) 4:02:14

8th – Joe Skipper (GBR) 4:11:34
12th (10th Pro) – Richard Horton (GBR) 4:18:20
13th (11th Pro) – Brennan Townshend (GBR) 4:21:23
19th (13th Pro) – Graeme Stewart (GBR) 4:29:20**

First British Age-Group athlete home as Ian Dempsey (16th overall, 4:25:42), who was first in the 35-39 category and fourth AG athlete overall.

[UPDATE - None Graeme's kit - bike or equipment - arrived in Fuerteventura, so he had to complete the whole event on borrowed or hired items!]

WOMEN

1st – Anja Beranek (GER) 4:29:57
2nd – Emma Bilham (SUI) 4:30:59
3rd – Emma Pooley (GBR) 4:42:26
4th – Catherine Jameson (GBR) 4:43:17
5th – Carolin Lehrieder (GER) 4:55:30

First British Age-Grouper (and also first AG athlete overall), was Ruth Purbrook (25-29, 5:00:58). Ruth crossed the line in seventh position.


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