Australian Luke Bell has continued his stellar run of form and taken out a competitive field to win maximum points at the Ironman North-American Championship in Mont-Tremblant, Canada, in 8:26:26. American Brandon Marsh took out the second spot on the podium in 8:31:01, just ahead of Belgian Bert Jammaer who came in 34 seconds behind, in 8:35:35.
American long-distance superstar Mary Beth Ellis has defended her North American Champion title in convincing fashion, crossing the line in 9:06:56, ahead of Australian Rebekah Keat in second with a time of 9:16:55, and German Anja Beranek, 9:17:26.
Mont Tremblant turned on a beautiful day which was perfect for racing, with sunny skies and only a slight wind building up late morning.
Bell pushed the pace early in the waters of Lac Tremblant, and together with Brandon Marsh and Matty Reed, broke away from the field. As they turned back to the transition, the group came back together, but it was always Marsh and Bell who drove the pace. Marsh exited the water in 47:45 with Bell just seconds behind along with Daniel Halksworth, Sean Betchel, Matt Reed, Paul Ambrose, Romain Guillaume, Dominik Berger, Bryan Rhodes and Daniel Fontana, all in the pack and out of the drink within 30-seconds of Marsh.
Onto the early rollers of the bike course, it was defending champ Romain Guillaume who took the lead ahead of Bryan Rhodes, Bert Jammaer, Domink Berger, Danial Hawkesworth and Luke Bell. Paul Ambrose, Reed, Betchel, Fontana and Marsh rode in a second group and had allowed a small gap to open up after the 15km mark.
Dominik Berger decided to up the ante and pushed out in front of the large group, building himself a small lead by the first turn around. Berger continued to lead the train as the men powered through the course.
After being quiet in the first two hours of the race, Australian Paul Ambrose decided to make a move and put the hammer down. Along with Berger and Guillaume, he carved out a 30 second lead ahead of the pack. Bell bridged up and the pack of four headed into the hills of the final 20km of the first lap with Ambrose charging up front.
The foursome at the front had a 2:25 lead over the chasers at the end of the first lap, and weren’t showing signs of letting up.
In the chase pack, there was some movement, and Rhodes, Marsh, Jammaer, Betchel and Halksworth had broken away leaving Reed behind, and were slowly reeling in the leaders, for the moment.
After five hours of racing, Berger was paying for his early efforts and fell 90-sceonds back from Guillaume, Bell and Ambrose, who had built a lead of almost five minutes over the chasers.
As the men hit the last hilly out-and-back, which is technical and has many short and steep climbs, final moves were being made, as Rhodes and Jammaer had pushed ahead of the chasers.
Ambrose hit T2 first but it was Ironman Australian Champion Luke Bell who was out onto the run course in the lead with a handy 28-second gap over Ambrose, and almost a minute on the Frenchman, Guillaume.
Whilst Guillaume is not a known runner in the Ironman game, and won here in 2012 with marathon time north of three hours, he wasn’t phased by the pedigrees of Ambrose and Bell -who have both run some quick marathons, particularly Bell- and charged into the lead ahead of a struggling Bell.
Bell held it together, and pushed on to slowly reel some of the time he lost in the first few kilometres. By the 9.6km turn around, it was Ambrose in front with Guillaume closely behind, and Bell at about 25 seconds back. Bert Jammaer, who is a very fast runner and capable of a sub-2:50 effort, was also making up some time, but remained almost four minutes behind. Halksworth, Berger and Marsh were all at around six minutes off the pace, at this stage early in the marathon.
Bell found an extra gear (or two) on the flat trail section and had built a reported 45-second lead over Ambrose as they headed back into town on the first lap. By 16.5km, Bell had 1:15 over fellow Australian Ambrose, who was still shadowed by Guillaume. Bert Jammaer was likely in the back of Bell’s mind, as he too continued to push the pace, taking another minute off.
On the second lap, Jammaer had Guillaume in range, who was still latched firmly onto Ambrose, at three minutes behind Bell. Texan Brandon Marsh was beginning to come into the picture now, and was running really well in the second half of the marathon, as the temperature began to rise into the high-twenties.
Marsh soon moved into fourth as he flew through the course, and Jammaer into second, as Ambrose and Guillaume faded. Bell remained in control, though, with a few minutes up his sleeve despite dealing with a few cramps.
Bell was running really well, when he wasn’t stopping for cramps. Marsh, however, was running very well and steadily making time. As Bell continued to stop to deal with cramping issues in the final few kilometres, Marsh passed Jammaer for second place.
Bell stayed calm and in control, using his lead to deal with cramps and make it across the line, breaking the tape to take his second Ironman title.
All men in the top 5 punched their tickets to Kona. In claiming 4000-points for the win, Luke Bell is now in 11th position, whilst Brandon Marsh moves to 16th, and Bert Jammaer to 18th spot. Defending champÂ Romain Guillaume moves to 30th in the KPR. Daniel Halksworth will want to recover well after winning Ironman UK earlier this month and backing it up here today to take 4th and see him move to 28th on the KPR.
American super-swimmer Haley Chura and former ITU star Liz Blatchford built a lead right off the start as the women’s field hit the water. The two pushed the pace in the water to exit in 49:22 and 49:43, respectively. Race favourite Mary Beth Ellis wasn’t able to hang on the feet of these fist girls and exited the water 2:22 down on the early leaders. Fellow contenders Anja Beranek and Rebekah Keat were further back at 3:58 and 5:57 down, respectively, out of the water.
Swim leader Chura continued to push the pace and hit the pedals hard early on in the bike, pulling ahead of Blatchford and Ellis. Also pushing the pace early on was Beranek, who was gaining time on the leaders.
By the 20km mark, Ellis had moved into the lead with Blatchford and Chura following closely behind while Anja Beranek continued to close in. By 25km, Chura had been dropped and her place taken by the German, who had caught up.
Australian Bek Keat, who was down almost six minutes after the swim, had held her ground on the bike despite the hot pace, and found herself 5:40 back after almost two hours of racing, in 5th place. Unfortunately Keat’s position in the race wasn’t getting any better, as Beranek took to the lead at the head of the race, Keat fell back another minute.
Blatchford couldn’t match the pace of Beranek and Ellis, and dropped back 2:15 as they hit the final kilometres of the first lap. Meanwhile, Chura was riding 6:50 back, and Keat found herself almost ten minutes behind the leaders. Quietly, veteran Erika Csomor was moving up the ranks, also, into sixth position behind Keat.
The next victim to the ravage pace was Beranek. Ellis was flying and by 110km, had dropped Beranek, who had fallen back over a mintue. Ellis was on a mission.
Ellis appeared strong and in control as she hit transition with a 4 minute margin over Meranek and a sizeable 12 minute gap over Â Liz Blatchford. Keat was next to reach T2, 12:45 back of Ellis, whilst early leader Chura faded to begin the run 17-minutes behind.
Keat found herself in third position after passing Blatchford as they headed onto the gravel trail at 5km into the run. Throughout the run, Keat kept pushing the German and by the latter stages of the marathon, was only 1:26 behind.
This was Ellis’ race, however, and the American was in total control on the run course. Ellis crossed the line in 9:07:56 in an impressive swim, bike, run performance, to take her second North American Ironman Champion title, and continue her unbeaten run (outside of Kona).
As Ellis celebrated, Keat moved into second place and stayed there, crossing the line 8:59 behind Ellis. In doing so, Keat got enough points to move into 6th on the KPR and guarantee herself a start in Hawaii for Ironman World Championship in 8 weeks.
Beranek held onto third position, just 17-seconds ahead of Liz Blatchford who finished in fourth, which moves her into 11th on the KPR rankings. Beranek’s podium will also see her get enough points for a Kona start, moving her into 23rd.
– Steve Crossman (@crosso_s)
Men’s Top 10:
Women’s Top 10: