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Victor Del Corral and Julia Gajer run to victory at Ironman Arizona

Men’s Race:

The dust has settled in the desert and Spaniard Victor Del Corral has claimed a second Ironman title is as many weeks. Just last week, Del Corral turned heads with a blistering 2:37 marathon -one of the best ever- to chase down defending champion Andrew Starykowicz who had built a huge lead on the back of a 49-minute swim and Record-Breaking 4:02 bike split. On Sunday, he did it again. This time, Del Corral used a 2:42 marathon to chase down 2009 Ironman Arizona champion Jordan Rapp.

The men’s race began with a large group of 11 professional men exiting the water together -including the likes of Matty Reed and Ironman rookie Matt Chrabot- swimming around the 48-minute mark. Contenders Jordan Rapp and Trevor Wurtele found themselves about four minutes back. By the half-way point of the ride, however, Rapp had blown by the leaders.

Rapp took two minutes of the bike course record, riding 4:14:44 to lead the field into T2. He was followed closely by Pedro Gomez of Portugal, just over two minues behind.  Canada’s Trevor Wurtele and Del Corral came into transition some six minutes back with some work to do. Whilst Rapp is known as a great Ironman cyclist, he isn’t a slouch on the run and had run sub-2:50 before. The pressure was on the chasers to reel Rapp in.

Del Corral wasted no time in doing just that. He took 1:28 off Rapp’s lead in the first two miles, showing he was on track for another fast run. Wurtele, on the other hand, began to fade and saw himself falling back and out of the Top-5.  By mile 8, Del Corral had passed Gomes for second, and was only a minute down on Jordan Rapp.

The men were certainly showing their cards in the first half the run. Del Corral ran passed Rapp at about mile 11, and went on to record a 1:18 for a the first half of the marathon – 2:36 marathon pace. Rapp wasn’t giving in, however, and was on track for a 2:50 marathon. When the race clock hit 7 hours, there was still hope for Rapp as Del Corral had slowed his pace significantly.

The Spaniard held on, however, and breaking the tape in 8:02:00, 4:14 ahead of Rapp in 8:06:14. Dane Jens Peterson-Bach used a 2:49 marathon to run himself onto the podium, crossing the line in 8:07:53.

Del Corral takes his second Ironman title in two weeks. Photo: Nils Nelson / Ironman

Del Corral takes his second Ironman title in two weeks. Photo: Nils Nelson / Ironman

The drama wasn’t over, it seemed, after the finish line. Last week, Del Corral used an E-Koi helmet -illegal in USAT sanctioned events- and was almost disqualified. It had appeared, based on some grainy mobile-phone pictures, that Del Corral had raced in the same helmet in Arizona which lead Rapp to file a protest with race officials. Better photographs and other evidence produced by Del Corral indicated the helmet was in fact a similarly decorated Kask Bambino, closing the case.

Men’s Top 5:

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  1. Victor Del Corral               ESP                   08:02:00
  2. Jordan Rapp                        USA                 08:06:13
  3. Jens Petersen-Bach          DEN                 08:07:53
  4. Denis Chevrot                     FRA                 08:09:04
  5. Pedro Gomes                       PRT                  08:11:42


Women’s Race:

The women’s race saw an equally dramatic close. Meredith Kessler was heavy favourite coming into the race and another title seemed ominous for the fast American.

Kessler was on track for a wire-to-wire win, having beaten super-swimming Amanda Stevens out of the water in 50:14. Stevens, who holds the Women’s Ironman Swim Record – a 45:05 set in Frankfurt – wasn’t able to match Kessler’s pace, and found herself 1:25 back exiting the drink. Germany’s Julia Gajer and Katja Konschak along with Dane Michelle Versterby were next out, just over 3-minutes behind Kessler.

Kessler set abuto controlling race on the bike course, pulling away from the pack. Michelle Vesterby was the big mover over the three-lap course, moving up to second with a race-best 4:42 bike split. The gap between Kessler and Vesterby grew and shrunk like a yo-yo throughout the 180kms. Eventually, Kessler hit T2 with a 48-second lead Michelle Vesterby, and was out on to the run course a minute ahead of the Dane.

Despite appearances, it certainly wasn’t a two horse race. Julia Gajer  found herself over ten minutes in arrears after the cycle leg. Whilst Kessler was busy fighting off Vesterby by putting an additional minute over her in the first few miles, Gajer was quietly closed the gap, besting Kessler’s pace by 20-seconds per mile – it could be a very close finish.

By Mile 15, Gajer had closed the gap to 3:45 and passed Vesterby for second place. Kessler tried to respond, holding the gap steady for a mile or so, but Gajer’s charge continued. At 21 miles, Kessler’s lead was whittled down to 1:41, and with 5-miles to run, Gajer was on pace to catch the American in the final metres.Kessler was fading,  desperately trying to hold off the fast-finishing Dane, but couldn’t match the pace. Kessler lost some  three minutes in the final 1.5 miles, leaving Gajer to cross the line in 8:52:49 – her second sub-9 hour performance of 2013. Kessler hung tough to cross the line second in 8:55:47, ahead of Vesterby 8:57:24.

Julia Gajer hits the finish line in the lead. Photo: Nils Nelson / Ironman

Julia Gajer hits the finish line in the lead. Photo: Nils Nelson / Ironman

Women’s Top 5:

A spent Meredith Kessler. Photo: IronmanLive

A spent Meredith Kessler. Photo: IronmanLive

  1. Julia Gajer                            GER                   08:52:49
  2. Meredith Kessler               USA                   08:55:47
  3. Michelle Vesterby            DEN                   08:57:24
  4. Sarah Piampiano               USA                   09:05:57
  5. Asa Lundstrom                  SWE                   09:12:20



– Steve Crossman (@crosso_s)

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