Lionel Sanders (CAN) and Yvonne Van Vlerken (NLD) took home wins at IRONMAN Florida after battling through heavy winds that forced the cancelation of the swim portion of the race. Sanders finished in 6:58:46 while Van Vlerken took the win with a time of 8:01:47.
Beginning the day with a time-trial bike start, Lionel Sanders began a minute behind Ben Hoffman (USA), who was fresh off a runner-up finish at the IRONMAN World Championship three weeks ago. Hoffman was determined to push as hard as he could, but held no illusions that he was 100 percent recovered and ready to compete with the likes of Sanders, Britain’s Tom Lowe or Belgium’s Joerie Vansteelant.
Just 15 miles into the ride Sanders had already made up the minute he’d started behind Hoffman, and padded that lead by another minute. For the remainder of the bike Lowe was the only man who seemed to be in a position to push Sanders at all, but the Canadian was simply in another league.
At every single timing split Sanders had gained more time on all the men chasing behind. At 55 miles the lead was 3:52 on Lowe and almost eight minutes on Vansteelant, with Germany’s Per Bittner, Sweden’s David Nasvik, the Ukraine’s Maxim Kriat, Portugal’s Pedro Gomes and Hoffman hanging tough between 10 and 12 minutes behind the supersonic Sanders.
By the time he got off the bike Sanders had blown the race apart. His lead was 12:45 on Lowe, 18:15 on Vansteelant, 21:25 on Kriat, 22:39 on Gomes and 23:58 on Bittner, making the run all but a foregone conclusion.
As impressive as his ride was, Sanders’ dominance continued through the marathon cruising to the line in 2:44:12. Even a solid 2:50 marathon was hardly enough to keep Lowe in the same postal code by the time the Canadian finished the race. Kriat’s 2:48 run split was enough to ensure he finished third ahead of Vansteelant, while Gomes rounded out the top five.
Top five professional Men’s results:
1. Lionel Sanders CAN 6:58:46
2. Tom Lowe GBR 7:17:53
3. Maxim Kriat USA 7:24:50
4. Joerie Vansteelant BEL 7:29:31
5. Pedro Gomes PRT 7:29:45
Yvonne Van Vlerken is no stranger to great performances in Panama City Beach. Last year she shattered the course record with an 8:43 overall time and an impressive 4:35 bike split.
This year’s performance continued that excellence. At the first timing split (15 miles) her lead was already up to 4:24 on American Rachel Jastrebsky, while fellow American Dee Atkins (4:35), Sweden’s Camilla Lindholm (5:03) and American Ashley Clifford (5:38) made up the rest of the top 5. By the halfway point of the ride the race for the win was all but a foregone conclusion, leaving the rest of the women to battle for the runner-up spot behind Van Vlerken as the lead had ballooned to 10:37 on Lindholm.
Thanks to a strong second half of the bike Lindholm would come off the bike in second, having lost a further 7:30 to Van Vlerken through the second half of the ride. Jastrebsky was almost 22 minutes down starting the run, while Clifford trailed by over 28 minutes. Rounding out the top five at that point was American Michelle Bozarth.
A 3:03 race-leading marathon was more than enough to ensure that Van Vlerken would remain completely unchallenged, leaving the excitement to be around the runner-up spot. Lindholm’s 3:20 marathon was just enough to get her the runner up spot, as Clifford would come within 28 seconds of making up her 10-minute deficit leaving her in third place overall. Jastrebsky hung on for fourth while Michelle Bozarth would be the fifth place professional.
Top five professional Women’s results:
1. Yvonne Van Vlerken NLD 8:01:47
2. Camilla Lindholm SWE 8:36:28
3. Ashley Clifford USA 8:36:55
4. Rachel Jastrebsky USA 8:39:43
5. Michelle Bozarth USA 8:50:13
Due to high winds and sever riptides in the Gulf of Mexico, race officials made the difficult decision to cancel the 2.4-mile swim. Athletes instead began the race with a time trial bike start, venturing out upon a flat and fast single-loop 112-mile bike course with scenic beach views. Competitors then completed a spectator friendly two-loop 26.2 run course which paralleled the shoreline through local neighborhoods and a turnaround in St. Andrews State Park. One of more than 35 events in the global IRONMAN Series, IRONMAN Florida offered a total professional prize purse of $25,000 and 50 coveted age group qualifying slots to the 2015 IRONMAN World Championship, taking place on Oct. 10 in Kailua-Kona, Hawai`i.