20 January 2013
The 6th edition of the Spec-Savers IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa saw a new face cross the finish line as well as a very familiar one with Bart Aernouts (BEL) and Jodie Swallow (GBR) reigning victorious on a hot and humid day in East London.
What was otherwise another fantastic race with some impressive displays, the race was rocked early on with the tragic news of two athletes suffering fatal cardiac respiratory arrests during the swim leg of the event. The two athletes, South African males aged 29 and 37 will not be named out of respect for their families and a statement was issued by World Endurance Africa earlier in the day.
The PROs hit the water in the first wave at 06:45 amidst much debate about who would be crowned the new male champion. The news of James Cunnama yesterday deciding against racing, along with Faris Al-Sultan missing the race through illness threw the men’s race wide open. With fast swimmers such as Marko Albert (EST), Tim Don (GBR), Will Clarke (GBR) and Mark Threlfall (GBR) in the field, a fast race was to be expected.
Albert, Threlfall and Belgium’s Axel Zeebroek, made strong starts on the swim creating a substantial gap ahead of the chasing pack. Albert exited the water first in a time of 00:23:43 followed closely by Threlfall (00:23:45) and Zeebroek (00:23:50). The USA’s Kyle Leto and South Africa’s Kent Horner made up the top five into transition.
Onto the bike, hot windy conditions greeted the athletes. Albert made the most of his swim lead at the front of the pack but was chased down Clarke, who stuck close by before passing him shortly ahead of the turnaround point. A second group, consisting of Tim Don, Aernouts, Horner, Leto, Sunberg and Schildknecht, formed some way behind the front two. The strong cycling abilities of Aernouts came into full display as the men reached the turnaround point at 45km, with Aernouts passing both Albert and Clarke for the lead. Meanwhile, Ronnie Schildknecht (SUI) was making his move into second place.
The Belgian Aernouts headed into T2 in pole position holding a 2 minute lead over Schildknecht who managed to get ahead of Albert on the bike. Albert trailed by 30 seconds with Don 2 minutes behind, coming in strongly. Sunshine and heat on the run, Aernouts maintained his lead and at the 16km mark was 00:02:30 ahead of Schildknecht – a lead he held all the way to the finish line to win in South Africa for the first time. For the second year running, Schildknecht finished second, 3 minutes behind the winner with Don finishing third after.
Top 5 men (Provisional)
- Bart Aernouts (BEL) 04:03:52
- Ronnie Schildknecht (SUI) 04:06:22
- Tim Don (GBR) 04:10:39
- Marko Albert (EST) 04:12:10
- Will Clarke (GBR) 04:13:46
Swallow bags a hat-trick in fine style
The pre-race favourite once again did the damage as Jodie Swallow (GBR) led the ladies race from start to finish to secure an unprecedented hat-trick of titles in East London. The Briton was the dominant force she usually is and backed up her pre-race confidence with her third title in as many years.
Swallow led in the swim amassing an early lead over Lucie Reed (CZE). Swallow was never challenged for the lead in the water and proceeded to exit with the leading male pack in a time of 00:25:10 with Reed the second female in 00:26:39. Reed’s compatriot, Maria Cze’snik put in a solid swim to emerge third in a time of 00:26:46 with Dianne McEwan giving the locals something to shout about in fourth.
Heading onto the bike with a good lead, Swallow continued to dominate. Fellow Brit, and last year’s 5th place finisher, Susie Hignett managed to bike her way through the early swim leaders to second place. Swallow meanwhile powered on amassing a 5 minute lead over Hignett. Swallow maintained her lead going outward on the bike after the 20km mark. There was movement taking place in the chasing pack with Cze’snik coming back into second after 45k. Reed and South Africa’s Natasha Gorrie kept in touch with Hignett before Gorrie started to move up the rankings on the backend of the bike.
Swallow came into T2 with her lead intact going onto the run with a measure of comfort, but had to dig deep towards the 10km mark on a hot course to regain her full five-minute lead. Swallow powered on in the run to celebrate a hat-trick win in 04:39:39 well ahead of her compatriot, Hignett (04:43:37). Reed claimed yet another podium position with a third place in 04:44:18, followed by South African pair Gorrie and Jeannie Seymour in fourth and fifth place respectively.
Top 3 Women (Provisional)
- Jodie Swallow (GBR) 04:39:29
- Susie Hignett (GBR) 04:43:37
- Lucie Reed (CZE) 04:44:18