As the North American Championship race, Ironman Mont-Tremblant attracted a field ready to battle it out on the Canadian hills for a rich prize purse and valuable Kona Pro Ranking points. Multiple Ironman champions came ready to win and delivered for the fans. On the men’s side, fast racing led to a new course record by American TJ Tollakson. While in the women’s race, spectators cheered for an exciting come-from-behind race from Canada’s Sara Gross.
Although Luke Bell (AUS) led through the entire swim and was first out of the water in 49:30, his lead was slim. In such a competitive field, there was barely breathing room between him and the men right on his heels. Nine men exited the water close together in the next 20 seconds, including heavyweights Andreas Raelert (GER), Mathias Hecht (SUI) and Tollakson.
Raelert, the world record holder in the Ironman distance, immediately went to the front on the bike with Daniel Halksworth (GBR). Jan Van Berkel (SUI), Bell and Tollakson were close behind. But Tollakson decided it was time to make his move and by halfway he had pulled ahead with over-a-minute gap on Raelert, Bell, Halksworth and Van Berkel. Hecht dropped out with a broken crank after a crash. Tollakson continued to gain time, eventually coming in to T2 over seven minutes up on Raelert after riding a race-best 4:26:55 (and one of the fastest times ever ridden on the course). Raelert followed with a 4:34:38. The rest of the group broke up in the waning miles of the ride, with Halksworth coming in another seven minutes behind Raelert after a 4:43:04 bike split. Defending champ Bell’s 4:47:35 put him over 20 minutes back from Tollakson starting the run.
Tollakson’s fitness was on display on the marathon as he pulled even farther ahead. By halfway he was over 10 minutes up on Raelert, who struggled on the run. Halksworth moved into second just after halfway, while the battle for fourth heated up between Van Berkel, Matt Russell (USA), Christian Brader (GER), and Domenico Passuelo (ITA). Tollakson actually picked up the pace as the race went on, running a blistering 2:54:21 to win the title in a course record 8:16:17—10 minutes faster than the previous course record. Halksworth ran a 2:57:38 to take second in 8:35:15. Raelert needed second to lock down his Kona qualification, but could only hang on for third in 8:38:31 after fading to a 3:08:59 marathon. Brader ran a race-best 2:53:17 to win the battle for fourth in 8:43:28. And, Russell’s 2:59:23 marathon earned him fifth place by less than a minute (8:46:03).
The women’s race was an exciting battle to the line between Ironman champs, with no one giving an inch and swapping the lead from start to finish. Out of the swim, speedsters Amber Ferreira (USA) and Gross led the field in 58:40 and 58:42. Tine Deckers (BEL) followed in 59:37, with Beth Shutt (USA) next, four more minutes back in 1:03:21.
Deckers, who won Ironman France earlier this year, quickly went to the front on her bike, putting a lead on Ferreira and Gross in the first 10 kilometers. Ferreira, who won Ironman Lake Placid just three weeks ago, then pulled ahead of this year’s Ironman Brazil champ Gross, with a large gap between each of them. By halfway, Gross had fallen even farther back, behind Shutt and Melanie Burke (NZL), before she stopped to fix a mechanical problem with her bike. In the closing 30 miles, Ferreira caught back up to Deckers and moved to the front. Deckers then dropped out with less than 20 miles to T2. That left Ferreira to finish the bike first after a 5:19:58 ride. Over six minutes later, she was followed by Burke, who rode a race-best 5:17:50 and Shutt (5:21:16). Gross was another minute behind them after riding 5:28:14.
Gross was determined to make up for her bike mechanical and flew through the run. She quickly caught Burke and Shutt and set her sights on Ferreira. The run became a battlefield as the women fought for the finish. By halfway, Gross was only three minutes down on Ferreira and Shutt was just another two minutes behind Gross. With six miles left, Gross finally took the lead. Her 3:07:33 marathon got her the title in 9:40:26, with Ferreira running a 3:18:33 for second in 9:43:46. Shutt held on for third (9:46:45) with her 3:15:12 marathon. After a slow swim, Sarah Graves (USA) moved up the whole race and, with a 3:12:41 run, managed to pass Burke for fourth in 9:51:59. Burke’s 3:23:08 got her fifth in 9:54:21.
Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, Canada – Aug. 17, 2014
2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
1. TJ Tollakson (USA) 8:16:17*
2. Daniel Halksworth (GBR) 8:35:15
3. Andreas Raelert (GER) 8:38:31
4. Christian Brader (GER) 2:53:17
5. Matt Russell (USA) 8:46:03
* course record
1. Sara Gross (CAN) 9:40:26
2. Amber Ferreira (USA) 9:43:46
3. Beth Shutt (USA) 9:46:45
4. Sarah Graves (USA) 9:51:59
5. Melanie Burke (NZL) 9:54:21