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Last Weekend Now: What Was the Most Impressive Performance of the Weekend?

The weekend of racing that wasn’t Sub7/Sub8, including a historic performance by Laura Philipp in Hamburg.

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Last Weekend Now is your Monday rundown of what’s happening in pro triathlon, brought to you with commentary by Brad Culp. (Ed note: So yell at him if you don’t like the comments.)

I have the unenviable task of writing about the races that weren’t the highly-anticipated Sub7/Sub8 project, which seemed to exceed everyone’s expectations. If you’re reading this, I’ll assume you’re already caught up on all things Sub7/Sub8, but just in case, you can find my competent colleague Tim Heming’s coverage of it here.

A lot of time and money went into making that stunt possible, and while it’s not necessarily repeatable in its exact form, it shows what can be done when the right triathlon minds make friends with the right billionaires. That kind of outside-the-box thinking is what progresses a sport forward and grows it. Huge congrats to all involved (except for Spirig’s coach).

It took that kind of a groundbreaking triathlon broadcast to take a glimmer of spotlight away from Laura Philipp’s 8:18:20 performance at Ironman Hamburg, so let’s throw the spotlight back on her for a few minutes. 

Laura Philipp running in Hamburg. (Photo: Alexander Scheuber/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

An almost record at Ironman Hamburg

I can’t see Laura Philipp being beaten in Kona if she remains healthy throughout the summer. I mean no disrespect to Kat Matthews or Daniela Ryf, who have each turned in stupefying performances in the past month—or a potentially healthy and hungry Lucy Charles-Barclay, or reigning Kona champ Anne Haug—but Philipp is on an absolute tear, and Kona is her kind of course. 

She finished the very fast Hamburg course in a new Ironman-brand “world best,” which is the term I guess we’re using because there are a lot of questions about course certification (as there should be). I do know the Hamburg course is “certified” by a company that “certifies” courses. I don’t know what any of that means, and Ironman (and everyone else) leaves it in the hands of local organizers for the most part. 

What I do know is that there was no down-current swim, as was the case for Kristian Blummenfelt’s Ironman “world best” in Cozumel last fall. Philipp was first out of the water with a modest 54:38 split, and then she shunned modesty for the rest of the day with a 4:31:14 bike and 2:45:38 marathon. Those kind of splits were winning the men’s race in Kona not too long ago. It’s just eight seconds off the “iron-distance” “world record” set by Chrissie Wellington at Challenge Roth 2011. 

RELATED: A Timeline of the History of Ironman-Distance World Records

What’s most impressive—for me—is that this was a time-trial effort. She was alone the entire day, without anyone pushing her from behind. American Chelsea Sodaro was brilliant in her Ironman debut, but still finished more than 18 minutes back to claim second. And because I always try to mention the full podium, Frenchwoman Manon Genet finished third 34 minutes after Philipp broke the tape. 

If you’re not fully up to speed on the 35-year-old German who is currently ranked #4 in the PTO world rankings (but only because they haven’t been updated for this past weekend yet), Philipp was a rockstar of a rock-climber as a youth, and it’s given her the perfect foundation for Ironman. She’s raced 16 times since the start of the 2018 season, and she’s won fourteen of those races. That’s insane.  

Since finishing fourth at the 2019 edition of Kona—as you know, the last edition of Kona—her run has improved considerably, and may be on par with countrywoman Anne Haug. And she’s quite a bit better on the bike. It all sets up for an incredible women’s pro race when Ironman finally returns to Kona this October. 

You know it’s a great weekend for the sport when this kind of performance ended up below the fold. I have no idea who is behind this new twitter account, but they summed it up well:

[There was no pro men’s field in Hamburg. The men will race their Ironman European Championship at Frankfurt at the end of the month.]

Also buried

Buried in all the weekend’s headlines was one of the greatest events in the sport, which brought out its typical good-but-not-great pro field. That’s not to say American Jackie Hering isn’t having a spectacular year. After Holly Lawrence pulled out the day before, the recent Ironman Chattanooga winner made easy work of the women’s race, which included shorter-course specialists like Danielle Lewis (second) and Jodie Stimpson (third), who were both more than three minutes in arrears. 

Hering has crept up to 11th in the PTO world rankings and she’s shown remarkable range over the past six months. She should prove to be one of Team USA’s best chances for a win at the upcoming Collins Cup. 

Speaking of range, Eric Lagerstrom logged his first win since 2018, also winning by more than three minutes. Coming off a seventh-place finish in Chattanooga just two weeks ago, he topped pre-race favorites Jason West (second) by three minutes and Ben Kanute (fourth) by nearly six. Wedged in there in third was American Greg Harper. It’s a breakthrough win for Lagerstrom, who recently finished second at the Herbalife L.A. Triathlon and is rounding back into form after a few off years. 

RELATED: Photos: 1,400 Triathletes Escape from Alcatraz

Jackie Hering and Eric Lagerstrom at Alcatraz. (Photo: Rocky Arroyo)