The United States’ Matt Hanson and Canada’s Angela Naeth earned big wins in hot and humid conditions at today’s Ironman North American Championships in The Woodlands, Texas. Hanson put together a 55:02 swim, 4:21:25 bike and a race-best 2:45:47 marathon to earn the 8:07:03 victory and establish a new course record. Naeth’s 8:55:19 win was a result of a 59:35 swim, 4:41:38 bike and 3:09:13 marathon. In addition to the $30,000 prize, both are now guaranteed a spot on October’s Ironman World Championship start line.
The Men’s Race
Aussie Todd Skipworth and Americans Barrett Brandon and Ben Hoffman surged to an early lead, pushing the pace for the 2.4-mile swim in Lake Woodlands. Brandon and Skipworth were the first to reach T1, with German Faris Al-Sultan and Jeremy Jurkiewicz of France fast on their heels. Within a couple miles of the bike leg, Jurkiewicz was at the front, with Skipworth and Al-Sultan riding just seconds behind. They were soon joined by Hoffman and German Andreas Raelert, and the riders in this lead pack took turns at the front. At mile 20, Matt Hanson led a chase group of five men that was about five minutes down from the leaders. Lionel Sanders of Canada and American Jordan Rapp were at the front of a third chase group. The windy, hot conditions set the stage for a race of attrition, as athletes began to fade in the sweltering weather. Hoffman, Sanders, Skipper and Raelert seemed to be faring the best in the final miles of the bike, and Skipper was the first to hit T2. Sanders was 1:42 back and Hoffman 3:34 off the lead. Hanson, last year’s runner-up and run course record (2:41), started the run about nine minutes down from Skipper but quickly set to work reeling in the men in front of him. Ronnie Schildknect also began picking off runners. By mile 18, Hanson overcame Skipper, and held his blistering pace to earn the national champion title. Skipper held off Schildnect for second. Brandon, Jurkiewicz, Al-Sultan, Rapp and Raelert called it a day before the finish line. Hoffman battled dehydration to pull out an 8th place finish.
“I thought I had the tools to win it coming into the day, and it was just a matter of playing my cards right,” said Hanson in a finish line interview. “I tried to make a move on the bike and then decided to go after it like I always do on the run… everything was firing on all cylinders today.”
The Women’s Race
Brits Rachel Joyce and Leanda Cave and American Katy Blakemore assembled as a small lead pack shortly after the start gun. The trio was the first into T1 in the order of Joyce, Cave, Blakemore, and for the first third of the bike leg Cave and Joyce swapped the lead position back and forth with Blakemore keeping them in striking distance. Heather Wurtele began moving up in the field, along with Naeth and Brit Corinne Abraham. By mile 50, Naeth had stormed into second position, overtaking Joyce and, soon, after Cave. While Joyce and Blakemore began to fall off the lead pace, Naeth and Cave began to separate from their chasers. Naeth was the first to hit T2, with Cave just seconds back in pursuit as they started the marathon. Both women seek out races in hot and humid conditions, as they tend to get a competitive edge from the heat, and neither seemed to fade in the early miles. At the half marathon mark, Naeth had a minute lead over Cave and was more than seven minutes up on Joyce and a fast-closing Abraham. Naeth’s 3:09 marathon secured her championship title and punched her ticket to Kona (last year she narrowly missed qualifying.) Cave held pace for second, and Joyce rounded out the podium.
“I’m over the moon, it’s awesome,” beamed Naeth at the finish. “It was such a strong field, and I just wanted to execute a good race and nail my parameters for swim, bike, run and I think I did. I’m more excited that I got my ticket to Kona!”
Ironman North American Championships – Texas
The Woodlands, Texas – May 16, 2015
2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
1. Matt Hanson (USA) 8:07:03
2. Joe Skipper (GBR) 8:16:26
3. Ronnie Schildknecht (SUI) 8:21:03
4. Lionel Sanders (CAN) 8:24:54
5. Pedro Gomes (PRT) 8:26:42
1. Angela Naeth (CAN) 8:55:19
2. Leanda Cave (GBR) 8:58:12
3. Rachel Joyce (GBR) 9:05:02
4. Kelly Williamson (USA) 9:08:34
5. Corinne Abraham (GBR) 9:12:20