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U.S. athletes dominated St. George today when Ben Hoffman and Meredith Kessler became the first Americans to win the notoriously tough race.
More than 2,700 hundred athletes descended upon picturesque St. George, Utah on Cinco de Mayo to compete in the fourth and final Ironman St. George. (Next year it will be a 70.3.)
Despite being one of several high-profile races going on this weekend, including Wildflower, Ironman St. Croix 70.3, Ironman Australia and Rev3 Knoxville, a formidable pro field turned out to compete for Kona points and a $50,000 prize purse.
On the men’s side, Ben Hoffman and Chris McDonald looked to add another win to their resumes, while last year’s runner up Maik Twelseik was ready to take the top spot on the podium.
On the women’s side, Meredith Kessler returned to race St. George for the third time after finishing second in 2010 and DNFing in 2011. Mackenzie Madison, 2011 IM Florida’s silver medalist, was gunning for gold.
The water was a chilly 63 degrees in Sand Hollow Reservoir when the pro men took off on their journey. It would be the only cold moment all day, however, with temperatures forecast to reach the mid eighties. Hoffman and Twelsiek came out of the water together in about 52:42, while McDonald trailed four minutes behind and could never make it back up, slipping even further behind on the bike.
Hoffman and Twelsiek went back and forth on the bike, staying close together throughout the 112 mile course. Hoffman came out of T2 first after riding a 5:10—that’s over 25 minutes slower than the course record, proving what a rough day it was out there.
He immediately put a gap of a couple of minutes on Twelsiek, and gradually widened it throughout the run to more than 18 minutes. Ben Hoffman crossed the finish line in first place, becoming the first American IM St. George champion. “That was hands down the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he said. Twelseik came in second, with Axel Zeebroek rounding out the podium in third.
Meredith Kessler led the women out of the water in an incredible 52:42. The next woman, Jessica Smith, trailed her by more than five minutes. Kessler continued her dominating performance by riding with the men early on in the bike, and entering T2 with a commanding 20-minute lead. Nobody could touch her during this race. Kessler ran her way into her first IM St. George win, becoming the first American woman to do so. (She was also eighth overall.) Jesse Donavan took second, while Uli Bromme came in third.
Ironman St. George
St. George, Utah – May 5, 2012
2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
1. Ben Hoffman (USA) 9:07:04
2. Maik Twelsiek (GER) 9:25:58
3. Axel Zeebroek (BEL) 9:35:33
4. Thomas Gerlach (USA) 9:49:00
5. Matthew Sheeks (USA) 9:52:03
1. Meredith Kessler (USA) 10:12:59
2. Jessie Donovan (USA) 10:37:30
3. Uli Bromme (USA) 10:53:20
4. Gillian Clayton (CAN) 11:15:38
5. Erin Spitler (USA) 11:16:42