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Both Sebastian Kienle (GER) and Corinne Abraham (GBR) solidified their spots as strong contenders for this fall’s Kona race with wins at today’s Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt. Kienle used his signature bike power to ride away from the field and followed it with a 2:49:35 marathon to take the win and course record on his 30th birthday. Abraham rode her way up on the bike and then earned the win on the run, posting her first major victory since her Melbourne win in 2013.
2008 Olympic gold medalist Jan Frodeno (GER) led a long line of men out of the 2.4-mile swim at 45:39. Included in that lead group were pre-race favorites reigning Ironman world champ Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) at 45:44 and Andreas Raelert (GER) at 45:51. After that front pack came through it became a waiting game for two-time Ironman 70.3 world champion Kienle. The German kept the gap to four minutes, making his way to T1 at 49:40.
With every time split on the bike, Kienle got closer and closer to the front group before he finally took the top spot from Van Lierde at around the 85K mark at Heartbreak Hill. While Kienle was making his move, Frodeno’s highly-anticipated Ironman debut was getting slightly off track as the German suffered back-to-back flat tires, putting him more than 12 minutes back of the leaders.
By the time bike turned to run, Kienle had built a lead of 5:32 over Van Lierde, with other contenders like Raelert (+17:54), Schildknecht (+18:05) and Frodeno (+18:12) even further back. Kienle’s monstrous effort on the bike translated to a new bike course record of 4:12:13 and it was time to see what kind of marathon he could run after such a strong ride. The stronger runners did manage to take back a little time on Kienle, but his lead was too great. He polished off his day with a 2:49:35 marathon to take his first Ironman win and establish a new course record at 7:55:14. Van Lierde’s solid all-around effort easily gave him second at 8:00:25. Despite suffering from some cramps on the marathon, Frodeno managed to piece together a 2:43:14 marathon to finish in third.
The early miles of the women’s race were all about Jodie Swallow (GBR) and Mary Beth Ellis (USA), who both train under Siri Lindley in Boulder, Colo. Swallow led out of the swim in 47:22, with Ellis following five seconds later. It was a full two minutes later that the next pack, which contained Lucie Zelenkova Reed (CZE), Gina Crawford (NZL) and Katja Konschak (GER), came into T1. Abraham came out of the water eighth, with seven minutes to make up on the leading duo.
Swallow and Ellis spent most of the 112-mile bike ride together up front, maintaining that two-minute-plus gap over the rest of the field as things behind them shuffled. Swallow managed to build a small gap over her training partner, and she started the run with a 1:07 lead over Ellis. Abraham’s 4:49:06 bike split brought her into transition in third, less than two minutes back of Swallow. Fourth into transition was defending champion Camila Pedersen (DEN), who was racing just 10 months after a bike crash nearly took her life. The women’s race was completely up for grabs on the marathon, as the top nine women sat within four minutes of each other to start the run.
As Ellis fell off of the pace, Swallow tried to stay resilient out front with strong runners slowly cutting into her lead. At one point Pedersen looked like she may be primed to recapture her win and worked her way up to second place, but she eventually fell off of the pace and dropped out of the race. Abraham looked the best early in the marathon, and she passed Swallow at 22K to take the lead.
Abraham capped off her day with a 3:04:38 marathon to take the 8:52:40 victory, the second Ironman-championship caliber win of her career as she also won the 2013 Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship. She was unable to compete in Kona in 2013 due to injury, but will be a major contender heading into this year’s world championship. American Liz Lyles used a 3:01:14 marathon to run her way to second at 8:56:36. Crawford rounded out the top three at 8:58:06.
It’s worth noting Natascha Badmann’s sixth-place finish at 9:08:13. The six-time Ironman world champion is still competing with the best at age 47.
2014 Ironman European Championship
Frankfurt, Germany – July 6, 2014
2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
1. Sebastian Kienle (GER) 7:55:14
2. Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) 8:00:25
3. Jan Frodeno (GER) 8:07:05
4. Ronnie Schildknecht (SUI) 8:12:54
5. Alessandro Degasperi (ITA) 8:20:39
1. Corinne Abraham (GBR) 8:52:40
2. Liz Lyles (USA) 8:56:36
3. Gina Crawford (NZL) 8:58:06
4. Kristin Möller (GER) 9:02:17
5. Amy Marsh (USA) 9:06:33