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It was two Germans who claimed the 2016 Ironman North American Championship Texas titles on Saturday, as well as the highly-coveted automatic Kona spots and $30,000 in prize money. Patrick Lange turned in a steady swim and bike before dominating the marathon to earn the victory in his first attempt at the distance. On the women’s side, Gajer added another Ironman title to her resume thanks to a patient, and well-rounded, race.
Spain’s Clemente Alonso-McKernan led a large pack of swimmers out of the 2.4-mile swim in a time of 48:43. That front group contained many of the top contenders, including the United States’ Andrew Starykowicz (48:51), Lange (48:57) and New Zealand’s Terenzo Bozzone (48:59).
Once on the bike, Starykowicz held nothing back and started to build a large gap over the rest of the men’s field. By the time the men reached T2, Starykowicz’s lead stood at a startling 14 minutes. Despite the massive push out front from the American, the rest of the men’s field came off of the bike fairly close together. American Jordan Rapp followed Starykowicz at 14:23 back, with 13 other men—including eventual winner Lange—exiting the modified 94-mile bike course within 30 seconds of Rapp. If Starykowicz would be unable to hold a solid pace, there would be an interesting fight to the finish for the title. Unfortunately for Starykowicz, he reportedly re-aggravated a nerve in his glute at about mile seven and was forced to pull out of the race.
With the uber biker on the sidelines, a fast-running Lange inherited the lead. From that point forward, Lange grew his advantage with every step. In his first-ever Ironman marathon the German turned in an amazing 2:40:01 split to take the victory at 7:13:13 (on a shortened course). American Matt Russell initially kept Lange within striking distance but started to struggle and held on for second place, finishing over eight minutes back of Lange at 7:21:56. Bozzone rounded out the top three, finishing at 7:25:55.
Even with a solid field of swimmers, American Lauren Brandon dominated the 2.4-mile swim—exiting the water in a course record time of 48:32. Ironman newcomer Alicia Kaye followed at 3:53, with Rebekah Keat (5:09 back), Darbi Roberts (5:48 back), Katy Blakemore (6:02 back), Kelly Williamson (6:18 back) and Gajer (6:20 back) making up the top seven into T1.
Brandon took quick advantage of her gap and worked to stretch it in the early miles of the bike. Through 31 miles, Brandon’s lead stood at 7:55 over Kaye, 9:53 over Keat and 10:13 over Gajer. It appears that Gajer was turning in a patient bike ride as she decided to push over the final miles of the bike, cutting Brandon’s advantage down to just over six minutes as bike turned to run.
That solo effort out front for the entire swim and bike proved to wear on Brandon, as she struggled pretty quickly in the marathon. Gajer was solid the entire run, earning the lead at about mile five and never looking back. The German posted a 3:08:49 marathon to take the victory in 8:11:01. Behind her, the competition for the final podium spots was fierce. Americans Jodie Robertson and Lisa Roberts both broke three hours in the marathon finish in second at 8:16:30 and third at 8:17:58, respectively.
2016 Memorial Hermann Ironman North American Championship Texas
The Woodlands, Texas – May 14, 2016
2.4-mile swim, 94-mile bike (modified), 26.2-mile run
1. Patrick Lange (GER) 7:13:13
2. Matt Russell (USA) 7:21:56
3. Terenzo Bozzone (NZL) 7:25:55
4. Jeremy Jurkiewicz (FRA) 7:28:30
5. Clemente Alonso-McKernan (ESP) 7:30:59
1. Julia Gajer (GER) 8:11:01
2. Jodie Robertson (USA) 8:16:30
3. Lisa Roberts (USA) 8:17:58
4. Kelly Williamson (USA) 08:22:06
5. Alicia Kaye (USA) 8:29:29