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Switzerland’s Ronnie Schildknecht and the United States’ Beth Gerdes both earned victories on Sunday in Zurich that will no doubt rank high on their respective career memories, but for very different reasons. Schildknecht regained the crown at his home Ironman race, posting his eighth win on this course (he also won in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013). For Gerdes, it was the first Ironman win of her career—one that will solidify her spot in the Kona Pro Rankings and punch her ticket to October’s Ironman World Championship.
Switzerland’s Manuel Küng led the men out of the water at 48:52, with a group that included two-time Ironman 70.3 world champion Michael Raelert (GER) and Jan Van Berkel (SUI) following a little less than two minutes later. Schildknecht was 10th out of the water at 55:14, giving him some work to do to catch the leaders. Raelert and Van Berkel eventually caught up to Küng but he didn’t let them go without a fight, leaving that group of three to lead a good chunk of the bike. Things really broke apart in the final miles of the bike, with Küng reclaiming his solo position out front. He used a 4:33:19 bike split to come into T2 with a 1:21 lead over Van Berkel, a 4:38 lead over Schildknecht (who turned in a race-best bike split of 4:32:11) and a 15:12 lead over Raelert (who really faltered in the final miles of the bike and eventually dropped out on the run). Küng struggled to keep up the pace on the run, quickly surrendering his lead to Van Berkel. Initially, Van Berkel and Schildknecht—who was running in second —were turning in similar paces, but Van Berkel slowed toward the end of the marathon. Schildknecht excelled, turning in a 2:50:02 marathon to earn the 8:21:19 victory. Van Berkel cruised in for second a 8:28:57, with Italy’s Alessandro Degasperi turning in the fastest marathon of the day (2:47:07) to earn third in 8:31:36.
Throughout the swim and the bike, it looked like American Mary Beth Ellis was on track for a dominant performance. She led the women out of the two-lap, 2.4-mile swim in 55:12. Great Britain’s Andrea Mason was next at 1:27 down, followed by Gerdes at 5:41 down and Mareen Hufe (GER) at 6:30 down. As Ellis rode away from the rest of the pro women, Hufe passed Gerdes and the three stayed in that order for most of the bike ride. Ellis dominated the bike ride in 5:02:07, giving her a 14:56 lead over Hufe and a 17:34 lead over Gerdes going into T2. As temperatures started to really heat up, Ellis worked to keep a steady pace. It was immediately clear that Gerdes was the fastest women on the run course. She passed Hufe at around the 7km mark and then slowly started chipping away at Ellis’ lead. As Ellis started to struggle out front, Gerdes remained steady and started to cut bigger chunks into the deficit. Gerdes ended up finding the top spot, posting a field-best 3:01:24 marathon to claim the important victory at 9:21:05. Ellis ran in for second at 9:26:37, with Hufe rounding out the podium in 9:35:26.
Zurich, Switzerland – July 19, 2015
2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
1. Ronnie Schildknecht (SUI) 8:21:19
2. Jan Van Berkel (SUI) 8:28:57
3. Alessandro Degasperi (ITA) 8:31:36
4. Mike Schifferle (SUI) 8:46:44
5. Pascal Ramali (GER) 8:50:44
1. Beth Gerdes (USA) 9:21:05
2. Mary Beth Ellis (USA) 9:26:37
3. Mareen Hufe (GER) 9:35:26
4. Dimity-Lee Duke (AUS) 9:51:24
5. Lucia Erat (SUI) 10:00:06