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Marino Vanhoenacker (BEL) and Ariane Monticeli (BRA) secured Kona spots via victory at the Ironman Latin American Championships in Florianopolis, Brazil. Clear skies, light winds and calm water contributed to a fast, competitive day at the races for the stacked professional field.
Last year’s champion, Brazilian Igor Amorelli, tried to stake his claim to the front of the race by surging to the front of the swim at the starting gun. The tactic was swiftly knocked down by a pack of three: Australian Paul Matthews, Canadian Brent McMahon, and American Tim O’Donnell. Though the four rotated through the lead over the 2.4-mile swim course, it was Matthews who exited the water first with a 46:58 split. Amorelli, McMahon, and O’Donnell were 3, 4 and 5 seconds behind, respectively.
The four would ride together for more than 60 miles, until Vanhoenacker and Tyler Butterfield (BER) bridged their 1:30 gap and increased the pace of the race leaders. Matthews was unable to respond to the new dynamic and fell out of contention for the lead. After several miles of turning the screws, Vanhoenacker surged ahead at mile 90 and entered T2 with a 4:11:22 bike split and six-minute lead over his competition.
The surge motivated O’Donnell, who began an aggressive charge from behind on the run. Within only seven miles, O’Donnell closed his gap behind Vanhoenacker from six minutes to two; by mile 19, the gap was only 30 seconds. Was Vanhoenacker, who had not adjusted his pace in response to O’Donnell’s surge, in jeopardy of losing his lead?
By mile 20, Vanhoenacker had his answer: O’Donnell simply could not sustain such a huge effort. While Vanhoenacker continued on his steady pace, O’Donnell quickly disintegrated, giving up more than 90 seconds to the race leader.
With a final time of 7:53:44, Vanhoenacker secured his win and a spot on the starting line of the 2015 Ironman World Championship in Kona. An emotional Vanhoenacker claimed at the end of last year’s Kona race that he was done with competing on the Big Island, but an automatic entry may be hard to resist. O’Donnell finished second with a time of 7:55:56. McMahon turned in a 7:56:55 to finish third.
As expected, super-swimmers Haley Chura (USA) and Amanda Stevens (USA) shot to the front of the race almost immediately. Though Stevens led for most of the swim, Chura pulled away in the final stretch to cross the timing mat first with a 49:35 split. Stevens followed in 51:15. Czech athlete Lucie Zelenkova, American Laurel Wassner and Canadian Karen Thibodeau followed a minute and a half behind Stevens.
Once on the bike, Chura all but disappeared from her competitors, extending her lead to over five minutes by the halfway point of the 112-mile bike. However, a flat tire for Chura at mile 64, combined with a fierce campaign by Belgian Tine Deckers and Swede Asa Lundstrom, reduced the American’s lead to just one minute upon entering T2. Chura’s 4:58:29 bike split was just enough to hold off Deckers and Lundstrom, who rode 4:50:19 and 4:48:36 splits, respectively.
The attack from Deckers and Lundstrom continued on the run, as the two ran down Chura within the first mile. Their success was short-lived, however, as Stevens stormed from behind to overtake the duo at mile 5. Though it looked as if Stevens would coast to her second win at Ironman Brazil, an unexpected contender made her way through the ranks.
Brazilian Ariane Monticeli, who entered T2 in 9th place, ran a blistering 6:43 minutes per mile to surprise Stevens with only six miles to go. Though Stevens tried hard to hold off the surge, she was unable to hold Monticeli’s pace and relinquished the lead at mile 21. Monticeli’s blistering 2:56:28 marathon was an exclamation point on her exciting 8:59:08 win.
Stevens wasn’t done fighting for her podium spot, however; with only two miles to go, American Liz Lyles, en route to a 3:03:04 marathon, overtook an exhausted Stevens to secure second place in 9:00:31. Stevens finished third in 9:01:27.
Ironman 70.3 Latin American Championships
Florianopolis, Brazil – May 31, 2015
2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
1. Marino Vanhoenacker (BEL) 7:53:44
2. Timothy O’Donnell (USA) 7:55:56
3. Brent McMahon (CAN) 7:56:55
4. Igor Amorelli (BRA) 7:59:36
5. Tyler Butterfield (BER) 8:05:22
1. Ariane Monticeli (BRA) 8:59:08
2. Elizabeth Lyles (USA) 9:00:31
3. Amanda Stevens (USA) 9:01:27
4. Tine Deckers (BEL) 9:08:29
5. Laurel Wassner (USA) 9:09:47