Pieter Heemeryck and Lucy Buckingham claimed dramatic wins at IRONMAN 70.3 Knokke-Heist in Belgium on Sunday.
Belgian Heemeryck bounced back immediately from a DNF at the IRONMAN World Championship in Nice last weekend as he put the hammer down midway through the run to surge clear of his rivals in what proved a decisive move.
It was a contrasting victory for Buckingham, who led by five minutes at the start of the run but just held on in an absolute thriller in the closing stages, with fellow Brit Lizzie Rayner only eight seconds behind on the line as both gave absolutely everything.
Pro Men – Heemeryck bounces back in style
It’s been a rollercoaster few weeks for local hero Heemeryck.
That saw him go into the IMWC in Nice with high hopes but the DNF came after the bike, with him saying: “We’re human and sometimes things don’t go as planned. It’s time to find balance again and finish the season strong!”
And he did exactly that, with a decent swim here followed by a rapid T1 and a strong start to the bike soon seeing him in a lead group of five.
Things appeared to be going to the script as big guns Heemeryck and New Zealand’s Kyle Smith were at the head of affairs going out of T2, though Wilhelm Hirsch (GER) was the surprise name who was also in the mix.
But the whole complexion of the race changed midway through the run as Heemeryck powered clear, while Smith went dramatically in the other direction as he tumbled down the field.
To the delight of the home crowd, Heemeryck would go on to clock a race-winning 1:11:37 half-marathon, the fastest of the day.
Hirsch kept on well for second, 1:09 behind, and Brit Harry Palmer moved through the field to take third, his first IRONMAN podium.
Pro Women – Lucy goes down to the wire!
Buckingham asserted from the outset with her trademark strong swim and she came out of the North Sea with a lead of just over a minute.
A blistering bike leg for the BMC athlete – on home roads for the Belgian team – saw that advantage balloon out to more than five minutes by T2.
With Buckingham looking strong early on the run it looked game over – little did we know we were about to be treated to one of the race finishes of the season.
The distress signals for Lucy were starting to emerge before the halfway point and it looked then that Emilie Morier (FRA) was the biggest threat.
But Rayner moved past her and into second as she set her sights on Buckingham up front – with 59 seconds between them at the final turn with less than 4km remaining.
Both finished incredibly strongly, with Buckingham not even having chance to look behind her when they were in the finish straight together, and her sprint took her to a new course best time of 4:13:57, with less than 10 seconds back to Rayner as Morier claimed the final podium spot.
IRONMAN 70.3 Knokke-Heist 2023 results
Sunday September 17, 2023 – 1.9km / 90km / 21.1km
- 1. Pieter Heemeryck (BEL) – 3:39:45
- 2. Wilhelm Hirsch (GER) – 3:40:54
- 3. Harry Palmer (GBR) – 3:43:08
- 4. Nick Emde (GER) – 3:43:44
- 5. Yvan Jarrige (FRA) – 3:44:12
- 1. Lucy Buckingham (GBR) – 4:13:57
- 2. Lizzie Rayner (GBR) – 4:14:06
- 3. Emilie Morier (FRA) – 4:15:31
- 4. Diede Diederiks (NED) – 4:15:55
- 5. Nina Derron (SUI) – 4:16:41