(Header image photo credit: James Mitchell / www.jamesmitchell.eu)
In what was the first of three professional IRONMAN 70.3 events over the weekend, Great Britain’s Katrina Matthews earned her first professional 70.3 title at IRONMAN 70.3 Tallin, Estonia.
Denmark’s Daniel Bækkegård, who made headlines in 2019 for his IRONMAN Austria finish line ‘smash’, got the better of his hep Global team-mate, Sebastian Kienle, to once again indicate just what a talent for the future this young athlete is.
Already a winner this year at the National 100-mile Time Triathlon Championships, that was a great way to finally welcome her first start in the colours of the BMC-Vifit Pro Triathlon Team that she joined at the beginning of the season, after a headline-grabbing debut year in 2019.
My preview comment of, “If she has continued her rapid progression shown in 2019 during lockdown, Matthews however is going to be tough to beat.” proved pretty accurate, as after leading out the swim with ITU racer Kaidi Kivioja (EST) and Maja Stage-Nielsen (DEN) right with her, the Physiotherapist Officer in the British Army was quickest through T1 and on her way to victory.
Only Stage-Nielsen was close on the bike, and another swift transition would provide a head-start of 1:43 over the Danish athlete, who was fifth at the ITU LD World Champs in 2018 and 2019.
That lead was more than two minutes less than a mile later, and with a 1:22:50 run split, she completed a trio of fastest swim, bike and run performances for a winning margin of five minutes.
With a background in Elite swimming, Bækkegård covering the opening 1.9km solo was not unexpected. His 22:45 effort was more than 90 second clear of Balazs Csoke (HUN), but also almost three minutes quicker than Kienle, who has been recovering from a recent collar bone break.
The Dane soon had a trio of German athletes chasing him – Andreas Dreitz, Nils Frommhold and Kienle – but they were still more than two minutes down with a third of the swift bike course completed. Bækkegård would reach T2 alone, but Dreitz (1:58:06) and Kienle (1:57:30), were less than 20 seconds back as they dismounted.
It was clear quickly that Kienle would be the closest challenger, but the Dane was not fading at all on the run, his 1:13:57 half marathon bringing him home 1:45 clear of the German legend, who Daniel regards as one of his triathlon idols.
IRONMAN 70.3 Estonia, Saturday 5th September 2020
1.9km / 90km /21.1km
1st – Katrina Matthews (GBR) – 4:08:14
2nd – Maja Stage-Nielsen (DEN) – 4:13:15
3rd – Kaidi Kivioja (EST) – 4:16:50
7th – Elizabeth Duncombe (GBR) – 4:35:06