Sali and Sanders speed to IRONMAN Arizona victories

Chief Correspondent

Kona 2018 secured for Lionel Sanders and Kaisa Sali with Tempe titles

Always one of the most popular post-Kona full-distance races with the Pro’s, IRONMAN Arizona on Sunday once again attracted a strong field, with many athletes seeking to kick-start their 2017/18 campaigns, make up for disappointment in Kona or – in the case of the race winners – have any concerns about qualification for the 2018 IRONMAN World Championship all sorted 11 months in advance.


Men’s Pro Race

From the moment that Canada’s Lionel Sanders emerged from the swim, solo, less than two and a half minutes behind the leaders, the writing was pretty much on the wall as the Silver medallist from the IRONMAN World Championships just a month ago would go on to secure his third consecutive victory in Tempe. When you consider that two years ago he was seven minutes down on Brent McMahon out of the water, had reduced that margin to 5:24 last year, and was now within 2:30 – that represents fantastic progress and development for an ‘adult’ swimmer who came into the sport late. Given his bike and run prowess, that is a scary prospect for his competitors.

McMahon and Jeremy Jurkiewicz (FRA) headed the swim in 49:05, with a foursome of James Capparell (USA), Jeff Symonds (CAN), Sam Holmes (USA) and Philip Graves (GBR) just 30 seconds back.

Sanders quickly made light of his small swim deficit and was at the front of the race within the first 30km. He proceeded to increase his lead throughout the ride, and a 4:12:0 bike split would see him start the run with an 11 minute lead, with Michael Patrick Alonso McKernan (ESP),  Jeremy Jurkiewicz (FRA) and Brent McMahon (CAN) arriving starting the marathon within a minute of each other. During the bike, Philip Graves’ race had come to an unfortunate end:

Sanders was in no danger during the run, his split of 2:47:15 was slower than his pre-race hope of 2:40, but still the best of the day. McMahon ran 2:48:54 to finish in second place for the the third consecutive year, while Jurkiewicz also broke the three-hour mark (2:56:21) to complete the podium.


Women’s Pro Race

Like the men, a strong women’s field promised some close racing – with the added addition of the IRONMAN debut of Helle Frederiksen (DEN), an interesting new addition to the dynamics of the race after several seasons of strong performances over the 70.3 format.

It was Frederiksen, along with countrywoman Michelle Vesterby, who were the quickest through the 3.8km swim in Tempe Town Lake. Clocking 52:06, they had a minute and a half lead over Kelly Williamson (USA). Kaisa Sali (FIN) was sixth (+4:25) and Jen Annett (USA) even further back (15th, +9:37) at this early stage.

By the midpoint of the bike, Frederiksen and Vesterby had been joined at the front of the race by Sali, while Annett had charged through the field to fourth place, less than two minutes back. The second half of the ride would see Annett continue her charge, posting the fastest split of the day by far (4:38:17), to reach T2 with a buffer of 2:17 over Frederiksen and Sali, with Vesterby just a little further back +3:48.

A little sluggish through T2, Sali lost around 40 seconds to both Annett and Frederiksen to give her a little more chasing to do during the marathon. 10-miles in to the run and Frederiksen and Sali were locked together, having passed Annett – though she was barely 30 seconds further back. The next few miles would see Sali able to slightly distance the Dane, and at the midway point of the run she had a lead of 1:27. She was able to extend that margin over the second half of the run, though both Frederiksen and Annett held strong and didn’t fade significantly – all three breaking the nine-hour barrier in the process.


IRONMAN Arizona, Tempe – Sunday 19th November 2017
3.8km / 180km / 42.2km


1st – Lionel Sanders (CAN) – 7:54:10
2nd – Brent McMahon (CAN) – 8:07:40
3rd – Jeremy Jurkiewicz (FRA) – 8:15:22
4th – Michael Patrick Alonso McKernan (ESP) – 8:19:41
5th – Jeff Symonds (CAN) – 8:20:38

DNF – Philip Graves (GBR) – puncture (split tyre)


1st – Kaisa Sali (FIN) – 8:51:54
2nd – Helle Frederiksen (DEN) – 8:55:35
3rd – Jen Annett (USA) – 8:59:27
4th – Michelle Vesterby (DEN) – 9:04:42
5th – Sarah Piampiano (USA) – 9:09:10

John Levison
Written by
John Levison
TRI247's Chief Correspondent, John has been involved in triathlon for well over 30 years, 15 of those writing on these pages, whilst he can also be found commentating for events across the UK.
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