IRONMAN Barcelona: Antony Costes leads three athletes under the eight hour mark

Anthony Costes wins IRONMAN Barcelona 2017

Sixth place for ETU European Long Distance Champion Joe Skipper

No back-to-back win for Joe Skipper, but three new athletes join the Sub-8 Club on a fast day at IRONMAN Barcelona as French athlete Antony Costes wins a day-long battle with Mike Phillips (NZL)

With a huge Pro entry attracted to Calella by the fast course, early points for Kona 2017 and a share of the $40,000 prize purse, the opening 3.8km swim was always likely to see a large group exit the water together. In that sense, expectations were met. Mike Phillips (NZL) headed a group of 12 athletes, all within seconds of his leading 47:56 split. Second three weeks ago at IRONMAN Wales, Philip Graves was comfortably in that group.

While in 24th position at this early stage, a 50:38 swim for Joe Skipper was an excellent start to his hopes of a third Sub-8 iron-distance finish in three weeks. Double Outlaw Triathlon winner, Kit Walker, was in 26th with an opening 52:39, with Nicholas Ward Munoz a further minute back in 28th.

The fast, flat roads of the Barcelona course saw some significant groups in the early stages, with the pace kept high. 75km into the race and a group on nine were separated by just 12 seconds, including Phillips, Graves, Antony Costes (FRA), Bertrand Billard (FRA), Sven Riederer (SUI), Horst Reichel (GER), Miquel Blanchart Tinto (ESP), Victor Zyemtsev (UKR) and Bas Diederen (NED). Joe Skipper was up into the top-10, leading the next group through exactly three minutes behind.

The second half of the ride would see the pace take its toll on many, and as the riders reached T2, swim leader Phillips and Frenchman Costes has built a six minute lead over Phillip Graves, before the next group of six athletes arrived a further two minutes later. Joe Skipper was 10 minutes back in tenth place, but with his running ability was certainly not out of contention for the top positions. Ward Munoz (+32mins, 20th) and Walker (+50 mins) were the other Pro Brits coming off the bike.

Phillips and Costes had built a lead on the bike – and weren’t going to lose it on the run. The Kiwi lead for the first 10 miles, but the gap between the pair never seemed to be any bigger than 60 seconds, and by the halfway point of the run Costes had managed to take the lead back, but again, not decisively. 15secs at 22km, 57secs at 28km and finally 1:52 at 36km – the Frenchman was looking set for a debut IRONMAN title – and on course for a Sub-8 hour finish in the process. Philip Graves was losing time and quickly – still in tenth place at the halfway mark, he was now 25 minutes down on the leader (compared to six at T2), and looked set to fade further down the field over the second half of the run.

Joe Skipper however was moving well. In 11th position starting the run, he was steadily catching athletes in front of him and by 29km was running side-by-side with Miquel Blanchart Tinto, ten minutes behind Costes. The last phase of the run would prove difficult however, and while Miquel pushed on to finish fourth, Joe slipped back to finish sixth, crossing the line in 8:15:17. The final place on the podium was captured by the 44 year-old Ukrainian, Viktor Zyemtsev, who had battled so hard with Joe three weeks ago in Almere at the ETU European Championships.

For Costes, it was a new IRONMAN Barcelona course record (beating the 7:55:28 of Patrik Nilsson from 12 months ago), a first full-distance IRONMAN victory and also the tenth fastest iron-distance finish all-time. Phillips also broke the existing record and was also close to the New Zealand record of 7:51:26 set by Terenzo Bozzone at IRONMAN Western Australia last year.

Costes produced splits of 48:05 / 4:09:58 / 2:46:50, with Phillips 47:56 / 4:09:55 / 2:50:26 – two very complete performances on what was clearly a great day for riding.

IRONMAN Barcelona, Calella, Spain – Saturday 30th September 2017
3.8km / 180km / 42.2km

PRO MEN

1st – Antony Costes (FRA) – 7:49:19
2nd – Mike Phillips (NZL) – 7:52:50
3rd – Viktor Zyemtsev (UKR) – 7:58:03
4th – Miquel Blanchart Tinto (ESP) – 8:02:03
5th – Bas Diederen (NED) – 8:04:51
6th – Joe Skipper (GBR) – 8:15:17

13th – Nicholas Ward Munoz (GBR) – 8:30:47
14th – Philip Graves (GBR) – 8:40:15
27th – Kit Walker (GBR) – 9:16:40