The expected Sam Long vs. Lionel Sanders duel failed to live up to the dizzy heights of that epic 70.3 St George showdown in May as ‘The Big Unit’ raced to a dominant victory at IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene on Sunday.
Long and Sanders were locked together nine miles into the marathon in searing temperatures in Idaho, but Long then made a decisive break for victory as Sanders started to throw out distress signals behind.
Britain’s Fenella Langridge meanwhile put up a highly respectable showing on her full-distance debut as she finished second behind Australian Carrie Lester after leading for much of the day.
IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene – Men
Long was four minutes off the pace ending the swim as Balazs Csoke (HUN) blazed a trail to exit the water more than three minutes clear in a time of 49:43. The real race though saw Justin Metlzer (USA) lead the chasing group which also included Cody Beals (CAN), Pedro Gomes (POR), Tim Rea (USA) and Sanders. Long was just over two minutes further back from Sanders in 54:14, almost of of that time lost on the second swim loop.
Sam made his move on the bike leg, posting a blistering split of 4:18:57 to first catch the lead pack and then carve out a lead of 1:31 over Sanders heading into the run. Lionel meanwhile completed the bike course in 4:22:20.
The first nine miles of the marathon saw Sanders gradually take time out of Long’s advantage, and the pair were shoulder-to-shoulder by the time they reached the nine-mile mark. But instead of the hoped-for epic rerun of St. George, Long exchanged a few words with his big rival before reasserting and pushing clear again.
As Long stretched his lead, Sanders began to show signs of distress and fell back rapidly, to be passed by Metzler and Gomes, who would claim the remaining spots on the podium. For Lionel, positions and then even Kona slots were out of the window – simply making it to the finish was his challenge.
Long celebrated as he crossed the finish line to complete a 2:51:13 marathon for an overall time of 8:07:40, a new course record. Metzler produced a 2:47:59 marathon to finish more than five minutes adrift of Long in 8:13:03 – claiming a Kona spot in the process. Gomes was a further four minutes back in third and will also have secured his entry to the IRONMAN World Championship.
Sanders, who is currently slated to meet Jan Frodeno in that much-publicised head-to-head in Germany on July 18, did carry on to finish the course despite his nutritional struggles, eventually finishing 11th (9:11:11), after a rough 3:53 marathon. He must now decide whether that Allgäu showdown comes next, or perhaps another IRONMAN in a bid to claim a spot for Kona in October.
Langridge excels, Lester experience tells
Great Britain’s Langridge produced a poised and polished performance in the women’s race to claim second place on her full-distance debut behind Lester.
Langridge started well, coming out of the water third behind the swimming speedsters Lauren Brandon and Haley Chura. And the Brit carved out a healthy lead of 2:25 after the bike leg, thanks to a 4:49:07 split.
Lester though gradually whittled away that advantage en route to a 3:06:32 marathon and eventually passed Fenella to claim victory in an overall time of 8:54:51. Her eight full-distance IRONMAN title, at 40 years of age, Carrie remains one of the most consistent and underrated athletes on the circuit. While she’s been in the winners enclosure many times, it was still an emotional finish line, reflecting that she thought that the pandemic could well have ended her career, which was on a high after three IRONMAN wins and an eighth place finish in Hawaii in 2019.
A smiling Langridge maintained her form superbly to claim a fine second place in 8:59:50 on the back of a 3:13:48 marathon. The result also netted her a slot for Kona in October. Fenella’s immediate reaction when interviewed after crossing the line – quite simply – was “I don’t believe it”.
Linsey Corbin completed the women’s podium, finishing more than 13 minutes behind Langridge in an overall time of 9:13:21.
IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene 2021 Results
- Sam Long (USA) 8:07:40
- Justin Metzler (USA) 8:13:03
- Pedro Gomes (POR) 8:17:06
- Jason Pohl (CAN) 8:20:57
- Matt Russell (USA) 8:24:54
- Carrie Lester (AUS) 8:54:51
- Fenella Langridge (GB) 8:59:50
- Linsey Corbin (USA) 9:13:21
- Haley Chura (USA) 9:24:02
- Kelly Fillnow (USA) 9:37:14