Alistair Brownlee wins IRONMAN Ireland (Duathlon)

CORK, IRELAND - JUNE 23: Alistair Brownlee of Great Britain crosses the line to win during the IRONMAN Ireland on June 23, 2019 in Cork, Ireland. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Double Olympic Champion secures 2019 Kona start with debut IRONMAN title

Emma Bilham takes her first IRONMAN win in cold and wet conditions in Cork

“I was quite enjoying it up to about 30km on the run… but that final 10km was not much fun at all!”. That was Alistair Brownlee’s post-race comment after starting (and winning) his first IRONMAN triathlon today. There is only one Kona slot each for the male and female Pro athletes, and Brownlee confirmed he would be taking it. One thing we can be pretty sure of, is that he will find very different conditions in Hawaii in early October.

Pre-warned on Saturday that there would be changes – and the very least a reduction – in the swim course due to the current and forecast weather conditions, the result on race morning was no swim for anyone. The race would go ahead as a bike-run duathlon, the Pro athletes set off at 30 second intervals, and then the Age-Groupers released over an extended period to reduce congestion / drafting in the early portion of the ride. If the images from Cork were anything to go by, it really did look wet, cold and pretty miserable. Anyone in the Expo selling gloves, overshoes and close-fitting wet weather gear on Saturday would likely have had a very good trading day.

Everyone has to play the cards they are dealt – and sometimes those cards just happen to be in your favour. For Irish athlete, Bryan McCrystal, a powerhouse on the bike who does not excel in the same manner in the water, circumstances helped – and he was not going to let the chance go. Starting as one of the early riders, he was soon at the front alone and giving it full beans. Not caring for reputations, he put out a bike split of around 4:36 (exact times to be confirmed, once start adjustments made), with Markus Thomschke (GER) 4:48-ish and Brownlee around 4:50. If Brownlee wanted to win, McCrystal was going to make him work for it.

Brownlee soon moved into second and through the first 25km he had closed 12 minutes on the home athlete. With the start-time offsets, he was moving towards first on virtual time, and 5km or so later would pass him on the road. Alistair was looking tired over the final 10km, but held it together and joined the iron-club to take the win, the $8,000 first prize and the one Kona slot on offer. He confirmed immediately after the race that he intends to accept it and will be racing in Hawaii later this year. Alistair finished with a 2:51:31 marathon, provisionally the best of the day.

The women’s Pro race saw six athletes start, and two of the favourites – Linsey Corbin (USA) and Anja Ippach (GER) – would fall victim to the conditions and not finish. Corbin, who said that she prefers warm races but had chosen to race in Ireland as a challenge, suffered on the bike course and once in T2, made the decision that her day was done.

Germany’s Anja Ippach was actually first onto the run course, around four minutes up on Emma Bilham (SUI), but within the first 5km her day would be over due to a back injury, perhaps impacted by the conditions, soon after being passed by the Swiss athlete.

Bilham looked in total control on the run – compact, powerful and very efficient, and was simply running away from everyone with every stride. 3:16:16 was a marathon time, leaving her almost 30 minutes clear at the finish. A winner of the Alpe d’Huez Long Course and Cannes International Triathlon, Bilham is clearly an athlete who excels on tough courses and challenging conditions.

IRONMAN Ireland, Cork – Sunday 23rd June 2019
112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run (swim cancelled due to cold water / weather conditions)

(NOTE – final times subject to confirmation)

PRO MEN

1st – Alistair Brownlee (GBR) – 7:44:16
2nd – Bryan McCrystal (IRL) – 7:49:55
3rd – Markus Thomschke (GER) – 7:58:10
4th – Justin Metzler (USA) – 8:08:10
5th – Seppe Odeyn (BEL) – 8:08:45

PRO WOMEN

1st – Emma Bilham (SUI) – 8:50:18
2nd – Pleuni Hooijman (NED) – 9:19:50
3rd – Amanda Wendorff (USA) – 9:28:32
4th – Michelle Heneghan (IRL) – 9:50:01