Speechless is not a word that anyone would associate with the always upbeat and super chatty Nikki Bartlett, but a second career IRONMAN victory, achieved at IRONMAN Wales 2023 on Sunday, may even had that impact on her. At least, for a few seconds!
Consistent all day
It’s no secret that Bartlett’s triathlon strengths lay on dry land, but the former Elite rower has been chipping away at her swim for many years now.
While the Pro entry numbers in Tenby were small, kicking off the day in second place and stopping the clock at just a few seconds outside of the hour mark was a solid start. That put her in second place, and just 2:43 behind Johanna Ahrens (GER) starting the challenging bike course around the Pembrokeshire coast.
Bartlett brought significant experience to the event she told me earlier in the year was her favourite race, having finished third in both 2016 and 2018. She put that to good use from the start, and by 40km had already moved into a four-minute lead. That was one she built on over the next four hours, and with the day’s best bike split (5:25:33) in the bag she would actually start the run almost 15 minutes clear of Finland’s Heini Hartikainen, with Rebecca Anderbury having ridden her way up to third place, 23 minutes down.
Nikki’s riding has always been strong – a consistent trait from those with a rowing background – but she has really been making significant progress on her run too over the past 18 months or so, reflected in top-10 finishes at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Champs in both 2021 and 2022. With such a lead, that would likely not be needed, but always a confidence booster to have that in reserve.
Through the first half of the very tough run course in just over 1:34 (and having extended her significant T2 advantage a further four minutes), Bartlett would cross the line in very happy mode with a 3:16:45 run split, a 23 -minute winning margin and a huge smile.
Dreams coming true
After having to withdraw from IRONMAN Frankfurt in race week early in the season, this race and performance meant a lot to the Brit, words she expressed via her Instagram account:
“One of the best days of my life. Oh may days!! Dream. Come. True. IRONMAN Wales Champion baby!
“Absolutely chuffed to bits! I can’t even express how epic this rae and atmosphere is. The people and place makes this race so special. I can’t even put it into words.!
“Thank you so much for everyone’s support out there. Crowds. Athletes. Volunteers! I actually felt like a celeb for the day! Topping it off to have my family, friends and Bex there too.”
Big picture: the French connection…
While most attention this coming week will mean eyes on the Men’s IRONMAN World Championship in Nice, Sunday’s performance in Tenby ticks another box in a longer-term plan for Bartlett.
She is very much seeing the 2024 IRONMAN World Championship – which for the Pro Women will be in Nice – as an 18-month project which has already started. Very excited by the very different terrain and conditions to Kona, this ticks the qualification box for 12 months time, providing additional freedom in terms of race planning and approach to success next year.
It was also a pretty smart move, financially. IRONMAN Wales offered a $50,000 prize purse, and with the event being a Pro Women event only, that means a top prize of $15,000.
All-in-all, a pretty perfect day.
IRONMAN Wales 2023 Results
Sunday 3 September 2023 – 3.8km / 180km / 42.2km (No Pro Men race in 2023)
- 1. Nikki Bartlett (GBR) – 9:52:02
- 2. Heini Hartikainen (FIN) – 10:15:22
- 3. Johanna Ahrens (GER) – 10:30:21
- 4. Camille Deligny (FRA) – 10:52:32
- 5. Rebecca Anderbury (GBR) – 11;36:40
- 6. Margrit Eifers (GER) – 11:40:32