Daniel Bækkegård and Fenella Langridge both took memorable wins in course record times at IRONMAN Western Australia to wrap up their 2023 seasons, as the pair returned strongly from a win and a podium respectively last weekend at Challenge Canberra.
Bækkegård held off the challenge of Australians Matt Burton and Nick Thompson in the men’s race, whilst in the women’s event Langridge was too strong for Sweden’s Lisa Norden and Dutch athlete Lotte Wilms as she grabbed her first pro IRONMAN win in great style.
Both podiums secured their slots at next year’s IRONMAN World Championship, with the women’s event taking place in Nice on September 22 and the men’s race in Kona on October 26.
Men’s Race – Bækkegård too strong in triumphant win
On a fast day in Busselton, Bækkegård was near flawless and would have won by an ever greater margin if it wasn’t for a brave and spirited performance from Burton, who pushed him all the way to the start of the run with a brilliant bike leg.
In the water, Sam Appleton led the way, as the Aussie exited the swim in a speedy 47:40, with seven athletes out in the front pack. Bækkegård, IRONMAN Australia winner Steve McKenna and a handful of other names had +4:27 over Burton heading into T1.
Over the opening stages of the bike, things were relatively calm, with the front pack staying mostly together and the majority of the action happening further back, as Thompson and Burton started to claw back time to make up their deficits from the swim.
By the halfway mark, the front pack had been whittled down to five men, with Bækkegård, McKenna and Appleton pushing the pace alongside Aichlinn Oreilly of Ireland and Scott Steenberg of Denmark. At this point, the group were holding the gap to Thompson and Burton, but that wouldn’t last.
As Bækkegård dropped Appleton and then the rest of the former front pack, Thompson and Burton continued to eat into the Dane’s lead, with Burton going solo over the last 20km to bridge the gap and go past Bækkegård, leading by a handful of seconds into transition.
Running the first few kilometres together, Bækkegård then started ramping up the pace and by the 10km mark had a slim lead of 20 seconds, which he added almost two minutes to over the next 10km, leading by +2:10 at the halfway mark as Burton and Thompson looked safe in second and third.
Keeping his foot on the gas over the second half of the marathon, Bækkegård was a class apart on the run, splitting a phenomenal 2:37:43 to win by over six minutes in the end, as Burton went more than 15 minutes quicker than he did last year to secure second and a Kona slot, with Thompson rewarded for his tenacity on the bike in third.
Langridge takes down Norden with complete performance
In the women’s race, Langridge set the tone early on with the fastest swim split, leading out alongside Wilms with the rest of the field more than three minutes behind. Heading into T1, Australian Chloe Lane was the next best placed athlete at +3:08, with Norden at a similar deficit and Challenge Canberra winner Els Visser more than ten minutes behind.
On to the bike, Norden started to make back ground in the early stages, whittling down the lead of Langridge and Wilms to +1:50 by the 44km mark, with her deficit further decreasing to less than a minute by the time they passed through halfway.
By the 100km mark, Norden had passed both Langridge and Wilms, who continued to ride together, and looked set on breaking away on her own, putting close to a minute into the pair within the initial stages of making the pass.
As Norden continued to build her lead, Langridge proved to be too strong for Wilms, with the battle for the win looking increasingly likely to be between the Swede and the Brit, as London 2012 Olympic silver medalist Norden built an advantage of close to five minutes by the time they entered T2.
Setting out on a hot early pace in the run, Norden looked to be keeping Langridge at arm’s length, but slowly, the IRONMAN South Africa runner-up started to eat into her lead. By halfway, Langridge had more than halved the gap and looked full of running, with Wilms out of the picture in third.
Catching Norden at the 30km mark, Langridge seemed unstoppable, as she put over a minute into the long time leader in less than a mile and continued to extend her lead over the final 12km, building a comfortable margin of more than three minutes as she came into the closing stages of the marathon.
Coming home in a time of 8:29:43, after running a 3:03:52 marathon, Langridge took the win and achieved her pre-season goal of taking the tape at a major Ironman event, as Norden claimed second after some gutsy racing and Wilms rounded out the podium in third.
IRONMAN Western Australia 2023 Results
Sunday December 3, 2023 – Busselton, Australia
- 1. Daniel Bækkegård (DEN) – 7:34:23
- 2. Matt Burton (AUS) – 7:40:28
- 3. Nick Thompson (AUS) – 7:48:23
- 1. Fenella Langridge (GBR) – 8:29:43
- 2. Lisa Norden (SWE) – 8:33:02
- 3. Lotte Wilms (NED) – 8:40:59