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British Olympic champion Jess Learmonth STARS on triathlon return from childbirth

After two years away from racing action, the Olympic gold medallist was back on Sunday at IRONMAN 70.3 Kraichgau, Germany.

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Olympic gold medallist, Jessica Learmonth, returned to triathlon racing for the first time in more than two YEARS on Sunday at IRONMAN 70.3 Kraichgau in Germany. And second place to home favourite and now five-time winner, Laura Philipp, represented a very positive return.

Back in early May 2022, what would prove to be a series injury sustained at the Arena Games Triathlon Finals in Singapore initially put the brakes on her swim, bike and run ambitions. Then followed far more positive news, with the arrival of baby Freddie in September 2023. And while there were a few errors along the way today, that didn’t stop her leading the field in familiar style through the swim and bike disciplines.

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PRO Women – five times a champ for Laura

Few things in life are as reliable as a Jess Learmonth swim lead, and even going off course in the Hardstee didn’t stop her from reaching T1 with a two and half minute lead, with Philipp a full three minutes back.

As the Brit retained her lead at the front, Philipp didn’t take long to quickly emerge as the sole chaser on the bike, and the duo would arrive at T2 in close order, more than four minutes clear of German Laura Jansen.

Philipp took control early in the run, and that would be the top three positions for the full half marathon. Her 4:13:12 finish time was her best to date in Kraichgau, where she has now won five of the last six editions.

IRONMAN 70.3 Kraichgau 2024 - Laura Philipp
(Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

‘Rusty… but delighted’ – Jess Learmonth on her racing return

“I didn’t start great today – almost got DQ’d after 10 minutes in the swim when I missed a buoy. Thankfully realised and turned around and swam back and got on course, must have lost over a minute.

“The bike was good – hard terrain, but I enjoyed it.

“On the run I got a penalty for undoing my helmet in T2, which I think we were allowed to do, and feel the official may have got it wrong, but it is what it is. I ran within myself to make sure that I finished.

“All in all, a few errors, but I’m very rusty! I guess I’m just delighted to finish after a potentially career-ending injury and a child.”

IRONMAN 70.3 Kraichgau 2024 - Jess Learmonth post-race

PRO Men – Heldoorn runs to title

Second earlier this year at IRONMAN New Zealand, Dutchman Niek Heldoorn took a narrow victory over the 2023 champion, Justus Nieschlag.

In typical fashion, the home athlete lead the way in the swim, but was closely followed by the likes of Joshua Lewis, Jannik Schaufler, Valentin Wernz and Nils Lorenz. Heldoorn was a minute down heading towards his bike in T1.

Nathan Guerber made light of his swim deficit, and within the first 20km was pushing the pace at the front, eventually managing to break clear and he completed the 90km a minute clear of Lewis, who in turn had around 30 seconds buffer over a chasing group, including Heldoorn and Nieschlag.

Midway through the run it was Heldoorn leading, followed by Nieschlag a minute later and then a fast moving Jonas Hoffmann now having bridged up the Lewis. That remained pretty much the position over the second half of the run, with Heldoorn crossing the line less than a minute clear of the former champion, and Hoffmann completing the podium positions,

IRONMAN 70.3 Kraichgau 2024 - Niek Heldoorn
(Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

IRONMAN 70.3 Kraichgau 2024 Results

Sunday 26 May 2024 – 1.9km / 90km / 21.1km

PRO WOMEN

  • 1. Laura Philipp (GER) – 4:13:12 [27:37/2:24:27/1:17:20]
  • 2. Jessica Learmonth (GBR) – 4:19:28 [24:36/ 2:27:02/1:23:25]
  • 3. Laura Jansen (DEN) – 4:23:44 [27:21/2:29:00/1:23:16]
  • 4. Diede Diederiks (NED) – 4:26:38 [29:45/2:29:25/1:23:08]
  • 5. Jana Uderstadt (GER) – 4:27:05 [27:33/2:31:24/1:24:03]
IRONMAN 70.3 Kraichgau 2024 - Women Pro podium, Laura Philipp, Jess Learmonth, Laura Jansen
(Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

PRO MEN

  • 1. Niek Heldoorn (NED) – 3:50:13 [23:48/2:11:05/1:11:46]
  • 2. Justus Nieschlag (GER) – 3:51:11 [22:49/2:12:03/1:12:24]
  • 3. Jonas Hoffman (GER) – 3:52:45 [23:49/2:13:13/1:11:46]
  • 4. Nathan Guerber (FRA) – 3:54:21 [23:44/2:09:23/1:17:13]
  • 5. Bart Aernouts (BEL) – 3:55:03 [26:45/2:10:35/1:13:31]
IRONMAN 70.3 Kraichgau 2024 - Men Pro podium, Niek Heldoorn, Justus Nieschlag, Jonas Hoffman
(Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)
John Levison
Written by
John Levison
TRI247's Chief Correspondent, John has been involved in triathlon for well over 30 years, 15 of those writing on these pages, whilst he can also be found commentating for events across the UK.
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