Joe Skipper had every reason to be happy after grabbing yet another full-distance victory at IRONMAN Chattanooga in Tennessee on Sunday.
The 33-year-old British star was hugely impressive as he came home more than eight minutes ahead of Lionel Sanders to win in a new course-record time of 7:46:19.
Skipper, who eclipsed the previous best time by almost 22 minutes, has enjoyed a great year which earlier included victory at IRONMAN UK and second at IRONMAN Switzerland. He also put in a highly creditable showing at middle distance in the inaugural Collins Cup.
At one stage in Chattanooga the stage seemed set for an epic battle with Sam Long, as Skipper and the American set the pace on the bike leg and into the run. ‘The Big Unit’ though was forced to DNF midway through the marathon.
From ‘Yo Yo Yo’ to Joe Joe Joe
Skipper said: “I don’t know really what happened with Sam. He lost a bit of time when he was riding really strong. Started the run, got a bit of a gap and then I could hear him breathing right down my neck and I thought ‘I’m not sure how this is gonna go’. The next thing is he fell off the pace a bit, I was just able to keep strong and get the win. It’s been awesome to finish the year off with a win here, it’s really made my day.”
Skipper has not one but two IRONMAN World Championships to look forward to next year – he had already qualified for St George in May and Kona in October before this race. But this victory topped off a fine season, and he paid tribute to the fans who came out to support.
“It was awesome but to be honest a lot of the support was for ‘Yo Yo Yo’, I thought it was his home race! I thought that was really gonna give him the edge because every time we went past someone they were shouting ‘Go Sam’.
“I raced Jan (van Berkel) in Switzerland and that was his home race, and then I’m here and it seems like it’s Sam Long’s home race because everyone was cheering for him
“Honestly, no the support was really good so delighted with that, thanks to everyone – awesome race, great location and I’ll definitely be back again.”
‘That’s it’ for Lionel Sanders
Lionel Sanders was more than eight minutes behind Skipper in second place, and he was happy with the way he executed his race. As for trying to catch Skipper on the run though, it was never even a consideration for ‘No Limits’ as he admitted: “No, I was defending the Kona spot for sure”.
Sanders has had a gruelling summer, and now he is ready to recover and regroup – he revealed: “That’s it for me this season, that’s four ironmans, I’m getting pretty tired”.