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Metzler walked his own rules tightrope to claim ‘zippergate’ podium at IM 70.3 Maine

Justin Metzler ended up being the being promoted to third at IRONMAN 70.3 Maine - but only after avoiding a potential penalty.

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Justin Metzler was the man who inherited third place after the disqualification of Matt Sharpe at IRONMAN 70.3 Maine on Sunday. But he almost fell foul of triathlon’s rules himself.

Sharpe was DQ’d as the zip on his race suit was fully undone – and disconnected – when he crossed the line, a decision he described to us as “heartbreaking”.

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‘You’ve got to roll with the punches’

And while full of sympathy for Sharpe, Metzler revealed to us that he was in danger of collecting a penalty of his own early on the bike.

He said: “Matt may have had one of the performances of the day and just some unfortunate events didn’t see him up [on the podium].

“Unfortunately, sometimes these things happen but you’ve just got to roll with the punches.”

Explaining what happened to him, he told TRI247 that trying to get a water bottle down the front of his suit “went a bit awry”.

The practice is perfectly legal and has been adopted by several high-profile athletes, though the aero benefits vary from person to person.

Metzler explained: “I tried to put the bottle down my chest but my kit came undone and I was on the bike already so I was trying to deal with this 1.5 litre bottle and couldn’t really get my jersey secure.

So anyone watching the live coverage might have noticed me looking like a bit of a parachute there for the first 20 miles of the bike.

“But I didn’t want to get a littering penalty so I just sort of managed that… but it prevented me from maintaining contact with the leaders there.”

Ironically the potential penalty Metzler is referring to came just three sections after the zipper info in the IRONMAN competition rules document, point 5 (l): “Any item that needs to be discarded, including but not limited to water bottles, gel wrappers, bar wrappers, broken bike parts, or clothing items, may be discarded only in the designated trash drop zones at each aid station. Discarding any item outside of the trash drop zones is prohibited; (5:00 Minute Time Penalty).”

‘You can never really complain with a podium’

It proved to be a far better outcome for Metzler and he was also buoyed by his performance in all three disciplines, adding: “It was definitely a solid day. I got right on Matt Sharpe’s feet, and was pretty much swimming flat out to stay on them even though it was down-river. Greg Harper was about 20 seconds ahead of us both.

“I was pushing great 70.3 power for me on the bike after that challenge at the start. I was able to finish it strongly and my mental game was really on point as I was just pushing all day and trying to stay in the mix.

“I’m still just trying to get my run form back but that’s the best I’ve felt either in a race or probably in a workout for a very long time. I think I’m getting a little bit better in terms of the feeling and the numbers in each race. So looking forward to building on this and you can never really complain with a podium, however you might have got there.”

IRONMAN 70.3 Maine podium 2023 Trevor Foley Gregory Barnaby Justin Metzler Photo credit: Meg Oliphant / Getty Images for IRONMAN
Metzler, left, took the final spot on the podium [Photo credit: Meg Oliphant / Getty Images for IRONMAN]
Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner is News Director for both TRI247 and RUN247, and is accustomed to big-name interviews, breaking news stories and providing unrivalled coverage for endurance sports.  
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