Alistair Brownlee wins IRONMAN 70.3 Liuzhou

IRONMAN 70.3 Liuzhou logo

All goes to plan for Alistair Brownlee in China

Agnieszka Jerzyk wins a sprint finish thriller in the Women’s race in China

The race report on Alistair Brownlee’s second 70.3 victory of the season at IRONMAN 70.3 Liuzhou, China today? In truth, it was almost a carbon copy of what I said would happen in my pre-race preview. Fast swim (actually, he dropped everybody), build a huge lead on the bike, finish with a relatively untroubled run to take home the win, cheque, points and a good day of training. Job done.

For the women, the excitement went right down to the final finish straight, where Poland’s Agnieszka Jerzyk was able to win the sprint after a head-to-head with Imogen Siimmonds (SUI), to earn the top podium position by just three seconds.

The Men: wire-to-wire for Brownlee

After a busy time, limited run training and travel from the Commonwealth Games in Australia, Alistair Brownlee was never going to hang around and leave his push for victory to his currently slight under-cooked run fitness. Go out fast, build a big lead, ease home. As it turned out, he would indeed win in gun-to-tape fashion.

Out of the (current assisted) point-to-point 1.9km swim in the Liu River in a swift 21:49, Alistair was 1:12 clear of a group of eight which included the four athletes I’d referenced as his likely closest challengers in my preview; Craig Alexander (AUS), Sam Betten (AUS), Mark Buckingham (GBR) and Justin Metzler (USA). That would be the closest they got to the double Olympic Champion all day.

With a 2:01:16 bike split – by far the fastest of the day – Brownlee reached T2 with a massive 7:28 buffer over the three-time IRONMAN World Champion, Craig Alexander,who was a further 25 seconds ahead of Guy Crawford (AUS). Betten, Metzler, Buckingham and Rudolf Naude (RSA) rolled in to transition in close order, with a deficit of eight and half minutes.

Brownlee had no need (and probably, not the run fitness or desire), to produce any heroics over the half marathon today. For him, a 1:16:22 should be pretty comfortable and will hopefully have provided a training stimulus he needed. Despite Alexander going almost four minutes faster with a 1:12:51, the winning margin was still healthy at almost four minutes. Betten (1:13:13) also finished well to complete the podium, with Mark Buckingham in fourth.

Anyone still writing Brownlee off (again) after his Commonwealth Games racing? Fools!

The Women: a close one

Imogen Simmonds (SUI) lead the way through the swim, her 25:11 time bringing her to dry land 1:24 clear of Agnieszka Jerzyk (POL). Kate Bevilaqua (AUS) was third (27:55), with Sarah Piampiano (USA) well off the pace, over five minutes back in fourth

Jerzyk had caught Simmonds by 20km into the bike leg, but she couldn’t drop the former IRONMAN 70.3 Age-Group World Champion, and the duo would reach T2 together. Five minutes back, Sue Huse (USA), Anna Eberhardt (HUN) and Piampiano were next to arrive, just over five minutes back – the leading five women all having ridden very similar 2:21 / 2:22 bike splits. Piampiano is well known for her speedy running, but was five minutes too much?

Jerzyk and Simmonds ran together throughout, while Piampiano and Huse were eating in to their lead – 4:11 at 5km, 3:28 at 10km – before Piampiano finally broke clear of Huse, and the gap at 16km was hovering at just over two minutes.

The winner would be decided in the final metres, with Jerzyk (1:24:20 run split), just taking the win by three seconds over Simmonds (1:24:22). Piampiano’s fastest run (1:20:17) came up short, but earned her third place, less than a minute behind the leading pair.

IRONMAN 70.3 Liuzhou, China – Saturday 14th April 2018
1.9km / 90km / 21.1km

Pro Men

1st – Alistair Brownlee (GBR) – 3:45:28
2nd – Craig Alexander (AUS) – 3:49:17
3rd – Sam Betten (AUS) – 3:50:29
4th – Mark Buckingham (GBR) – 3:54:29
5th – Justin Mezler (USA) – 3:55:47

Pro Women

1st – Agnieszka Jerzyk (POL) – 4:19:13
2nd – Imogen Simmonds (SUI) – 4:19:16
3rd – Sarah Piampiano (USA) – 4:20:09
4th – Sue Huse (USA) – 4:21:07
5th – Anna Eberhardt (HUN) – 4:29:08

Age-Group

1st – Roger Canham (GBR) – 4:41:05 (50-54)
2nd – Matthew Ryley (GBR) – 4:42:46 (50-54)