Frankie Sanjana earns first IRONMAN 70.3 title in France

IRONMAN 70.3 Les Sables d’Olonne / Frankie Sanjana

Another Brit tops the podium at the debut of IRONMAN 70.3 Les Sables d’Olonne

2013 IRONMAN World Champion Frederik Van Lierde bikes to another victory

(Photo Credit above: @IRONMANLive)

Well, that’s certainly one way to turn around a hugely disappointing race. From DNF to debut Pro victory… in two weeks.

While one British women bounced back from disappointment to the biggest result of her career, a Belgian legend added yet another title to an already overflowing career C.V.

PRO WOMEN

Two weeks ago in Samorin, Slovakia, I interviewed (HERE), Great Britain’s Francesca ‘Frankie’ Sanjana, ahead of the Challenge Family The Championship. In recent months I’d been noting Frankie’s performances, particularly fourth place at IRONMAN 70.3 Bahrain in December and, an arguably ‘better’ sixth place at IRONMAN 70.3 Texas earlier this year. It was a good opportunity to catch-up with the now Amsterdam-based Brit, about her progress under the guidance of a good friend of mine, Steve Trew.

Her race in Samorin would last little more than half an hour, extreme cramps leaving her unable to even start the bike – or indeed even walk properly for several days. Today’s race, the debut of IRONMAN 70.3 Les Sables d’Olonne was never even on her schedule until that point, but Elite sport sometimes requires last-minute changes, and the result was not just a first Pro IRONMAN 70.3 podium, but the top step. Funny how fast things can change?!

Fourth out of the swim (31:46) in her weakest discipline, the former rower was almost five minutes behind Léna Berthelot-Moritz (FRA). However, with second placed Jeanne Collange (FRA) – a multiple winner of Embrunman and the Alp d’Huez Long Course Champion in 2016 – still more than three minutes in arrears in second place herself after the swim, the race was very much open.

Anne Reischmann (GER) set the pace on the bike with the fastest split (2:28:04), but the Brit lost little time and would start the run just two minutes back on the German, in the company of the swim leader. Collange was only a minute further back, which would mean that the run would decide things.

Winning the race on the run? I suspect, when I catch up with her, that might well be the highlight of the day for Sanjana. A discipline she has struggled at and put so much work in to improve on, the Brit was quickly solo in second place and over the opening 8km the gap to the leader was holding pretty consistent. Approaching halfway, Sanjana was starting to make ground, but the gap was closing slowly and it would take until around the 10-mile mark to finally bridge up to Reischmann. A very new situation in her Pro career, how would the Brit deal with the pressue of potential victory, with just 5km remaining? Rather well.

Closing out the day with a 1:25:40 run (men’s winner, Van Lierde, ‘only’ ran 1:19:22), she pushed on and would take the tape for a winning margin of almost two minutes.

PRO MEN

Recent IRONMAN Lanzarote Champion, Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) proved that effort was out of his legs by powering to victory on the bike in France.

Andrey Bryukhankov (RUS) and Sebastian Fraysse (FRA) had a 1:15 lead on the main pack of chasers through the 1.9km swim – which included Van Lierde and British debutant, Fergus Roberts, (recently interviewed HERE). That lead was extinguished within 10 miles however, as the 2013 IRONMAN World Champion was making his intentions clear.

A 2:07:20 bike split gave him a cushion of five minutes starting the run over Fraysse, with another two French athletes, Denis Chevrot and Arthur Horseau, 6:30 back. Roberts would start the run in 12th, 12:16 down on the leader.

Van Lierde all but maintained his lead through the first half of the run, which allowed his a relatively comfortable final 10km to the finish. Chevrot would take second, but still two minutes behind at the finish.

Fergus Roberts finished with a 1:26:05 run on his debut, for ninth place. While significantly below his run potential, it will surely have been a good day of learning – and he’ll have opportunity to apply that quickly, with races in Denmark and Finland over the next two weekend’s.

IRONMAN 70.3 Les Sables d’Olonne, Sunday 16th June 2019
1.9km / 90km / 21.1km

PRO WOMEN

1st – Frankie Sanjana (GBR) – 4:32:26
2nd – Anne Reischmann (GER) – 4:34:17
3rd – Jeanne Collange (FRA) – 4:39:05

PRO MEN

1st – Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) – 3:56:46
2nd – Denis Chevrot (FRA) – 3:58:57
3rd – Arthur Horseau (FRA) – 4:02:44

9th – Fergus Roberts (GBR) – 4:15:45