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April 22, 2021

Dream Relay: IRONMAN 70.3 Florida

Emma Pallant-Browne and Bart Aernouts topped the podiums at IRONMAN 70.3 Florida after some thrilling weekend action in the Sunshine State.

Battling the heat and humidity, the pair showcased their undoubted qualities in challenging conditions at Lake Eva Community Park, Haines City.

Belgian star Aernouts, currently ranked #27 in the Team Europe qualification standings for August’s inaugural Collins Cup in Šamorín, took victory ahead of Team USA #2 Matt Hanson by 38 seconds. Team Europe #8 Andreas Dreitz rounded out the top three.

Pallant-Browne, meanwhile, outpaced a strong American contingent by 4:17 to put her name firmly in the mix for a Collins Cup berth. Currently Team Europe’s #15 ranked female, the Brit beat Team USA #12 Lesley Smith and #7 Heather Jackson to the top step of the podium.

How would the two victors have fared against the best athlete in each discipline from Sunday? We find out in this week’s Dream Relay:


Swim: Sonja Catano (27:29)

28-year-old American Sonja Catano was the lead performer in the swim. She exited the water more than a minute ahead of eventual winner Pallant-Browne.

Sonja is pretty new to longer distances after focusing on sprint triathlon through the early years of her career.

She showcased her ability as she took on several of Team USA’s potential Collins Cup candidates, beating the team’s current #7, #12 and #19-ranked athletes in the water.

Her time of 27:29 gave our latest Dream Relay a stunning start.Dream Relay: IRONMAN 70.3 Florida

Bike: Heather Jackson (2:17:25)

Collins Cup hopeful Heather Jackson was the fastest on two wheels as she produced a 2:17:25 split to top the bike timesheets by 29 seconds from Pallant-Browne.

The Team USA #7 exited the water more than three minutes behind Catano, but her dominant performance on the bike put her in contention for the victory, with only the eventual winner within three-and-a-half minutes of her scintillating pace.

The three-time IRONMAN World Championship medalist – with two of those podiums coming over the 70.3 distance – has exceptional pedigree on the bike which will certainly capture the eye of the Team USA captains.

Entering transition two, the Florida Dream Relay had a time of 2:44:54 – 1:34 ahead of Pallant-Browne.Dream Relay: IRONMAN 70.3 Florida

Run: Lesley Smith (1:24:13)

Team USA #12 Lesley Smith starred on the run, producing an unrivalled split of 1:24:13 – more than two minutes ahead of next best Pallant-Browne.

Lesley has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, and she gave triathlon reporters plenty to write about with her stunning half-marathon pace. She no doubt also made the Collins Cup captains take note.

The total time of 4:10:41 for the Dream Relay would have claimed victory by more than eight minutes from Pallant-Browne.Dream Relay: IRONMAN 70.3 Florida


Swim: Alexander Khalamanov (26:29)

Russian Alexander Khalamanov was first out the water in the men’s race in a time of 26:29 – some 22 seconds ahead of his nearest rival Jackson Laundry.

A three-time age-group IRONMAN World Champion in Kona (2016, 2017 and 2019), the Russian has showcased his capability over both half and full distance.

With the exceptional swim in Florida, Khalamanov gave himself a platform to earn a top-15 finish in the men’s race.

At this point the Dream Relay led eventual race victor Aernouts by 2:58.

Bike: Magnus Ditlev (1:58:17)

Denmark’s Magnus Elbaek Ditlev earned Dream Relay honours for the third consecutive race with a scintillating bike split of 1:58:17.

After dominating on two wheels at both the PTO 2020 Championship and CHALLENGEMIAMI, Ditlev further advertised his unrivalled prowess on the bike here.

The Dane’s split was 20 seconds faster than eventual third-place finisher Andreas Dreitz. Unfortunately for Magnus however, he was forced to retire half an hour into the run.

The Dream Relay’s time so far of 2:24:48 would have earned a lead of 4:16 over Aernouts, who had the third fastest split on the bike.

Run: Matt Hanson (1:10:37)

Another three-time Dream Relay accolade goes to Team USA’s Matt Hanson, who recorded a third consecutive fastest run split after efforts at the PTO 2020 Championship in Daytona and CHALLENGEMIAMI.

Currently ranked #2 in Team USA’s Collins Cup qualifying standings, Matt has made a habit of making a late charge in races and his exceptional running talent earned him second place on the podium here as he passed Dreitz in the final mile of the contest.

His run split of 1:10:38 was 2:25 faster than eventual race winner Aernouts, but the Belgian had too much in hand as he claimed victory by more than half a minute.

The total Dream Relay time of 3:39:42 would have triumphed by exactly eight minutes from Aernouts, but once again consistency was the key to victory.

The Belgian’s third-fastest bike split coupled with the second-fastest run earned him the top step on the podium.Dream Relay: IRONMAN 70.3 Florida

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