With some top-quality talent toeing the line, Ironman 70.3 Florida gave us another thrilling race for Collins Cup points and prize money, with athletes battling oppressive heat and humidity as well as each other.
The men’s race came down to the wire with Bart Aernouts (EUR #27) just holding off a fast-closing Matt Hanson (USA #2) while Emma Pallant-Browne (EUR #15) took victory by over four minutes, marking her out as a serious Collins Cup contender.
Bart Aernouts (EUR #27) – 3:47:41 (swim 29:26 / bike 1:59:46 / run 1:13:01)
Matt Hanson (USA #2) – 3:48:19 (swim 27:51 / bike 2:04:42 / run 1:10:37)
Andreas Dreitz (EUR #8) – 3:49:03 (swim 27:27 / bike 1:58:37 / run 1:17:27)
Emma Pallant-Browne (EUR #15) – 4:18:47 (swim 28:33 / bike 2:17:53 / run 1:26:35)
Lesley Smith (USA #11) – 4:23:04 (swim 28:56 / bike 2:23:01 / run 1:24:12)
Heather Jackson (USA #6) – 4:27:41 (swim 30:32 / bike 2:17:25 / run 1:34:05)
Neo-pro Alexander Khalamanov led from the water in an impressive 26:28, but the focus was on the uber-biker pairing of Andreas Dreitz (EUR #8) and Magnus Ditlev (EUR #12), who were only a minute down.
Despite racing hard in Texas last weekend, it was no surprise to see Dreitz quickly shoot to the top of the leaderboard on the bike, nor that Ditlev, he would DNF on the run, was on his wheel. The pair stretched their lead throughout the bike to reach T2 three-minutes clear of third-place Bart Aernouts (EUR #27), a talented runner with Kona-podium pedigree.
Dreitz was first off the bike, leaving transition at a storming pace but Aernouts was steadily eating into his lead. Meanwhile, Matt Hanson (USA #2) had 6:06 to make up, a tall order even for the man whose running speed strikes fear into hearts of every other competitor.
By eroding his deficit, Aernouts finally relegated Dreitz to second by 18km. Hanson, 1:16 back at the same point, charged hard, dipping under 3min/km pace as he hunted down Dreitz in the last 500m. While he overtook the German, he was 38 seconds shy of Aernouts, who claimed victory in 3:47:42, Dreitz taking third comfortably.
Aernouts’ strong 70.3 performance is sure to put him on the Collins Cup radar while Hanson yet again reinforces his Team USA auto-qualification spot with the day’s fastest run – a staggering 1:10:37.
More accustomed to sprint-distance racing, Sonja Catano’s swift 27:29 swim would’ve ranked her sixth in the men’s event. But the American’s lead was soon wiped out by Emma Pallant-Browne (EUR #15), who, as a renowned bike-runner, put in a strong swim herself, 20 seconds clear of the rest of the field.
Heather Jackson (USA #6) – two minutes behind out the water – soon pulled into second while Lesley Smith (USA #11) found herself riding away from the rest of the field in cahoots with compatriots Lisa Becharas (USA #19) and Mollie Hebda.
Coming into T2, Pallant-Browne had a 1:43 lead on Jackson despite the latter putting in the day’s fastest bike split – 2:17:25. By halfway through the run, the South Africa-based Brit had a five-minute lead on Jackson, but Pallant-Browne wasn’t the fastest mover on the course. That accolade went to Smith, who chomped away at her six-minute bike deficit to the higher-ranked Jackson, the 37-year-old making a statement of running prowess to the Collins Cup captains.
By 14km, Smith was in second, but Pallant-Browne’s lead was never under threat. The Brit crossed the line in 4:18:47 with a 4:17 margin of victory over Smith, who posted the day’s best run of 1:24:12. Jackson held tough for third, finishing another five minutes back.
While Team Europe is surely the most competitive Collins Cup squad to make, Pallant-Browne’s complete performance in Florida has sent a clear message that all the women above her in the table should watch their backs.Next article