Sebastian Kienle wins Ironman European Champs in Frankfurt in 7:52:43, Hauschildt takes the women’s title
The 15th anniversary of the Mainova IRONMAN European Championship in Frankfurt featured phenomenal racing by new champions, Germany’s Sebastian Kienle and Australia’s Melissa Hauschildt.
by Volker Boch, gallery by Getty Images
Kienle and Boecherer battle it out
Sebastian Kienle and Andreas Boecherer nailed a phenomenal race at the 2016 Mainova IRONMAN European Championship Frankfurt, where Kienle ran to his second European title after winning in 2014. One year after a thrilling course-record show with IRONMAN world champion Jan Frodeno, this time, Germans Sebastian Kienle and Andreas Boecherer highlighted a historical event with an unbelievable battle. This race was the best possible gift to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the event. “I didn’t believe that Andi would be able to run a sub 2:50 or even next to 2:50, he absolutely proved me wrong today,” said Kienle later after a classic showdown on the run course.
Even before the race, Boecherer was one of the men expected to rule the race early in the water. Besides Estonian Marko Albert, Frenchman Denis Chevrot and American Tim O’Donnell, the fast German swimmer set the pace in the lead group from the get-go. Although there were good swimmers lined up at the front in the Lake Langener Waldsee, the pace was not exceptionally fast, due to the 23.8 degrees Celsius water temperature and non wetsuit-legal swim (for pros).
Albert led the field into second lap together with Boecherer, before the German felt a bit cold and couldn’t follow the Estonian’s pace in the second lap. Albert hit T2 after 48:12, and the lead group had an unexpectedly long tail. Boecherer was the last athlete of this first group to exit the water (in 13th place).
2014 IRONMAN European champion Sebastian Kienle was not happy with his performance in the water due to the fact that he was four minutes down. “My swim was not good today but I’m really happy with my bike and especially with the run,” he said later. The reason why he was smiling at the press conference was because the rest of his performance was purely magic to watch.
Once on the bike, Kienle hit the gas and started making up time on the flat first part of the bike course. After only 30 kilometers he had already reduced the gap down to the half, and by 60 km, he was only about a minute behind the leader. Obviously, the 31-year-old went through the course with smart tactics. When he caught up with the lead group he didn’t hammer to the front immediately, but stayed relaxed and controlled. Even when he saw his chain falling off a few kilometers later and had to stop setting the pace at the front of the first group, he didn’t panic.
On the second bike lap, the German uberbiker took over the lead role in a tough trio with Boecherer and 2013 IRONMAN European champion, Eneko Llanos. While the rest of the pro field lost contact to these three, they started into a hard marathon battle. Llanos, known as one of the most consistent marathoners in the sport, couldn’t follow the pace of his two German contenders; Kienle and Boecherer’s average pace was nothing short of crazy. Kienle never gave up the lead and eventually opened up a gap of 100 seconds with 9 kilometers to go. Boecherer performed the marathon of his life getting very close to Kienle over the final kilometers.
Kienle made the final turn to the Roemer in first place taking an exhausting, glorious win, with Boecherer just 57 seconds behind him. “I never had a better second place,” said Boecherer, “this doesn’t feel like second.” Llanos fought hard to come back from the run, eventually making a decisive pass for third place ahead of Marko Albert and the fastest runner of the day, Will Clarke. American Tim O’Donnell had a tough day at the office including a bike crash after leaving transition. He started into the run in 11th place and finally secured his Kona spot with a 9:12:58 finish time.
Hauschildt runs to the European crown
Australia’s Melissa Hauschildt took a shining win at the 2016 Mainova IRONMAN European Championship. While top favorite Daniela Ryf had to drop out, the 33-year old ran to a great victory.
In the women’s race, no one was even thinking about anyone other than Daniela Ryf. And at the start, the day seemed to proove all of the predictions right. Only a few minutes into the 2016 Mainova IRONMAN European Championship, the Swiss had already set her sails for another great title. “The first few meters in the water were extremely good,” said the reigning IRONMAN world champion.
When the pro women started into the European championship two minutes after the pro men, Ryf seemed to be heading into her own race, as she started catching the male pros on the first lap. But all of a sudden, Ryf slowed down on the second lap and started to swim some strokes on her back. “I felt really really cold,” she told the media at the post-race press conference.
“My goal was to get as fast out of the water as possible,” Ryf said. She still managed the best swim in 53:45, more than two minutes ahead of Germany’s Natascha Schmitt. But the 29-year-old was moving slow when she came out of the water. She needed a long time in the transition zone, and when she started onto the bike course, her problems became bigger. “I haven’t been able to stay in the aero-positon,” Ryf said. “It was not my day—it was more about a survival than about a race.” After less than 30 kilometers, she dropped out of the race.
Ryf’s decision not to continue left Schmitt in the main spot. The local hero from Frankfurt passed thousands of familiar faces during a great bike ride. “The bike leg was more or less relaxed,” she said later after having set the best split. “The crowd was on my side, absolutely fantastic.” Starting into the marathon, Schmitt had a 5-minute lead over Germany’s Daniela Saemmler, with Australia’s Melissa Hauschildt 6:30 down. Verena Walter held onto fourth almost 8 minutes back. It took Hauschildt less than three kilometers to claim the runner-up position, with Schmitt looking quite strong in first place.
It was the day of the not-so-well trained marathoners in women’s competition. Due to injuries, most of the top five pros had to reduce their training to a minimum preparing for the 2016 Mainova IRONMAN European Championship. “I saw a big question mark coming up after 20 kilometers,” said Schmitt after not being able to run more than 20 kilometers over the past few weeks. Compatriot Saemmler later had a similar quote about her run. “I wasn’t sure if I could run a marathon,” she said. “I felt happy for the first time today at km 41.5.”
Hauschildt was gaining time on Schmitt with every single kilometer, and shortly before they hit the 20 kilometer mark, the 2015 IRONMAN Asia-Pacific champion made the pass. “I tried to pace myself, running not too hard. I was only running for four weeks before this race,” said the 33-year-old. “I really wanted to win because I really wanted to qualify for Kona.” The Australian eventually was allowed to make this dream come true thanks to a great performance scratching the 9-hour barrier. “The black carpet on the way to the finish line was just amazing.”
While Hauschildt started to celebrate her great win right after she had crossed the finish line, it might take Katja Konschak a few more days to soak up this 2016 Mainova IRONMAN European championship experience. When she started into the run, the German was more than 15 minutes behind the lead. Then she nailed the best run split with a 2:57 marathon and stormed into second place. “I’m not sure if I can believe it,” she said right after the race, “my run was really fast, it was such a good race.” Five kilometers away from the finish line she took over silver position from Saemmler, who had passed long-term leader Schmitt at the 32 kilometer mark.
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