Alistair Brownlee, Emma Bilham win shortened Ironman Ireland
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Alistair Brownlee(GBR) and Emma Bilham (SUI) grabbed their first Ironman victories on tough, chilly and rainy condition in Cork, Ireland. Horrendous water conditions, described as cold and rough seas has forced the organizers to cancel the swim leg, and turn the Ironman into a bike-run duathlon event. An estimated 2500 athletes joined the inaugural Ironman event in Ireland, and the wind and rain did not stop thousands of family, friends and local spectators from watching and lining the course in east Cork.
With Brownlee expected to dominate in the canceled swim leg, he had to work out a sizeable deficit of 13 minutes and 26 seconds going out of T2 as local pro triathlete Bryan McCrystal cycled the race best split of 4:37:50. A race-best 2:51:31 marathon gave Brownlee the win in 7:49:20, a 1:59 margin over McCrystal and 9:26 over 3rd place finisher Markus Thomschke of Germany.
Emma Bilham used the strength of her women’s best 3:16:16 marathon to finish in 8:50:18, a whopping 29:32 winning margin over Pleuni Hoojiman of the Netherlands and 38:12 over 3rd place Amanda Wendroff of the United States.
Anna Ippach of Germany was the strongest biker among the women’s elite, registering a top split of 5:28:05. Ippach went into the run with a 2:25 lead over Bilham. After the 5km mark, Bilham was able to pass Ippach for the lead. Ippach would eventually retire from the race due to lower back pain.
With their wins, Brownlee and Ippach both qualified for the 2019 Ironman World Championships in Kona this October.
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