Ironman Texas was the most anticipated long-distance event of the weekend and with 6 Kona slots on offer for athletes, the start list was hotly contested. All eyes were on Daniela Ryf in the female field, with thoughts turning to how much she would win by, rather than whether she would take the tape. In the male field, the potential podium was much more open and up for the taking. However, if there was one thing certain, it was that Andrew Starykowicz would take the lead in the men’s field at some point between T1 and T2 due to his monster bike leg. Would Matt Hanson back up his World Record-breaking performance from last year with another victory? He told Zone3 “I had pretty high expectations leading into my 6th attempt at Ironman Texas. I have had a great deal of success on this course in the past and felt that I was in great form leading into the race.”
The swim was a non-wetsuit event due to water temperatures, so athletes donned their swimskins rather than neoprene and set off into the Woodlands’ canal at 6:25 am. It didn’t take long for the race to split up, which is surprising for a race with calm swim conditions. Hanson said “Typically this race had been a 2-group swim with a few stragglers here and there or maybe 1-2 guys off the front. This year, we were coming out in 3s and 4s rather than a big group, something you typically see in a rough ocean swim”. After a solid start to his swim, Joe Skipper said: “I was in about 5th position but then it seemed about 3 of us came together and clashed and I ended up losing quite a lot of spots and seemed to end up in around 12th position.” A lead group of 3 exited the water after just over 49 minutes, with a gap of 1 minute to a group containing Starykowicz. The rest of the main contenders including Joe Skipper, Sam Proctor, Matt Hanson and Kyle Buckingham exited a further few minutes back and set to work catching the leaders on the bike leg.
Most of this main pack stayed together throughout the bike, with Starykowicz and Patrick Nilsson carving their way through at the front of the field. 120km into the 180km bike leg, this group was caught by Michael Weiss from the pack behind. Weiss continued to apply the pressure at the front of the group, and it soon splintered leaving the less strong cyclists behind. By T2, v had a lead of 9 minutes over Nilsson and a gap of 20 minutes over Hanson, Buckingham, Skipper and Proctor. Skipper was struggling with back issues and got slightly removed from the group “at that point it was damage limitation to get to the finish of the bike leg. I ended up entering transition 1 minute behind, losing that 1 minute in the last 5k as I could barely push the pedals and only averaged 218w compared to a total ride average of 302w!”
Off the bike and onto the run, attention focused on putting one leg in front of another for the final marathon. Sam Proctor summed up his thoughts saying “Time to run a marathon. First thought, don’t be stupid Sam, remember it’s a marathon. But it is a race I didn’t come just to beat Joe Skipper out of the swim. Remember to relax, keep form strong, keep hydrated and fuelled.”
Joe Skippers thoughts of the marathon - “My legs felt absolutely horrendous and the thought of still running a marathon was the last thing I wanted to do. Out of transition and at the start of the run I thought about pulling the plug. My legs and body felt terrible and I couldn’t bear the thought of suffering for another 2.5-3 hours, but these are the demons you get in every Ironman”
Patrick Nilsson set off in hot pursuit of Staryokowicz, and by mile, the halfway point the pair were neck and neck, with a gap of 10 minutes to the fast charging Matt Hanson and Joe Skipper. Staryokowicz’s powerful bike legs aren’t best suited for running, so within a few minutes, Nilsson had flown past the American and taken the lead. Matt Hanson eventually faded due to his early efforts to get on the podium and the heat, and Joe Skipper took full advantage with 2 miles to go to overtake Hanson for 4th place. Sam Proctor in his first Ironman finished in 8th and in doing so posted the 2nd fastest British debut IRONMAN time ever! Keep an eye on this talent in the future!
“This weekend has really exceeded any expectations I had coming into IRONMAN Texas and I’m looking forward to lining up on another IRONMAN start line soon.”
Matt Hanson told us “It was definitely not the result that I was hoping for, however I’m taking quite a few positives out of the day. The field was quite talented and knowing I am in the mix still on a day where I am not at my best shows that we are doing something right. “
Challenge Gran Canaria
Race report from Pieter Heemercky – 2019 Champion of Challenge Gran Canaria
“Over the weekend I raced the Challenge Mogan Gran Canaria. This race counted towards the World bonus ranking where I wanted to defend my current first place. After a really good swim in the new Vanquish wetsuit, I managed to get out of the water in second place, only 30 seconds behind Manuel Küng from Switzerland. On the hilly bike course, I didn't have my best legs of the season but luckily I was able to keep racing near the front of the race and by the end of the bike leg I was in third place in T2.
The run went much smoother than the bike and already after 6k in the run I was able to move to the lead. From that moment I controlled the race to run to my second victory of the season in 3 weeks’. Manuel Küng took the silver medal and Nan Oliveras from Spain completed the podium. It was a tough race but I am super happy that I could collect important points for the World bonus ranking. Next race will be The Championship in Samorin. Last year I was able to take 4th place but with the current shape I hope to get on the podium this year!”