Tim O’Donnell and Kelly Williamson won the Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 Texas titles in a race where the biggest story was the second long-distance outing of seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.
ARMSTRONG TAKES THE LIMELIGHT, O’DONNELL TAKES THE WIN
The pre-race talk had all centred on the former professional cyclist and Texas native, who after his strong showing at Panama 70.3 was hoping to fare even better against a top-class field in Galveston.
Lining up in the men’s field were two-time World 70.3 champ Michael Raelert and former Iron-distance world record holder Marino Vanhoenacker, as well as Sebastien Kienle, Ronnie Schildknecht, Tim O’Donnell and Armstrong.
Axel Zeebroek and Raelert set the pace in the swim, but were not all that far ahead of a pack of 10 others. Raelert exited the water first and came through T1 holding the lead.
He held his lead for a few miles before Armstrong put in his first move of the day to speed through the field and take the lead. But after a few miles the Texan sat up, perhaps realising that towing all the other contenders through the whole 56-mile bike leg would use far more energy than would be sensible considering the hot, humid conditions. Despite most of the favourites riding at the front of the race, nobody took command, but about halfway through the bike, Raelert got a puncture which appeared to put him out of contention (as he didn’t have a repair kit on his bike). Armstrong went to the front again and began to build a lead, and Sebastien Kienle began to move up through the field towards the leaders. Armstrong was first into T2, closely followed by Stephane Poulat, and started the run with a lead of about 20secs over the Frenchman and another 10secs over Kienle in third.
Onto the run, and Armstrong found himself overtaken by Poulat and Kienle was soon hot on his heels with both O’Donnell and Vanhoenacker beginning to close the gap too. Poulat himself faded and was overtaken by Kienle and Armstrong, but after half the run O’Donnell was looking extremely good, and eventually caught the German with a mile to go. Kienle tried to break from the American twice, but a counter from O’Donnell saw him take the win by 23secs. Kienle came in second and Schildknecht rounded off the podium positions in third.
WILLIAMSON WINS IN STYLE
In the women’s race, it was New Zealand’s Anna Cleaver who set the pace in the swim and lead into T1 followed closely by a group of about six athletes.
On the bike, Texan Kelly Williamson took the lead and stayed out front for a long time, before Anja Beranek challenged her, briefly taking first, with Williamson fighting back to go into T1 seconds behind her German rival.
On the run, though, it was no contest, as Williamson moved to the front, gaining a lead of 30secs over Amy Marsh in second after just three miles. Beranek fell back to fourth, and Dutch athlete Yvonne Van Vlerken held third. By about two-thirds of the way into the run, Williamson’s lead had grown to 4mins, and the race had become a battle for second place.
Van Vlerken moved up to take second behind Williamson, whilst Any Marsh – another Texan – took third, making it a good day for athletes from the Lone Star state.
1.2-mile swim | 56-mile bike | 13.1-mile run
1 Tim O’Donnell, USA 3:47:40
2 Sebastien Kienle, GER 3:48:03
3 Ronnie Schildknecht, SUI 3:48:49
4 Michael Raelert, GER 3:50:08
5 Stephane Poulat, FRA 3:52:35
6 Jordan Jones, USA 3:54:31
7 Lance Armstrong, USA 3:54:32
8 Marino Vanhoenacker, BEL 3:54:55
9 Jeremy Jurkiewicz, FRA 3:55:28
10 Axel Zeebroek, BEL 3:55:43
1 Kelly Williamson, USA 4:13:27
2 Yvonne Van Vlerken, NED 4:18:47
3 Amy Marsh, USA 4:20:16
4 Caitlin Snow, USA 4:22:03
5 Margaret Shapiro, USA 4:25:27
6 Sarah Piampiano, USA 4:26:43
7 Anja Beranek, GER 4:29:12
8 Heather Wurtele, CAN 4:29:34
9 Jessie Donavan, USA 4:30:00
10 Jennifer Tetrick, USA 4:31:09
PHOTO CREDIT: PAUL PHILLIPS