Blummenfelt and Skipper break 7hrs but Norwegian takes the win

The reigning Ironman and Olympic champion continued his formidable run of form by becoming the first triathlete to go under 7hrs for iron-distance, with Britain's Joe Skipper also smashing the mark

Kristian Blummenfelt Sub 7 Sub 8

Both Britain’s Joe Skipper and Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt smashed the much-vaunted 7hr mark in the Pho3nix Foundation’s Sub7 event, but bragging rights went to reigning Olympic and Ironman champion Blummenfelt who took the tape first in an eye-watering 6:44:25.

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The 28-year-old bookended his effort with a 48min swim and stellar 2:30:50 marathon, but it was an incredible 3:24:22 bike split that made the major inroads into the incredible time.

Skipper’s performance of 6:47:36 can be argued to be equally as impressive. The Norfolk triathlete only received the call-up to race last week when double-Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee pulled out injured.

The PTO-ranked world No 12 even led the contest for the first half of the marathon, helped by a 3:16:42 bike split as his team of time-trial specialists held a remarkable 55kmph for the 112-mile bike leg.

“That was tough,” Blummenfelt said immediately post-race. “Even sitting at the back of the bike, the guys were pushing so hard, and kept us in the game. We were riding well over pace.”

“It’s probably the best long course experience I’d ever had,” Skipper, a five-time Ironman winner said. “It’s been amazing to be part of the team and flying through 180km at 55kmph was pretty incredible.

“The team were awesome all week, they couldn’t do any more. We took it to Kristian, rode quicker than we hoped, and I was just hoping he’d blow on the run.”

How the race unfolded

Credit: Mana Group/Pho3nix Foundation

In contrast to the women’s race, Blummenfelt and Skipper opted for just one swim pacer each for the swim.

This saved the majority of the support athletes for the bike leg, where both teams masterminded by Matt Bottrill (Blummenfelt) and Jacob Tipper (Skipper) believed any time savings could be maximised.

Aided by the likes of Grand Tour rider Alex Dowsett, hour specialist Dan Bigham, and the strength of the Ribble-Weldtite team, the bike performance even exceeded Skipper’s predicted split of 3:20.

The preceding swim was a slightly different matter. Despite having to withdraw from the challenge, double-Olympic champion Brownlee stayed on to help pace the 34-year-old through the 2.4 miles in Lake Senftenberg.

But they could do little to prevent Blummenfelt – swimming in the wake of seven-time Dutch national champion Lars Botellier – taking an early lead and continuing to extend it throughout the point-to-point course.

On to the bike and it was clear how much work had gone into drilling the team time trial formations of both teams throughout a busy preceding week.

Other than one close shave for Team Blummenfelt with a touch of wheels, both looked far more comfortable than you’d expect when hurtling along at 55kmph.

Team Skipper gradually ate into the lead before making the pass just after halfway through the bike leg. From there the gap increased to 2:30 by the time both triathletes made it safely back to T2.

Credit: Mana Group/Pho3nix Foundation

As the temperatures started to climb into the high twenties on the run, Skipper had adopted the novel approach of his outrider carrying a tank of chilled water that could be sprayed over him when required.

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But with Blummenfelt setting off with 2:09 marathon runner Barnaba Kipkoech for company he was gaining time with every mile, didn’t hesitate when it came to the pass, and even Skipper’s solid 2:36:43 run wasn’t enough to stop the Norwegian blasting through the sub 7hr barrier on his way to becoming a worthy winner.