Chris McCormack thrillingly won his second Ironman World Championships in Hawaii on Saturday when he held off a spirited challenge from Andreas Raelert to take the Kona crown in a time of 8:10:37.
Craig Alexander, the two-time defending champion in Kona, wasn’t the only person who credited the win to a few gutsy moves by McCormack. The first came on the bike, when he pushed the pace and got himself in a group that included some of the strongest cyclists in the world – Normann Stadler, Faris Al-Sultan, Raelert and Raynard Tissink. The next came when he and Tissink made another strong move to ride themselves clear of Stadler and Raelert.
That move put McCormack out in front of Raelert off the bike. The couple-of-minute lead he held on the German was an almost nine-minute lead over the defending champ. All three would fly through the initial stages of the marathon, putting in sub-six minute miles as they flew through the opening miles.
Also up there was Marino Vanhoenacker, who had also ridden clear of many of the men in the race, coming off the bike in third behind strong cyclists Chris Lieto and Maik Twelsiek. The fun really began in the second half of the marathon, though. With Alexander running at 2:35 marathon pace behind them, McCormack, Raelert and Vanhoenacker did everything they could to go for the title themselves.
McCormack and Raelert would eventually find themselves running stride for stride.
“I was getting some stomach cramps at the end,” McCormack said of the intensity of the closing miles. “Your body starts rebelling. I was sticking my hand right up my rib cage.”
It was the last aid station on the course that would prove pivotal.
“I couldn’t believe he went to the aid station,” McCormack said. “My attitude, at that point, is to close my eyes, grit my teeth and go for it.”
Which is exactly what he did. Raelert wasn’t able to respond and had to watch as McCormack ran to his second title.
Raelert would hang on for second, finishing just a few seconds ahead of Vanhoenacker, while Alexander and Tissink rounded out the top five.
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