Notoriously hot, hilly and windy, the morning started slightly overcast at Club la Santa today, as almost 500 athletes lined up ready to take on the third Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote. That wasn’t to last though, as the sun broke through to leave athletes running in up to 30 degree heat with the famous Lanza winds notably absent.
Heading up the pro field for Great Britain were Will Clarke, hoping to add another 70.3 win to his 2014 trophy cabinet following his first at Wimbleball earlier in the year, and Lucy Gossage, winner of Ironman Lanzarote in May, who was using the race as part of her preparation for Kona in a couple of weeks (see earlier interview here). They faced some tough competition though – in the men’s field Spain’s Victor Del Corral was back to defend his 2013 title, while France’s Romain Guillaume was looking to make it the triple after already winning 2014’s full-distance Ironman Lanzarote and the Volcano Triathlon also held at Club la Santa. In the women’s race, Lucy faced competition from Denmark’s Helle Frederiksen, winner of this year’s Ironman 70.3 San Juan.
After a false start, they were off on the 1.9km lap of the lagoon at the front of Club la Santa, with age-groupers started 3min later.
First out of the swim was Marko Albert (EST) in 22:01 with Belgium’s Axel Zeebroek alongside (22:02). It was a close lead group though with Will Clarke in 22:14 and Romain Guillaume in 22:24. Victor Del Corral was 15th out of the water in 26:19 and later said he’d found the first section of the race tough: “I didn’t feel so good after the swim and started the ride with bad legs, cold legs, until the climb at la Tabayesco – when I started to push climbing”. In the women’s race, Helle Frederiksen was first into T1 in 22:56, almost four minutes ahead of Lucy Gossage.
Although renowned for one particularly tough hill, the bike course at 70.3 Lanzarote is in fact hilly from the start as it heads out from La Santa and climbs towards the town of Teguise, with long, straight roads and looming volcanic hills making for a dramatic backdrop. Athletes then have a fast, long downhill section before the infamous Tabayesco climb which takes them up 600m – via a series of switchbacks – to the island’s highest point above Haria. The final section is downhill again and back to Club la Santa for T2, where plenty of spectators are waiting to greet them.
In the men’s race, it was Romain Guillaume and Will Clarke leading, with Victor Del Corral with work to do to make it back up to the leaders. In the women’s race, Helle Frederiksen extended her lead and was soon 8 minutes ahead of Lucy Gossage, who later told 220 she was facing mechanical difficulties: “I had borrowed someone’s wheel because my wheel was broken and it was just rubbing the brakes the whole way round. My brakes are integrated – I almost took the back brake off, but then I thought I’d rather not crash! So I thought it was better to get the resistance training than have an accident before Hawaii. I’m proud I finished it and didn’t quit because I was about to. Especially going up Tabayesco, because usually I love climbing but you hear it more when you’re going slowly, it’s like ‘eeee eeee eeeee’!
Heading up the 7km Tabayesco climb, Guillaume pulled away from Clarke, extending his lead to 3min. Del Corral also steadily closed the gap and we saw a few changes in the lead pack until the men came into T2 with Guillaume retaining his 3min lead. Evert Scheltinga (NED) came in second, but incurred a 4min penalty for drafting. Will Clarke was 04:27 behind. In the women’s race Helle Frederiksen exited T2 with a 15min lead on Lucy Gossage, who had decided to carry on despite the bike fault.
The run leg of Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote consists of three loops of a flat course from Club La Santa into La Santa village, running alongside the lagoon. The real excitement came in the men’s race, where both Clarke and Del Corral put in an amazing performance, both closing the gap on Guillaume until with one lap to go there was just 10secs between Guillaume and Clarke, with Del Corral 30sec behind them. In a thrilling finish, GB’s Will Clarke turned up the gas and crossed the line just ahead of Victor Del Corral, with Romain Guillaume coming in third 2sec behind.
Talking to 220 after the race, Clarke said: “It’s absolutely amazing. That was my win of the year! There was such a personal battle on the whole race, but especially on the last lap of the run. I didn’t have great belief going in to the run because I could see that Viktor was only a minute behind and I just had to tell myself every lap that ‘you can do it, he’s hurting as well, he’s not just relaxing, you’re both smashed’. Just to push that hard on the last lap after four hours of racing and to beat him feels incredible.” Will also hinted that he might be tempted to return in 2015 to take on the full Ironman distance: “No promises, but I’ll think about it because I love the island. If you can start a race with a good feeling, before you even get to the airport, then that helps. It goes a long way when you’re pushing for eight or nine hours!“
Meanwhile in the women’s race, Helle Frederiksen finished in 4:29:59, smashing 10mins off the previous course record and making it a double win for the Uplace-BMC Pro Triathlon Team. Despite looking strong throughout, Helle admitted post-race to having found it ‘tough, especially on the Tabayesco climb’ and said she was surprised to have won by such a margin.
GB’s Lucy Gossage finished in second, with a gap of 20mins but admitted she was relieved to have had the mechanical fault now, rather than in Hawaii: “I had so many problems on the bike. But better now than in Hawaii! It was a good dress rehearsal. There were plenty of positives – I didn’t mind it hot, I had a good swim and I didn’t quit when I was about to throw my bike in a bloomin’ ditch! It was a good race, a brilliant race to do.”
Top three men
Will Clarke (GB) 4:04:17
Victor Del Corral (ESP) 4:04:23
Romain Guillaume (FRA) 4:06:54
Top three women
Helle Frederiksen (DEN) 4:29:59
Lucy Gossage (GB) 4:50:05
Nicole Woysch (GER) 5:03:29
Look out for a gallery of images from this year’s Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote online soon, plus coverage of the age-group race in the November issue of 220 Triathlon.