Swiss veteran Mike Aigroz turned up the heat in broiling conditions to claim his breakthrough IRONMAN victory in Malaysia at stunning Langkawi Island.
The 37 year old managed to out-kick Thailand-based Swede Fredrik Croneborg after the pair ran side-by-side for the last half of the 42.2km marathon run.
Meanwhile German Diana Riesler dominated the women’s race to defend her title in emphatic fashion, winning by 12 minutes from fast-finishing Spanish athlete Gurutze Frades with the legendary Natascha Badmann in third.
Mike Aigroz has enjoyed podiums around the world over the last six years as well as sixth placing at Hawaii in 2011, but now finally steps to the top of the podium for the first time.
“I’ve been working for one IRONMAN win my entire life; I’ve been training for 37 years,” says the Swiss athlete.
American Balazs Csoke clocked 49:09 to lead a bunch of six chasers including eventual winner Aigroz out of the 3.8km swim, with one of the pre-race favourites, Croneborg 1:13 back.
The 2014 IRONMAN Lanzarote champion Romain Guillaume showed his renowned biking strength to push out to a lead – ahead 2:40 at 22km, 5:13 at 70km, and 8:31 at 120km. Even the air-conditioned hall at T2 could not cool off his sizzling 4:39 bike which enabled a 10:31 buffer over a chasing group including Aigroz, Harry Wiltshire (GBR), Paul Ambrose (AUS), Csoke and Alberto Casadei (ITA).
By 10km on the run the lead was back to 4:21 to a chasing trio of Wiltshire, Croneborg and Aigroz, but Guillaume quickly melted in the heat and by 15km Aigroz, Wiltshire and Croneborg had taken charge.
Wiltshire’s brave run faded with 8kms remaining with Croneborg and Aigroz running side-by-side until the Swiss veteran managed to out-kick the Swede to win by just 10 seconds in 8:52:02.
Croneborg, second recently at IRONMAN 70.3 Taiwan, enjoyed a strong second placing with Englishman Wiltshire, sixth in Wales this year and third in Japan in 2014, finishing three minutes back in third.
Singapore’s Claire Davis had the honour to lead the women’s pro field out of the 3.8km swim along with South African-domiciled Lucie Zelenkova in 54:39 with defending champion Riesler nearly 5 minutes back and Badmann more than 9 minutes.
Zelenkova, twice an IRONMAN runner-up, made the early pace on the bike but by 70kms
Riesler had moved through the field to take charge, and from that point was never threatened. Australian Sarah Crowley stayed with the German until the final 40kms on the bike, with Riesler’s 5hr ride sufficient to open a 4:30 advantage over Crowley with the great Badmann nearly 16 mins back in third from Kate Bevilaqua.
The Queen of Langkawi proved the class of the field with her 3:29 marathon sealing a 9:37:06 overall time, good enough to be 15th overall in a dominant display.
“I’m feeling great, I was dreaming of it. My challenge was to defend the title and I did it; I’m really happy,” Riesler says.
Spain’s Gurutze Frades, more than nine minutes back out of the water, a distant 27 minutes adrift of the leader off the bike, was the class runner of the field with her 3:15 marathon the best by far, enabling her to muscle through the field to finish second.
She finished 12 minutes down on the winner in 9:49:09, five minutes ahead of third placed Badmann, the six-time IRONMAN World Champion, who at 42 years young, produced a remarkable performance.
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