Just when you think you're tough enough

Challenges Triathlon

Sanders and Kessler take it home in Ironman Arizona

Meredith Kessler led right from the swim to her Ironman victory. Image from
Meredith Kessler led right from the swim to her Ironman victory. Image from

Lionel Sanders pulled off a brilliant run while Meredith Kessler enjoyed a wire to wire win at IRONMAN Arizona

Marko Albert (EST) was first to run up the steps of the Tempe Town Lake with Brent McMahon (CAN) right on his heels just seconds back. Drew Scott (USA), Andrew Starykowicz (USA) TJ Tollakson (USA) Kevin Collington (USA) Maik Twelsiek (DEU) made up a chase pack of six over two minutes back.

Once on the bike, to say Starykowicz hammered his way to the front of the race would be an understatement. The American overcame a two-minute deficit and stormed to the lead within the first eight miles of the bike and never looked back. The remainder of the field was left to watch Starykowicz annihilate the course in front of them. When it was all said and done, Starykowicz laid down a 4:03:36 bike split that was over 10 minutes faster than anyone else in the field. The race best bike split netted Starykowicz what appeared to be insurmountable leads of 12:43 on Tollakson, 14:43 on Sanders, and 14:48 on Twelsiek.

Once on the run, it was apparent from the start that Starykowicz was handing back time to the field and that that the leader was faltering badly. In contrast, Sanders was flying and chewing into Starykowicz’s lead at a blazing rate. Watching the pacing of the two, Sanders was running 30 to 60 seconds faster per mile at various points during the run. Around 17 miles, Sanders grabbed the lead from from a struggling Starykowicz.

Behind the new leader, McMahon was also moving hard, and putting down the fastest run on the day but had too large of a deficit at the end of the bike to be a real threat for the lead. Sanders’ blistering pace on the run netted the Canadian the title win in a finishing time of 7:58:22. McMahon would grab second, while Tollakson, who was close to front of the race all day, finished third.

Lionel Sanders wins Ironman Arizona. Image from
Lionel Sanders wins Ironman Arizona. Image from

Kessler leads all day

Meredith Kessler (USA) exited the lake first with Sarah Haskins in her shadow five seconds back. The pair had Julie Gajer (DEU), Amanda Stevens (USA) and Christine Jackson well over two minutes in arrears before reaching their bikes.

Kessler was all business on the bike as she proceeded to gap Haskins right away and started putting time into everyone throughout the bike. Haskins kept the race close early, then she fell off the pace late in the first of three laps on the bike and faded out of contention. Much like the men’s race, Kessler established well over a 10-minute lead on Stevens, her closest rival when she dismounted her bike. Gajer, Melanie McQuaid (CAN) and Michelle Vesterby (DNK) followed Kessler and Stevens into T2, but were looking at deficits ranging from 12:22 to 17:03 to overcome.

Kessler was never under any real threat throughout the run, but had Stevens running just a bit faster than her throughout the run. It wasn’t until late in the run that Stevens managed to reduce her gap to Kessler to under 10 minutes, and by then it was too late. Kessler went on to successfully defend her title her with the win, while Stevens claimed second and Gajer finished off the podium.

Top 5 Pro Men

1 Sanders, Lionel CAN 0:54:04 4:13:38 2:47:07 7:58:22
2 McMahon, Brent CAN 0:47:08 4:23:32 2:46:25 8:00:57
3 Tollakson, Tj USA 0:49:14 4:16:23 2:54:45 8:04:17
4 Starykowicz, Andrew USA 0:49:12 4:03:35 3:09:04 8:05:56
5 Rapp, Jordan USA 0:52:34 4:15:49 2:55:28 8:08:05

Top 5 Pro Women

1 Kessler, Meredith USA 0:48:25 4:42:13 3:08:58 8:44:00
2 Stevens, Amanda USA 0:51:07 4:50:10 3:06:39 8:52:31
3 Gajer, Julia DEU 0:51:05 4:52:06 3:15:06 9:03:15
4 Roberts, Darbi USA 0:51:41 4:56:59 3:12:00 9:05:10
5 Vesterby, Michelle DNK 0:52:52 4:54:34 3:19:45 9:11:31