Bart Aernouts ran his way to a dominating victory in Ironman Hamburg. The Belgian took the title in a time of 7:05:25 after an impressive performance. His BMC-Vifit Sport team mate Will Clarke (7:20:17) crossed the finish line in 4th place after making his move in the closing marathon. With these stellar performances both athletes secured their qualification for the World Championship Ironman in Kona, Hawaii. Joe Skipper (GBR; 7:12:35) finished 2nd with James Cunnama (RSA; 7:13:54) rounding off the podium.
World Class performance
An unusual start of an Ironman as the officials were forced to cancel the swim due to toxic blue algea in the water. Therefore, the 3,8k swim was replaced by a 6k run. For Bart Aernouts it was a throwback to his roots as he is schooled in duathlon and a former World Champion in that discipline.
The opening 6k run didn’t cause any major upsets for the athletes. Bart reached T1 in first place as leader of a big group of about 20 athletes. Will Clarke was part of that group as well.
On the bike, the group stayed together for a very long time. Halfway through the bike, there were still 13 athletes in front of the race. Bart and Will rode attentively in front of that group. A different story in the final 50k with Bart opening up a gap together with Cunnama. The leading duo entered T2 with a 1’ advantage over Don in 3rd. Clarke made sure not to blow himself up in the final kilometres on the bike, knowing he can make up a lot of time in the run. He started the closing marathon in 8th place, about 10’ down on his team mate in front of the race.
Bart ran the first kilometres alongside Cunnama, but after 6k the Belgian was able to break away. From that point onwards, Aernouts started to control the race. Skipper was able to reduce Barts lead to 1’40 with 16k to go, but then the BMC-Vifit Sport athlete showed his skills by finding another gear and pushing up his pace. He continued to extend his lead towards the finish line. In a winning time of 7:05:25 Bart Aernouts crossed the finish line, posting the fastest running split of the day in 2:39:51. His teammate Will made some moves in the second part of the marathon. He charged his way through the field as he took over 4th place with 13k to go. Clarke clocked the 3rd fastest running split of the day (2:45:39), just one second short of the 2nd fastest marathon time. With these results and performances both Bart and Will secured their qualification for the World Championship in Hawaii.
After his fantastic performance, Bart Aernouts looked back at a great day in Hamburg: "I am really pleased with my performance today. The crowd and the athmosphere were absolutely amazing and really got the best out of me. Of course it was a shame that the swim got cancelled, but there is not much you can do. I wanted to make sure not to overdo it in the opening first run. I tried to take it fairly steady but set myself up in a very good position to start the bike. On the bike I tried to break things up several times but in the first 90K the group stayed together. I felt strong all day and we were able to keep pushing hard in the final hour on the bike. It is then that the group split apart and I entered transition together with Cunnama. During the run I was able to set the pace and take the lead. It was definitely a big day for the legs but I was able to keep my pace and control. It was a really important test for me today leading up to Kona and I am really pleased with my performance and the victory here in Hamburg.
Also Team mate Will Clarke was quite satisfied with his performance. “I definitely didn’t have a super day, but I am happy with my performance and qualification for Kona. The starting run was actually quite fast already. In the first part of the bike they set an incredible fast pace and I paid the price for it towards the end of the bike. I kept faith that with a solid marathon I would be able to move up some places. Again, I felt pretty good on the run, but not amazing. I managed to run a steady 3:50/km pace which resulted in a very nice marathon. After all the bad luck in IM UK, I’m over the moon to qualify for Kona. Now, it’s time to recover and then all eyes are on Hawaii.
Ronnie Schildknecht 5th in Ironman Switzerland
It was a 5th place finish for Ronnie Schildknecht in IM Zürich. He exited the water in 18th place to start his hunt towards the front of the field. On the bike, Ronnie was able to move up to 8th place. The Swiss athlete claimed that position for a very long time, but he continued to run a very strong pace in the second half of the marathon and made his move. He took over control of 6th place with 16k to go. But Schildknecht wanted more. He dug deep and made a pass for 5th place in the final kilometres of the run. With the second fastest marathon time Ronnie crossed the finish line in 5th place. With this result Schildknecht is the sixt BMC-Vifit Sport athlete to secure his Hawaii qualification as well.
After the race Ronnie reacted with mixed feelings: "I got 5th place and of course I am dissapointed. I came here today with the ambition to win my 10th time in Zurich. If I don't win I lose in my eyes. I didn't have a bad day, but neither a great day. And average was not enoug today. I want to thank everybody for the massive support out on the course. It is always very emotional racing here on this course.