Ironman Frankfurt: Chris McCormack and Chrissie Wellington redo Hawaii
Posted Jul 07 2008 7:04pm
In what will be one of the most memorable Ironman’s of the decade, Chris McCormack and Chrissie Wellington repalyed Hawaii by grabbing theEuropean Championship at Ironman Frankfurtby the horns and not letting go till they had both posted blistering times.
Let’s start off by setting the stage: Ironman Frankfurt this year had 500,000 people show up, they had live television (14 hrs across 6 stations), and yes the Europeans now how to set up a true party. This particular Ironman crowns the European Champion and with it the respect of emerging victorious in front of one of the largest triathlon crowds of the year. This is race is on my top 10 list of races I’d like to cover (not necessarily race as I will discuss below) and it seems like they try to outdo themselves each year that goes by. The second part to this great race is the type of competition that comes out to Frankfurt. Let’s leave the pro ranks behind for one moment and quote a little slowtwitch forum factoid: “32 males in the 35-39 AG went sub 9:30, 86 went sub 10. … That’s absurd!!!” What you are reading right there are times that you will not see in any race outside of Europe. Let’s look at my age group, the 25-29 year old men: 16 under 9:30 with the first 5 under 9:05 and the winner of that AG posting a crazy 8:49. So not only do you have a combination of great event promotion and execution, but you also see some blistering times against stacked competition, which brings us appropriately to the pro race.
On the women’s side the clear favorite was Chrissie Wellington. No woman has shown this level of domination in Ironman competition in years, probably a decade. Sure Natascha Badmann would win an early Ironman and the win Hawaii, but winning four ironmans in a row, and not only that but winning every_single_ironman ever raced? Chrissie did the unthinkable in winning the World Championship in 2007, but then has backed it up with wins in Australia and now has Frankfurt to add to her four in a row streak. Her splits were a fish like 48 minute swim, with a 4:57 bike (on a longer than official bike course), and a 3:01 marathon. She missed taking the world Ironman record from the great Paula by just 30 seconds by posting an 8:51:24. Take a big gulp and read that again. Instead of gunning for the finish she took time at the finish shute to high five and run with a bunch of kids - the live reports quote her: ““It would have been great to have broken that record and go down in history, but what was more important for me was to savor that moment. A couple of weeks ago Brett (her coach, Brett Sutton) said to me, if your in a position that you can, take the time to savor the moment. I haven’t experienced an atmosphere like that, not even in Hawaii.” Nicole Leder tried to stay with Chrissie but when you are setting the second fastest Ironman ever by a woman no one is going to stick to you. As a reminder, Chrissie after Hawaii mentioned that she thought the female record could be broken and more than a few scoffed (I am guessing some on the west coast…). Scoff no more sirs, because Chrissie easily could have broken the record today and with a regular 180km bike course would have been minutes under it. Nicole Leder (winner of 2007) finished in second, while Wenke Kujala rounded out the podium on the women’s side of the ledger.
Oh but that was not all, on the men’s side the Ironman battle of the summer would play out between Chris McCormack, Eneko Llanos, Faris Al Sultan, Cam Brown, Normann Stadler’s (Normann pulled out because of some sickness and will race Lake Placid instead) teammate Jan Raphael, brothers Hektor and Eneko Llanos, and last year’s winner Timo Bracht. Macca pretty much said I will come to Germany, I will face da Germans, and I will do what I do - win. For his cocky self assuredness, McCormack has become the most consistent Ironman this decade and has propelled himself into the top 10 triathletes of all time. Frankfurt proved to be no different as he posted his 4th time going under the magical 8 hour time with a 7:59:55. No other person has gone under 8 hours more often than Macca and his drive toward breaking the record (it’d take 7:50) should prove fruitful sometime in the next two years the way he is racing. Apparently Faris tried to make a break from the leaders on the bike (they were all riding 25 mph, for 112 miles…not for the faint of heart) but that proved unsuccessful and by the time the marathon started Faris was three minutes behind and ended up pulling out to DNF. Macca and Eneko went to the front and raced each other through the loops of the 26.2 mile run course. With about four miles to go Macca took the lead and never looked back, proving that when 140.6 miles are on the line, the most feared name in triathlon is that guy with the Aussie accent and a triathlon library for a mind. The times for the other top males are pretty funny to look at, because on different course or on a different day they could all be wins. Eneko got second with a 8:00:49, Timo Bracht third with an 8:04 (and a day’s best 2:42 marathon!), even Cam Brown posted an 8:08 to earn fourth. In the end the first five guys ran under 2:50 and Macca’s 2:45 sure looks like good for it only being July.
Congratulations to the age group victors, as Stefan Werner from Germany posted an 8:41 and Joanna Carritt from Great Britain earned the podium with a 9:43.
***Finally, for those who don’t understand the title of this post, Macca and Chrissie were the 2007 Ironman World Champions at the annual race that takes place in Kona, Hawaii.