Vanhoenacker Posts Fastest IRONMAN Performance Ever
By Adam Hodges
July 3, 2011 (Klagenfurt, Austria) – In 1997, Belgian triathlete Luc Van Lierde established a mark that has gone untouched for fourteen years. At IRONMAN Europe in 1997, Van Lierde became the first man to break the 8 hour barrier for the IRONMAN distance by clocking a winning time of 7 hours 50 minutes 27 seconds. His splits included a 44 minute swim, a 4 hour 28 minute bike, and a 2 hour 36 minute marathon. That record has dangled out there like a carrot as winning times at IRONMAN races have continued to fall over the years. Yet until IRONMAN Austria this year, nobody else has been able to break Van Lierde’s benchmark time.
Given that Van Lierde hailed from Belgium, it is perhaps fitting that the IRONMAN world record should be passed on to fellow countryman Marino Vanhoenacker. Vanhoenacker not only set a new world record at this year’s IRONMAN Austria, he shattered Van Lierde’s old record by nearly five minutes. Vanhoenacker’s 46:49 swim, 4:15:37 bike, and 2:39:24 run added up to a new IRONMAN world record of 7:45:59.
Vanhoenacker’s record-setting performance was his sixth victory in a row at IRONMAN Austria. He came out of the water in fifth position, but used the bike leg to assert a commanding lead. Not only did he notch the fastest bike split of the day, but the time also represented the third fastest bike split in IRONMAN history. Despite the blistering pace, Vanhoenacker still had enough left in his legs for an impressive sub-2:40 marathon. He ran to the finish unchallenged to sew up the record-setting win.
Austrian triathlete and local favorite Michael Weiss tried his best to reach Van Lierde’s benchmark in a tough race against Vanhoenacker. Although he had to settle for the runner-up spot behind Vanhoenacker’s performance, Weiss became a member of the elite club of sub-8 hour IRONMAN athletes with his 7:57:39 performance.
In the women’s race, American phenom Mary Beth Ellis debuted at the IRONMAN distance not only with a win but by setting a new performance mark for a debut IRONMAN – 8:43:34. Ellis exited the water in first position and remained there by posting the top splits in the bike and run legs. Her main rivals, Erika Csomor of Hungary and Diana Riesler of Germany, fought it out for second and third place. Csomor clocked a time of 8:51:10 to Riser’s 8:53:34.
This year, IRONMAN Austria saw 2800 athletes take to the starting line, representing over 43 nations. In true European fashion, about 100,000 spectators lined the course and finish area to witness the day’s performances.
IRONMAN Austria Results
Klagenfurt, Austria – July 3, 2011
2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
Top Pro Men
1. Marino Vanhoenacker (BEL) 7:45:58
2. Michael Weiss (AUT) 7:57:39
3. Marko Albert (EST) 8:08:17
4. Tom Lowe (GBR) 8:11:30
5. Stephen Bayliss (GBR) 8:16:47
Top Pro Women
1. Mary Beth Ellis (USA) 8:43:34
2. Erika Csomor (HUN) 8:51:10
3. Diana Riesler (GER) 8:53:34
4. Heleen Bij de Vaate (BEL) 8:56:11
5. Eva Dollinger (AUT) 9:05:13