IMSA competitors face harsh weather conditions
The 8th edition of the Spec-Savers IRONMAN South Africa provided a true test of character today as athletes were faced with trying weather conditions. Spain’s Clemente Alonso-McKernan came out on top after a long battle with Andi Boecherer (GER) and Cyril Viennot (FRA) while Natascha Badmann (SUI) completed her comeback by winning at the place where she last won a title.
Things looked ominous in the evening before the event and Sunday morning didn’t give much cause for optimism. Rain and strong winds lashed the Port Elizabeth beachfront as many athletes became anxious about whether there’d be a swim start. Fears were allayed as conditions improved slightly and the swim start went ahead with 1553 athletes in the mass swim start.
Boecherer made his intentions clear from the outset, backing up his confident words leading up to the race. He was the first man out of the water for the first loop followed by Alonso-McKernan and Switzerland’s Mike Aigroz. After a relatively slow swim, Boecherer exited the water first in a swim split of 00:54:58 in hot pursuit by Alonso-McKernan 00:54:53 heading into T1. Kent Horner, in 3rd, was the first South African out of the water in 00:57:55. With Raynard Tissink not competing for a win, the local hopes were pinned firmly on Horner.
Out on the bike was when things started to get difficult as the athletes cycled into a strong head wind towards the turning point. This was the trend on every loop as the wind speed picked up during the day reaching 57km per hour near the turnaround. Boecherer however, never looked troubled as he powered on eventually amassing a lead of 2 minutes over Alonso-McKernan and Cyril Viennot. Boecherer proceeded to stretch his lead to nearly 4 minutes only for the chasing pair of Alonso-McKernan and Viennot to close the gap heading into T2 to 2 minutes. Boecherer went into T2 with a bike split of 04:44:03. With Boecherer out in front, an interesting sub-plot developed between 2nd and 3rd with only 24 seconds between the two heading out onto the run. With both Alonso-McKernan 04:48:51 and Viennot 04:43:58 both strong runners the outcome was still difficult to predict despite Boecherer’s, until then, largely unchallenged lead.
As it often does in South Africa the race came down to the run with Boecherer pushing hard to maintain his lead over the chasers. The German looked good for his lead until after the 14km mark when he eventually withdrew after 18km on the run. Boecherer’s withdrawal opened the way for Alonso-McKernan and Viennot and also left a slight opening for Switzerland’s Mike Aigroz.
This was how things remained for the duration of the race and the Spaniard took the title in a time of 08:41:48 ahead of Cyril Viennot 08:46:04 and Aigroz 08:57:21. The times are a far cry from the records of last year, but with the conditions being as challenging as they were, it made the victory that much sweeter.
The ladies race was similar with Simone Braendli holding a lead for much of the race, only for her compatriot, Natascha Badmann to come from behind to take her fourth Spec-Savers IRONMAN South Africa title. Braendli was the first lady out of the water in loop one and maintained her lead until she went into T1 in a sime split of 01:00:04. Spain’s Virginia Berasategui 01:03:54 followed Braendli into Transition with South Africa’s Dianne McEwan 01:07:00 out of the water in third.
Once on the bike Braendli asserted some early dominance as she set out to stretch her lead over Berasategui. At the 60km mark the Swiss had a lead of 2 minutes 57 seconds over Berasategui eventually becoming 11 minutes at the 120km mark. By this time, last year’s third place finisher, Diana Riesler made her move into third place.
On the final loop of the bike, positions began to change with Berasategui falling back. Badmann made her move and was in second place heading into T2, trailing by 9 minutes. Braendli went into T2 with a bike split of 05:14:54 while Badmann recorded the fastest bike split in a time of 05:14:54 while Riesler came into T2 with a bike split of 05:26:57.
Braendli saw her lead slowly dissipate with Badmann becoming dominant on the run. By the 9km mark Braendli’s 9 minute lead was cut down to only 5 and by the 18km mark Badmann was closing in, only 44 seconds behind.
At this stage Badmann’s fourth title was imminent as she eventually took the lead after 23km. There was little doubt from that point onwards as to who the 2012 ladies champion would be as the Swiss Miss crossed the red carpet to rapturous applause from the knowledgeable crowd who saw her do the same three times before at Ironman South Africa. She finished in a time of 09:47:10. After a failed return last year and amidst some trying conditions, this victory will surely go down as one of her most memorable. The last time Badmann won an Ironman was on this very finish line. It was a day when that unmistakable smile returned. Braendli 09:52:26 and Riesler 10:01:14 made up second and third respectively.
The 2012 Spec-Savers IRONMAN South Africa was truly a test of the athlete’s credentials but despite the conditions, the event was once again enjoyed by spectators and respected by the athletes. The 8th edition of the event will surely be talked about for a long time to come.
Provisional Results Top 10 PRO Men
1. Clemente Alonso-McKernan (ESP) 08:34:35
2. Cyril Viennot (FRA) 08:41:48
3. Mike Aigroz (SUI) 08:46:04
4. Markus Fachbach (GER) 08:57:21
5. Trevor Delsaut (FRA) 09:03:03
6. Petr Vabrousek(CZE) 09:09:57
7. Craig Twigg (GBR) 09:10:48
8. Sylvain Rota (FRA) 09:11:24
9. Kent Horner (RSA) 09:14:39
10. Guilherme Manocchio (BRA) 09:20:56
Provisional Results Top 5 Ladies
1. Natascha Badmann (SUI) 09:47:10
2. Simone Braendli (SUI) 09:52:26
3. Diana Riesler (GER) 10:01:14
4. Dianne McEwan (RSA) 10:07:55
5. Susan Dietrich (GER) 10:08:02