Brits Brownlee, Lawrence win Ironman 70.3 St. George; video

ST. GEORGE – Two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner Alistair Brownlee and Ironman World Champion Holly Lawrence, both of Great Britain, captured the men’s and women’s Ironman 70.3 North American Pro Championships St. George Saturday.

Brownlee smashed the course record with a time of 3:41.58 –more than three minutes better than the previous record held by Jan Frodneo (3:45.21). Lawrence finished in 4:12.07, placing her first among the women’s pros and 22nd overall.

See more: News LIVE: Ironman 70.3 St. George; photo gallery

See more: Photo praises to the resolve of the ‘everyman’ in Ironman 70.3 St. George (with video)

Men’s pros

Last year’s winner, Canadian Lionel Sanders, also finished under the previous record time with a second-place finish just 33 seconds behind Brownlee. Sanders’ swim leg had him trailing Brownlee by 3:07.

L-R: Lionel Sanders (second), Alistair Brownlee (first) and Sebastian Kienle (third) pose for a photo at the finish of the Ironman 70.3 North American Pro Championship, St. George, Utah, May 6, 2017 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

American Ben Kanute led a pack of four swimmers out of the first leg, including Brownlee.

“I found Ben early and just did my best to stay on his legs in the swim,” Brownlee said. “I was able to stay with him.”

The swim was held at scenic Sand Hollow Reservoir in Sand Hollow State Park in Hurricane with water temperatures at 62 degrees.

Exiting the reservoir with Kanute and Brownlee were Australian Sam Appleton and Brit Stuart Hayes. The initial part of the bike leg has rolling hills with the back half much flatter leading into St. George proper. Brownlee began to distance himself from the initial pack on the bike leg. However Sanders and third-place finisher Sebastian Kienle had passed up all others and were together coming into the changing station for the run. But Sanders had only knocked off 15 seconds of Brownlee’s lead.

The transition point beginning the run starts in historic downtown St. George’s Town Square Park then loops through Bluff and Diagonal streets before a hard climb up Red Hills Parkway through and along the south end of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. It then finishes with an amazing view of the city while running along the bluff returning to the finish line on Main Street alongside the Town Square Park.

As the run progressed Brownlee would maintain a cushion through the first 6 miles.

L-R: Alistair Brownlee and Lionel Sanders congratulate each other at the finish of the Ironman 70.3 North American Pro Championship, St. George, Utah, May 6, 2017 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

“I had trouble getting fluids down all morning,” he said. “After the first 6 miles I still had a bit of a lead so I began to slow my pace. I wanted to make sure I finished.”

Sanders knew he was closing in on Brownlee. With a few miles left, the gap had closed to 65 seconds.

“I figured he was toying with me,” a smiling Sanders said after the race. “Now I know for sure he was. We all knew that when (Alistair Brownlee) entered the Ironman arena that it would elevate the competition for all of us.”

“This was a tough course and a tough field,” Brownlee said. “Every course is tough. Here when I was biking up the hills I knew at least that I would also be going down them as well. But the competition here is world-class. I could have done easier races but I wanted to measure myself against the top runners in Ironman.”

Kienle finished third this year – just four minutes behind the leaders with a time of 3:46.20. Last year, he placed second in the 2016 edition of Ironman 70.3 North American Pro Championship St. George.

“I was happy to finish second in the ‘human’ category,” the German native said.

Women’s pros

A new female winner was assured when two previous winning competitors, Heather Wurtele and Meredith Kessler, were not in the St. George race field.

The race was Holly Lawrence’s to lose from the start. The Welsh triathlete is the current Ironman World Champion. She came out of the water with the two other medalists, Jeanni Seymour (Republic of South Africa) and Ellie Salthouse (Australia).

Professional triathlete Holly Lawrence transitions to the run portion of the Ironman 70.3 North American Pro Championship, St. George, Utah, May 6, 2017 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

“I was able to get out of the transition quicker than they did,” Lawrence said. “I knew I had to have a good time on the bike because I knew that they would close ground on the run.”

Lawrence finished the bike leg in 2:17.46, more than seven minutes faster than her two chasers. Seymour was able to close almost five minutes on the run but could not overcome the distance. Lawrence finished 22nd overall with a time of 4:12.07. Seymour finished 28th overall with a time of 4:15.12. Salthouse, who fell behind Seymour in the run, finished 35th overall with a time of 4:22.25.

“It was hotter than I expected it to be,” Lawrence said. “It was a tough race for me today physically. But I knew everyone else was racing in the exact same conditions.”

Saturday’s race featured nearly 2,500 triathletes from all over the world, 587 of them from Utah. This year’s competitors ranged from ages 18-77 representing 31 nations and 43 states. The course includes a 1.2 mile swim, followed by a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run.

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