2021 has been a great year for both Jonny Brownlee and Lucy Hall – but there would be no podium champagne for either when the results came in at IRONMAN 70.3 Cascais.
Instead it was Denmark and France topping the charts in Portugal on Sunday.
As we highlighted in our pre-race preview, a large Pro field combined with some seriously quick swimmers suggested that the pace would be on from the gun. There was certainly a big incentive to shake out the field and potentially lose some of the ‘bikers’ inside the first 22 minutes, through the opening 1.9km swim at Ribeira Beach.
That storyline seemed to play out when a group of nine athletes, headed by Norway’s Jørgen Gundersen, gained more than a minute’s advantage on their chasers. That group included Christophe de Keyser (BEL), Brownlee (GBR), Aaron Royle (AUS), Antony Costes (FRA), Clement Mignon (FRA), Thomas Davis (GBR), Casper Stornes (NOR) and Menno Koolhaas (NED).
The biking power of Magnus Ditlev (DEN) was 1:22 back, with Brits James Scott-Farrington, Harry Palmer and Liam Lloyd in close attendance. Bart Aernouts (BEL) meanwhile was more than four minutes down, and outside the top 30. Bart has finished on the podium at Kona in the past – but that was his podium hopes done for the day with such so many quality athletes already several miles up the road.
The group would get shaken up over the first 30km of the bike. Ditlev bridged up to the front, with Mignon, Brownlee, Stornes and Royle now part of a leading quintet as Gunderson and De Keyser dropped back from the pace of the leaders. That remained the case for the next 30 km before the efforts of Ditlev to break clear finally worked.
The Danish athlete, eighth at the recent IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship, and (eventually) winner at Challenge Budva, would push on to reach T2 alone. He had a one-minute advantage over IRONMAN 70.3 Nice winner Stornes, with Brownlee, Royle and Mignon arriving 40 seconds later to complete the top five. Ditlev had the race-format experience – but there were some speedy ITU-style running legs set to hunt him down.
The chasing group totalled 14 athletes, led in by Felipe Azevedo (POR) from +3:18, and Great Britain’s Liam Lloyd was performing well to be part of that, alongside the likes of Aernouts and Gunderson.
Over the first 5km on the run Ditlev saw his advantage cut – Stornes within 30 seconds, Brownlee a minute, Royle and Mignon a further 30 seconds back. All still to play for with 15 km remaining.
Some 10km later and entering the ‘just a parkrun to go’ stage, the Dane was still holding strong at the front. Stornes was seemingly out of the race now, but Brownlee and a faster-running Mignon were now second and third, 50 seconds back. They were closing slightly, but was the tide turning and experience starting to count, as they weren’t making the expected gains on the uber-biker?
The tide was indeed turning – and for Brownlee, it was seemingly going out fast. While Ditlev used a 1:12:13 run split to stay strong for the win, both Mignon and Brownlee would fall back out of the podium positions altogether to fourth and sixth respectively, as Royle and Koolhaas (the latter with a race-best 1:09:46 run) – took second and third. Seventh recently at Challenge Salou, that was a breakthrough performance from the Dutch athlete.
PRO Women – Breakthrough race for Pierré
We had a relative rarity through the opening 1.9km swim in the women’s race. Not that Lucy Hall was leading – that’s pretty standard – but this time she had some company, courtesy of Lotte Miller (NOR). Some 1:24 back in third was Luisa Baptista (POR).
European Champion over the Standard distance, Julie Derron (SUI) was part of a chasing quartet 1:43 back, while Great Britain’s Kim Morrison would start her favourite discipline just over three minutes in arrears, in 10th position.
Hall’s racing approach, which has served her well this year, was straight into action on the bike and she was soon alone at the head of the field, and actually riding quicker than anyone over the opening third of the race. Sure, she’s a great swimmer… but she can bike the house down too!
That continued until the dismount line came into sight, by which time Kim Morrison had moved through the field and closed the deficit slightly, to two-and-a-half minutes. Morrison was not alone, she had Marjolaine Pierré (FRA) for company, who to date has done most of her professional racing on the domestic circuit in France.
In her fourth straight week of middle-distance racing, Hall started another half marathon – could the 2021 season podium streak continue?
By the halfway point of the run, the French athlete Pierré had joined the London 2012 Olympian at the front, but the real mover was Derron. From starting the run almost five-and-a-half minutes back in sixth position, she was already up to third and only a minute down on the leading pair, having made up five minutes relative to Hall and two to Pierre. Baptista in fourth place wasn’t far from matching Derron’s pace either. The potential was there for more position changes yet.
Writing on the wall? Think again! 5km later and while Hall continued to fall back through the field, Pierre was now gaining time back at the front over the Swiss athlete – and that strength continued to the finish, to claim a debut IRONMAN 70.3 victory via a well-paced 1:18:50 half-marathon. It was a relatively comfortable margin of victory too.
Derron really faded in that second half, and was actually overtaken by Brazil’s Baptista, having to settle for completing the podium in third when a win had seemed quite possible 30 minutes earlier. That’s sport!
IRONMAN 70.3 Cascais 2021 Results
Sunday October 24, 2021 – 1.9km / 90km / 21.1km
1. Magnus Ditlev (DEN) – 3:47:502. Aaron Royle (AUS) – 3:48:343. Menno Koolhaas (NED) – 3:48:344. Clement Mignon (FRA) – 3:48:575. Manoel Messias Dos Santos (BRA) – 3:49:286. Jonathan Brownlee (GBR) – 3:49:3113. Liam LLoyd (GBR) – 3:54:1216. Thomas Davis (GBR) – 4:01:0325. Brett Halliwell (GBR) – 4:14:10DNF? Harry Palmer (GBR)DNF? James Scott-Farrington (GBR)
1. Marjolaine Pierré (FRA) – 4:17:042. Luisa Baptista (BRA) – 4:19:473. Julie Derron (SUI) – 4:20:344. Lotte Miller (NOR) – 4:25:265. Lucy Hall (GBR) – 4:27:2811. Kim Morrison (GBR) – 4:38:55
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