Belgium’s Marten Van Riel added his name into the mix of top-tier middle-distance performers on Saturday with an impressive victory at IRONMAN 70.3 Dubai 2022.
“He’s going to be fast” – that’s what Olympic champion Kristian Blummenfelt said of Van Riel pre-race. That started in the water, where Van Riel led a breakaway group of five to a lead of more than a minute on Big Blu. Joining him were Daniel Bækkegård (DEN) and Filip Azevelo (POR) – first and second 12 months ago – plus Andrea Salvisberg (SWI) (who finished 22nd at the Tokyo Olympic Games) and former European Champion Pierre Le Corre (FRA).
While Blummenfelt has rightly garnered headlines for his 2021 season, he was going to have to work for a win here now, on the back foot less than 25 minutes into the race. He had Pieter Heemeryck (BEL), Antony Costes (FRA), Sven Wies (GER) and Eric Watson (BAH) for company.
Bike – Belgium and Denmark lead the way
The leading five soon become three on the bike, with Van Riel, Bækkegård and Azevedo more than a minute-and-a-half clear with a quarter of the ride done. More importantly, they were also further extending their advantage over the Norwegian, with Blummenfelt , Heemeryck and Costes now almost three minutes down.
When the leaders reached the 45km mark – Azevedo now distanced too – with their advantage now almost five minutes over the Olympic champion, well, this was surely not going to be the season-opening confidence booster for the race favourite. It was set to be a head-to-head, but seemingly one between Belgium and Denmark. Norway will have to wait for another day.
The fast roads saw Bækkegård and Van Riel clock rapid 1:53 bike splits and more importantly, they had a massive advantage starting the run of more than six minutes over Azevedo. A Red Bull athlete was going to win, but it certainly was not going to be the one many had expected pre-race.
Azevedo lead the chasers out of T2 (+6:20), with Costes, Bart Aernouts (BEL), Heemeryck, Salvisberg and Le Corre seemingly the group who would be contending for the final podium spot.
Run – Van Riel closes the show
Perhaps using his draft-legal skills, Van Riel was 15 seconds quicker through T2 and would start the half marathon with a small advantage over Bækkegård. Some 43 seconds up at 4km and a minute clear after 13km, he was not letting up. A 1:07:56 run split saw him take his IRONMAN 70.3 record to two wins from two starts, along with taking the scalp of the current IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship bronze medallist Bækkegård.
Bækkegård closed with a 1:09:30 run to put up a strong defence of the title he had won in 2021, while some way back it was Le Corre (who ended last year with fourth in Abu Dhabi), who completed the podium in what was his first IRONMAN 70.3 start. Le Corre’s run – 1;07:37 – was even a few seconds quicker than the race winner.
Blummenfelt would eventually finish 10th, some 23 minutes down on Van Riel.
IRONMAN 70.3 Dubai Results 2022
Saturday March 5, 2022
1. Marten Van Riel (BEL) – 3:26:062. Daniel Bækkegård (DEN) – 3:27:543. Pierre Le Corre (FRA) – 3:33:014. Andrea Salvisberg (SUI) – 3:35:535. Filipe Azevedo (POR) – 3:37:0710. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) – 3:49:07
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