Lionel Sanders ended a gruelling 2021 in style by winning IRONMAN 70.3 Indian Wells on Sunday, making it three wins from three starts at the venue.
The 33-year-old Canadian has taken on just about every conceivable challenge this year – including five races over the full Ironman distance – four of them in under three months during the summer.
He chose to end his 2021 by coming back down in distance to the 70.3 format to take on ‘the ITU boys’ as he put it – notably French superstar Vincent Luis and Belgian Jelle Geens.
And ‘No Limits’ would take the win, but only after Luis was reportedly struck by a car during the bike leg (per social media updates from girlfriend Taylor Spivey). The bloodied Frenchman would continue to finish the race in second place, after the pair started the run stride-for-stride.
The women’s race saw a home winner as American Danielle Lewis held off Canada’s fast-finishing Tamara Jewett by just under a minute to take the first prize.
Luis started as expected with a blistering swim, exiting the water in 22:09 with an advantage of just under a minute over the chasing pack headed by Andy Potts (USA) and Geens. Sanders meanwhile was 24th – just under three minutes off the lead – a deficit which would extend further, as Luis put his short-course transition speed to good use to gain a further 16 seconds over Sanders.
There was drama on the bike leg though as Luis was reportedly struck by a car – per those updates from Spivey. By the time T2 arrived Sanders was now in front with Luis just seconds behind. Thor Bendix Madsen (DEN) and Chris Leiferman (USA) were just a minute behind the leading duo at T2, with the veteran Potts in fifth, 1:49 back. Surprisingly perhaps, WTCS Abu Dhabi winner Geens was more than five minutes in arrears [UPDATE – The Geens bike time reflects a five minute drafting penalty]. He still had 21km to display his impressive running prowess.
Vincent, reportedly with blood on his face and considerable road rash, ran with Sanders for the first 6km on the run before the Canadian started to pull away. First the gap was 5 seconds, then 16 and then 48 as the Canadian put the race to bed.
The gap at the line was just under three minutes as the valiant Luis came home in second spot. Geens was more than four minutes behind Sanders in third, with Americans Chris Leiferman and Trevor Foley fourth and fifth.
A 1:08:18 run split from Geens was the quickest of the day, and will ensure that he ticks the qualification box for the 2022 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship.
PRO Women – Lewis holds off Jewett
Haley Chura, as usual, blasted off to take the early advantage in the swim, clocking 24:30 to lead by well over a minute from the chasing group. The eventual winner Lewis was more than five minutes back in 16th.
Lewis produced a terrific best bike split of the day – 2:15:52 – to move up to second as they went into T2, with only Dane Line Thams ahead of her by some 27 seconds. A deficit of almost 10 minutes at T2 would leave almost anyone out of contention… but that doesn’t really apply when you are Tamara Jewett.
Danielle soon took over at the front on the run as Thams began to fall back, and while Ali Brauer was in second the only real threat to Lewis was further back in the shape of the flying Canadian Jewett. She had started the run more than nine minutes off the lead and was taking big chunks out of the gap. Would she have enough road to reel in the leader though?
Tamara had too much to do though, and while she passed Brauer for second and managed to get within a minute of Lewis, she was forced to settle for second spot, despite a stunning 1:16:01 run split.
Brauer claimed the final spot on the podium while another Canadian Dominika Jamnicky claimed fourth and Aussie Grace Thek rounded out the top five.
IRONMAN 70.3 Indian Wells 2021 results
Sunday December 5, 2021
1. Lionel Sanders (CAN) 3:38:192. VIncent Luis (FRA) 3:41:073. Jelle Geens (BEL) 3:42:304. Chris Leiferman (USA) 3:44:265. Trevor Foley (USA) 3:46:029. James Scott-Farrington (GBR) 3:50:3111. Elliot Smales (GBR) 3:53:57
1. Danielle Lewis (USA) 4:14:022. Tamara Jewett (CAN) 4:15:003. Ali Brauer (USA) 4:19:304. Dominika Jamnicky (CAN) 4:20:475. Grace Thek (AUS) 4:22:0411. Tara Grosvenor (GBR) 4:28:58
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