Joe Skipper held off a hard-charging Ben Hoffman down the stretch to set a new course record at Ironman Florida. A pro-men-only event, the race featured a US$50,000 prize purse along with a pair of qualifying slots for next year’s world championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
Swede Alexander Berggren led the field out of the water in 47:57, with countryman Jesper Svensson and Hoffman just over a minute back.
Once they got out onto the bike course it didn’t take long for American uber-biker Andrew Starykowicz to establish himself. Starykowicz, who was forced to pull out of the world championships three weeks prior due to illness, quickly made his way to the front of the field, where he and Svensson traded the lead back and forth. The 37-year-old American pulled away on the back half of the ride, sailing his way to a new bike course record of 4:01:19, improving his previous mark of 4:02:17 from 2013. He held over a six-minute gap on Svensson heading into transition, and over nine minutes on Skipper, who trailed by over six minutes coming out of the water, but had the day’s second-fastest ride in 4:05:51.
Skipper and Hoffman, who were fresh off sixth and fourth place finishes respectively in Kona, instantly started making up ground on the rest of the field once out on the run. Skipper overtook Starykowicz for the lead midway through mile 18, and, after coming into T2 down by almost 15 minutes, Hoffman moved into second shortly thereafter.
The 31-year-old Skipper managed to fend off Hoffman down the final few miles, finishing in a time of 7:46:28 to pick up the victory and lower the previous course record of 7:53:12 set by Victor Del Corral in 2013. Hoffman was two minutes back at 7:48:29, setting a new marathon record in a blistering 2:36:09. Skipper was the only other athlete sub-2:40 on the run in 2:39:01. The two of them punch their tickets to the 2020 Ironman world championships.
Starykowicz joined them under eight hours in 7:56:32 to round out the podium, an impressive showing coming off a second-place finish at Ironman 70.3 Waco just a week prior.
A total of four Canadian pros toed the starting line, with the biggest name – Brent McMahon – pulling out of the race in the latter half of the run. The Kelowna, B.C., native had a solid swim (50:15) and bike (4:25:55), and held a quick pace throughout the first half of the run before dropping out not long afterwards.
Post-race, McMahon acknowledged that he hasn’t put in the necessary work this year to be successful at the full Iron-distance.
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The sun has set on Ironman Florida and the 2019 season. After a late start to the season and constantly feeling like I was trying to catch up before my ironmans, Florida was another race ti move on from. Having never quite put down the solid training block needed for an Ironman as a result of chasing Kona qualification will only get you so far. When the guys up front are riding 4hrs and change and running 2:36’s you have to be in perfect form and execute well. I’ve had good 70.3 form this year but for an Ironman you need the hard work. Starting next season on a normal timeline and get that hard work in will get me back to where I know I can be. Congrats @notanotheraveragejoe @bhoffmanracing @tri_starky on exceptional record breaking days. Bravo 👏
McMahon’s DNF caps off a disappointing year that saw him fail to qualify for Kona after pulling out of Boulder and finishing fourth in Lake Placid.
Moncton, N.B., native Cedric Boily was the top Canadian finisher, placing 14th in a time of 8:29:58. Guelph, Ont.’s Taylor Reid, who was making his Ironman debut, was in 13th coming off the bike, but a 3:38 run dropped him down to 21st in 9:00:16. Calgary’s Jason Pohl fell seven spots on the run to take 26th among the pros in 9:54:03.
American Jacqui Giuliano was the top female finisher in 9:21:17 competing in the 30-34 age group.
The pro women will get their chance to race at Ironman Arizona on Nov.24.