Here in Canada we’ve been all too familiar with Jackson Laundry’s potential to rise to the top of the Ironman 70.3 ranks, but the rest of the world got to see just how talented the Guelph, Ont. resident is as he surged past two-time Olympic gold medalist Alistair Brownlee in the closing mile of the race to take the biggest win of his career. Behind him fellow Canadian Lionel Sanders gutted out an incredible last few miles of the run himself to a runner-up finish.
Laundry’s performance is even more incredible considering he underwent surgery for a broken thumb just a few months ago.
American defending champ Ben Kanute led the men out of the water, but had lots of company – a group of 10 were all within seconds that included Canadians Brennen Smith and Jackson Laundry. Sanders finished the swim 1:57 down in 24th spot.
Out on the bike the lead group of 10 quickly became nine as Smith was dropped from the lead. Kanute, Australian Sam Appleton and Brownlee kept the pressure up at the front of the race, and through 30 km the group had dwindled to just five, with those three riding clear along with American Rudy Von Berg and Laundry. Sanders actually lost some time to the lead group of five over the first half of the bike – while he moved up through the field, he was still 2:22 back at the halfway point of the ride.
Brownlee’s fitness became apparent as the group hit the first of the many steep climbs through Camp Pendleton, driving to the front and stretching the lead group. While he never pulled clear, it was obvious he was the strongest of the group even as they all hit T2 together and he was the last to exit T2.
On the run course Brownlee worked his way to the front through the first mile of the run, keeping the pressure up at the front with Von Berg and Laundry. Those three pulled clear of Kanute and Appleton, setting up a duel for the podium.
Well, sort of. When he decided to make his move, Brownlee looked nothing short of superb as he glided away from the American and Canadian as they neared the 10 km point of the run. From there it seemed that everyone else in the field was no longer racing for the win, but Laundry wasn’t quite ready to buy into that theory. With 5 km to go Laundry started to push the pace, closing the 15-second gap that Brownlee had opened up, running his way back to the Olympic gold-medalist’s shoulder with about 2 km of running to go. He didn’t stay there long, either, as he surged past a fading Brownlee and continued to the surge to the line for the biggest win of his career.
Behind him Sanders was bouncing back from a “poor bike” (his words) to put together an incredible run that saw him close a 90 second gap in the last two miles to move past Brownlee and then take a photo finish over Von Berg to finish second. Brownlee would end up fourth, with Kanute rounding out the top five.
Mens top 5:
- Jackson Laundry 3:45:00
- Lionel Sanders 3:45:33
- Rudy Von Berg 3:45:33
- Alistair Brownlee 3:45:55
- Ben Kanute: 3:46:32