Sam Long takes 70.3 Indian Wells-La Quinta win over Jackson Laundry; Lionel Sanders fourth
Laundry rounds out two-race weekend with impressive runner-up finishPhoto by: Kevin Mackinnon
After a couple of tough performances this fall at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship (19th) and Ironman Arizona (10th), Sam Long bounced back in style today with a big win at Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells-La Quinta, spoiling new dad Lionel Sanders’ bid to defend his title. Canada’s Jackson Laundry, who raced at Clash Daytona on Friday, then crossed the country to compete in California, put together a brilliant performance to take second, while Belgium’s Bart Aernouts managed to outsprint Sanders to take third.
A six-man group that included Canadian Brennan Smith led the way out of the water, with many of the race favourites well back has they headed into T1. American Sam Long was 15th out of the water, just under two minutes down, with Canadian Jackson Laundry, who competed at Clash Daytona two days ago, a second behind. Jackson’s countryman Lionel Sanders was well back after the swim – hitting transition 3:35 behind the leaders.
Out on the bike Long and Laundry quickly blasted to the front, pulling clear of the rest of the field and eventually hitting T2 with a lead of almost four minutes on a group of three that included Belgian Bart Aernouts, Sanders and American Justin Riele.
Long and Laundry would run stride for stride for the first six km, but eventually the American broke clear, but Laundry stayed close as the pair held off the charge coming from behind – Aernouts and Sanders were steadily gaining on the two men ahead. Aernouts, the 2018 Ironman World Championship runner-up, is amongst the sport’s top runners, as is Sanders. The two were 2:28 behind Long with 5 km of running to go, with Laundry in between hanging on to second.
Long would take the win in 3:43:34 after a 1:13:24 half marathon, with Laundry cross the line in 3:44:22. Aernouts managed to do what most have found impossible in the past – he outsprinted Sanders to the line to round out the podium. Aernout’s 1:11:04 got him to the line in 3:45:08, while Sanders would actually run a couple of seconds faster (1:11:02) to take fourth in 3:45:16.