Lionel Sanders’ amazing legacy just added another epic chapter thanks to an incredible finish at the Ironman 70.3 North American Championship in St. George, Utah. The Canadian star managed to pull clear of American Sam Long with less than a mile to go, holding on for the win by just five seconds.
Large groups through the swim and bike
A huge group stayed together through the swim as Ben Kanute (USA) and Daniel Baekkegard (DEN) led the way through the 1 km check point, and would stay in front through the end of the 1.9 km course, although there were 19 men within 20 seconds of each other. In terms of the Canadians, Jackson Laundry had a great swim to hit transition 31 seconds behind the group, Taylor Reid was out at 1:32 behind, while pre-race favourite Lionel Sanders was at 1:51 and Antoine Francoeur hit T1 1:55 behind the leaders.
Out on the bike course American Rudy Von Berg quickly made a bold statement, pushing hard early on to get clear of the rest of the group. He was joined by Denmark’s Magnus Ditlev. Those two would steadily ride clear of the rest of the men, opening a 90 second gap by the halfway point of the ride.
Sanders would power his way through the field and haul the third chase group up to the second and eventually set up an elite group of 14 that included Laundry, along with the likes of American Sam Long, Great Britain’s George Goodwin, along with German’s Florian Angert, Andreas Dreitz and Michael Raelert.
Ditlev would lead the way into T2, having opened up a gap of 28 seconds on Von Berg and a whopping 2:43 lead on the chase group that was led by George Goodwin (GBR) with Sanders and Long a few seconds behind, while Laundry maintained his position in the group as the men started the challenging run.
Down to the run
Out on the run course, though, Sanders quickly separated himself from the rest of the men, flying through the opening miles of the run to rapidly close the gap on Ditlev and Von Berg. That big move, though didn’t stick as Long and Baekkegard moved back up to Sanders’ shoulder. That trio moved past Von Berg, then set their sites on Ditlev. Sanders powered past the Dane into the lead, only to have Baekkegard come back to his shoulder, with Ditlev hanging tough behind and Long running a few strides back in fourth.
Sanders would continue to test the other men, pulling clear on the uphill sections, only to be passed by Baekkegard on the downhill. The two would race shoulder to shoulder for a while, with Long hanging tough a few seconds behind. Those watching the event coverage learned that Baekkegard had actually been disqualified because he didn’t stop at a penalty tent. Eventually he would drop off, but the excitement continued as Long ran his way back to Sanders’ shoulder, setting up an epic final few miles. The two ran stride for stride for about a mile, then Sanders made a monstrous move as they neared the finish in town, pulling clear of the American and sprinting towards the finish for a five-second win.
“I’ve never gone that deep,” Sanders said at the line. “That’s the most I’ve ever suffered. I’ve never gone that deep that far into a race.”
“I’ve dreamed about this day for five years,” Long said, “To run stride for stride with my idol was amazing. It was epic.”
Canada had another athlete in the top-five as Jackson Laundry took fifth.
- Lionel Sanders 3:42:56
- Sam Long 3:43:01
- Magnus Ditlev 3:45:11
- Rudy Von Berg 3:48:28
- Jackson Laundry 3:45:43
You can find full results here.