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Skipper and Matthews best in Bolton to take Ironman UK

With COVID-19 travel restrictions making it difficult for many pros to get to Great Britain, it was a mostly British field at Ironman UK going after a piece of the US$100,000 prize purse and two professional qualifying spots for the Ironman World Championship in Kona. Hawaii in October. Joe Skipper managed to defend his title by overcoming a 14-minute deficit after the bike, while Katrina Matthews led from start to finish to take the women’s race.

Some new course changes made the race considerably tougher than years past, as was reflected by the finishing times.

Laidlow leads the way

Born in the UK, Sam Laidlow’s parents moved to the French Pyranees in the early 2000s to start up a triathlon business, so he’s grown up with the sport. He led the men out of the water, with Eliot Smales second to T2, 16 seconds behind. Skipper was over six minutes down as he started the bike. Laidlow then used his climbing skills to great effect on the challenging bike course, pulling clear of the rest of the field, hitting T2 with a lead of 7:28 on France’s Leon Chevalier and was 12:17 ahead of Smales and 14:18 ahead of Skipper.

Out on the run course things didn’t change much through the early going – through the halfway point of the run Laidlow was still 8:23 ahead of Chevailer, with Skipper moving to third, but still 10:49 down. Things fell apart for Laidlow in the last 10 km of the run, though, as he lost his lead to Skipper, who charged past thanks to a 2:41:45 split to take the win in 8:42:59. Laidlow managed to just hang on to second in 8:51:41, just seven seconds ahead of Chevalier. Since Skipper has already qualified for Kona, those two will be heading to the worlds. Smales was fourth in 9:01:21 while Adam Bowden took fifth in 9:08:40.

Matthews leads from the gun

The women’s race order was decided pretty much from the start as the all British pro field of three got themselves in order by the end of the swim and stayed that way to the finish line. Matthews was four seconds ahead of Nikki Bartlett out of the water, with Chantal Cummings another 16 seconds behind. Off the bike the lead was up to 6:09 and 10:38, and Matthews just kept opening time on the other women, finishing in 9:40:01. Bartlett took second in 10:02:43, while Cummings crossed the line in 10:10:33. Since Matthews has already qualified for Kona, that means Cummings will earn a qualifying spot for the worlds in October.