With the triathlon season is full swing elite triathletes Eimear Mullan and Bryan Keane were on international duty while the now infamousness Hell of the West triathlon took place in Kilkee.
Ireland’s top middle and long distance triathlete, Eimear Mullan was in action at Ironman Austria where she had a great swim to remain in contention after the 3.8k opening leg. She backed that up with the 4th quickest 180k bike leg in 5:02:42. Eimear once again pulled out one of her trademark runs, completing the marathon in an impressive 3:03:53. Her finish time of 9:05:46 bettered the previous Women’s Irish Ironman record held by Joyce Wolfe and earned her a bronze medal in one of the biggest Ironman races in the world.
Belpark Triathlon Club’s Niall Somers was the top Irish male finisher in an excellent 9:00:04 which gave him victory in the 25-29 years age group and a much coveted slot at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.
In draft legal ITU racing Cork man Bryan Keane impressed in Holland when he claimed 5th place in a strong field. Keane was back to international racing after a short mid season break following his exploits in the southern hemisphere.
The Holten European Cup was raced over the Sprint Distance and attached a field of 61 athletes with the Aussie duo of Declan Wilson claiming 1st and Brendan Sexton 2nd. American super swimmer Ben Kanute rounded out the top 3.
Keane got off to a great start completing the 750m swim in 8:27, putting him right in contention. He then battled it out over the bike and run course against some top athletes to add another top result to his resume this season.
In domestic action the coastal town of Kilkee was buzzing once again for the start of the Vodafone National Series, Hell of the West triathlon. The field was stacked with the top male and female triathletes in the country all in attendance meaning a top 10 or even a top 20 finish was going to be difficult.
The first men’s wave got off at 10:30am on Saturday where competitors were greeted with choppy seas and a stiff wind. London Olympian Gavin Noble, on the comeback trail after a knee injury completing the 1500m open water swim in a blistering 16:59. He commenting on the rough conditions Noble said “I thought at one stage ‘this isn’t swimming’, you’re just throwing your arms over and hoping the buoy was going to appear soon.”
Kevin Thornton, just back from winning the European Age Group Championships emerged from the seas in 2nd and 1min 03secs adrift.
Noted swimmer Deirdre Kearney had an equally impressive swim for the ladies as she exited the water in 23:39. Deirdre Fagan followed 1min 05secs down while Sligo’s Caoimhe NI Mhurchu was 3rd a further 14seconds behind.
With a strong breeze not letting up, the bike would prove to be a serious test. In the men’s race Noble continued to push the pace and entered T2 with a sizable lead followed by Thornton. Nenagh TC’s Shane Scully put in an impressive bike split to move right up through the field and into 3rd.
Cork’s Katie Cooke also used a strong bike leg to forge her way through the field into the lead entering T2. A foot injury meant Katie took the wise decision to pull out before setting off on the run, leaving Irish IM record holder Joyce Wolfe as the new race leader.
The podium positions and overall victory was still up for grabs however as there were 4 athletes within 1:40 of each other. Anna Crooks, who started the run in 4th set out at a blistering pace and overtook those ahead of her to take yet another Vodafone National Series win. Her time of 2:25:44 gave her a 38 second winning margin over Joyce Wolfe in 2nd followed by Kinetica Middle Distance National Champion, Jen Duffy in 3rd a further 37 seconds back.
In the men’s race there would be no stopping Gavin Noble as he smashed the old course record by 7min 54secs to set a new best of 1:59:46. European Age Group Champion, Kevin Thornton ran well to claim 2nd, also within the previous record some 5:19 down on Noble. With a number of drafting penalties applied it meant Mark Horan was promoted to 3rd place.
Hell of the West interview with Anna Crooks
Hell of the West interview with Gavin Noble