Roberts and Duelsen win Ironman Wales

PEMBROKE, WALES - SEPTEMBER 18:  Athletes compete during the bike section of Ironman Wales on September 18, 2016 in Pembroke, Wales.  (Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for Ironman)
As Pembrokeshire greeted all of the athletes at today’s IRONMAN Wales with the kindest of conditions and  phenomenal crowds the event has seen in its 6 year history, it was USA’s Darbi Roberts and Marc Duelsen of Germany who crossed the line victorious, claiming their maiden IRONMAN wins. 

In the men’s Pro field, 2016 welcomed Phil Graves (GBR) back to IRONMAN racing. Having been focused on short course racing since 2013, Graves knew it was a lottery as to how long he was going to be able to hold off any strong charges from behind. 
Graves led from the swim with Daniel Niederreiter (AUT), closely followed by Karl Johan Danielson (SWE).  Knowing he had to make his ground on the bike, Graves made his move from the 38km marker and by the time he headed into T2 had built up a 4.5 minute lead on the chasing athletes Duelsen, Niederreiter and Nick Baldwin (SEY), who had worked his way up to 2nd place . 
Marc by his own admission knew that the run was where it was make or break, having to claw back  lost ground on Graves. Finally by the 35km marker on the spectator filled run course, Duelsen had closed down the gap and with Graves unable to cling on, Duelsen steadily pulled away to cross the finish line to claim his inaugural IRONMAN in a time of 09:01:39. It was close all the way to the finish line, with just a minute separating the two and a testament to Graves true grit, having only run up to 21km in recent weeks. 
An elated Duelsen commented on his victory: “The event was really amazing – I’ve never seen such a hard bike and run course and it’s incredible to win here. I never expected to come to wales with my first podium and first victory. The crowds were the best I’ve ever seen and I’m so pleased.”
It was third time lucky for Nick Baldwin who returned to his favourite race for the 3rd consecutive year and this year didn’t disappoint, earning himself a strong podium position, whilst soaking up the indescribable atmosphere, created by the passionate Pembrokeshire spectathletes. 
In the women’s Pro race, Darbi Roberts put the pressure on early with a top swim alongside GBR’s Kate Comber, but then appeared out of contention on the bike, which was dominated by long course specialist Jeanne Collange from France, who quickly moved to the front and then seemed to disappear with a comfortable 7 minute cushion. 
Only Diana Riesler could stay in contention into T2. However half way through the challenging marathon course, Riesler pulled out through exhaustion. Meanwhile Roberts was charging through the women’s field and eventually took the lead towards the end of the last lap, crossing the line to claim her first victory in a time of 10:00:17. Collange dug deep and gave everything she had to hold onto 2nd place, while Nikki Bartlett celebrated her first IROMAN as a pro with a dream third place, also capitalising on a strong run.  
Darbi, flying in from home town NYC solely for today’s race, said, “I’ve been working really hard on improving my bike as I haven’t had a great season this year and it finally paid off. I felt surprisingly good on the run and am just so pleased it all came together today. The support throughout the course was the most amazing I’ve ever seen at an IRONMAN, and they definitely carried me around.”
The endless praise from all the athletes on the finish line was for the legendary crowds out on the course, from the moment they made the 1km walk through the town in darkness for the 7:10 am swim start, right through to the 17 hour cut off 12.30am. Fancy dress, home made signs, clappers and house parties, the spectator sights and sounds literally carried the athletes throughout the 140.6 mile course to the finish arch on of the iconic red carpet. 
Former Welsh Rugby internationals Ryan Jones and Ian Gough were amongst the 47% of athletes tackling an IRONMAN for the first time, having been recruited by team mate Shane Williams. 
Gough, last of the rugby trio to cross the line in an impressive time of 13:19:55 said,“That was brilliant, horrible and savage – it was a complete emotional roller coaster and think I’ve been through every emotion – I even cried! That was definitely the toughest thing I’ve ever experienced, but all the way around, the support was unbelievable. I kept seeing Shane and Ryan pass me with more lap bands than me so I knew they were ahead, but I’m really pleased to have made it across the finish line – and within my 14 hour target” 

Amongst the 1700 competitors who started the race, were athletes of all ages between 19 – 70 who had entered for a whole variety of reasons, with many fundraising for hugely worthy causes including official charities Scope and Macmillan Cancer Research. Whilst many of the seasoned triathletes were looking for an early qualification for the 2017 IRONMAN World Championship, Kona. 

Supporting the athletes out on the course as well as greeting each and everyone on the finish line was The Mayor of Tenby, Cllr Laurence Blackhall as well as Chair of Pembrokeshire County Council, Tony Brindson. 
Commenting on the finish line The Mayor of Tenby said: “What an absolutely fantastic event and it’s been brilliant to have so many people out supporting the athletes. The reality is Pembrokeshire loves IRONMAN and IRONMAN loves Pembrokeshire! We’re really glad to be the home of IRONMAN Wales.

Kevin Stewart, Managing Director of IRONMAN UK & Ireland commented:“Once again Pembrokeshire created a stunning atmosphere for all our athletes tackling the toughest IRONMAN in the world. We‘d like to thank all of the authorities, spectators and volunteers for their continued support of the event and for their outstanding contribution towards making this event such a success for all our athletes.”

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