The 2012 Ironman 70.3 U.S. Pro Championship saw two Americans come out on top with Tim O’Donnell and Kelly Williamson taking the titles. O’Donnell won thanks to a last-minute surge over Germany’s Sebastian Kienle, while Williamson turned in another dominant performance on the run. Lance Armstrong, who grabbed much of the pre-race attention, led coming out of T2, but struggled on the run and ultimately finished seventh.
The men’s race was close from the start. Two-time Ironman 70.3 world champ Michael Raelert, who was unsure if he’d be able to race after suffering from an illness most of the week, led the men out of Offats Bayou with a swim time of 23:17. His lead was small as a group of nine headed into T1 right on his heels. Armstrong was 15th out of the water, but was only 20 seconds behind Raelert. Once on the bike, Armstrong quickly worked his way towards the front, but then settled in behind the race leaders and let others dictate the pace through the first portion of the bike. A few different athletes, including Stephane Poulat, Michael Raelert, Tim O’Donnell and Marino Vanhoenacker, led during the early miles of the race. It appeared as if the entire field was waiting for Armstrong to make a move, and that move came just before the turnaround point at Christmas Bay. There was no mistaking Armstrong’s intent as he cycled past the rest of the field to take the the top spot. Behind Armstrong, Raelert suffered a flat tire and was forced to sit up and wait for the tech support vehicle to give him a spare wheel. The other story further back in the pack was Kienle, who was working hard to erase his three-minute deficit out of the swim.
Armstrong was first into T2, but his lead was only 16 seconds over Poulat and one minute over Kienle. Poulat charged past Armstrong and then Kienle passed them both. Behind Kienle, the hard pace on the bike translated to a tough run for several of the pro men. Many of the early contenders, including Raelert and Armstrong, slowed significantly on the back half of the run. Two athletes who kept the pace high were O’Donnell and Ronnie Schildknecht. O’Donnell was the only athlete who managed to catch Kienle and the two ran shoulder-to-shoulder, leading many to believe the race could come down to a sprint finish. In the end it was O’Donnell who had the faster final kick. He crossed the finish line in 3:47:40 to take the title. Kienle settled for second at 3:48:03, with Schildknecht rounding out the podium at 3:48:49. Raelert managed to run his way back to fourth position. Armstrong finished seventh.
The women’s field featured several fast swimmers with Anna Cleaver (NZL), Nina Kraft (GER), Tami Ritchie (USA), Carla Stamfli (CZE), Williamson, Amy Marsh (USA) and Missy Kuck (USA) all exiting the water in under 26 minutes. Williamson, who has been vocal about her efforts to improve on the cycling leg, was the first to take her turn at the front of the bike. Eventually Marsh took the lead and held onto it through the middle portion. At the end of 56 miles it was veteran Anja Beranek of Germany who gained the top position to start the run, with Marsh close behind. The Netherlands’ Yvonne Van Vlerken was third off of the bike, just over a minute back of Baranek. The big story was Williamson, who was fourth off into transition. She managed to keep the gap to 1:37, giving her prime position as the strongest runner starting the half marathon. Williamson quickly erased that margin and took the lead in the early miles. Her 1:18:04 was by far the fastest run of the women. She took the win in 4:13:27. Van Vlerken ran her way to second position, finishing in 4:18:47. Marsh earned third at 4:20:16.
Ironman 70.3 Texas (Ironman U.S. Pro Championship)
April 1, 2012 – Galveston, Texas
1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run
1. Tim O’Donnell (USA) 3:47:40
2. Sebastian Kienle (GER) 3:48:03
3. Ronnie Schildknecht (CZE) 3:48:49
4. Michael Raelert (GER) 3:50:08
5. Stephane Poulat (FRA) 3:52:35
6. Jordan Jones (USA) 3:54:32
7. Lance Armstrong (USA) 3:54:32
8. Marino Vanhoenacker (BEL) 3:54:55
9. Jeremy Jurkiewicz (FRA) 3:55:28
10. Axel Zeebroek (BEL) 3:55:43
1. Kelly Williamson (USA) 4:13:27
2. Yvonne Van Vlerken (NED) 4:18:47
3. Amy Marsh (USA) 4:20:16
4. Caitlin Snow (USA) 4:22:03
5. Margaret Shapiro (USA) 4:25:27
6. Sarah Piampiano (USA) 4:26:43