The weeks leading up to the inaugural Ironman Lake Tahoe were filled with discussion about how difficult the new course would be on the athletes, but the final hours focused solely on the weather conditions. Saturday’s weather in Lake Tahoe featured frigid winds, rain and then snow. The temperature stayed in the low 30s throughout the night, making many athletes nervous about staying warm out of the water and onto the bike for Sunday’s race. Race organizers made the decision Sunday morning to let the swim, bike and run take place as planned. Though the morning was chilly, conditions were better than Saturday and the temperature reached the mid-60s. In the end it was Australia’s Chris McDonald and Sweden’s Asa Lundstrom who claimed the well-earned victories.
France’s Romain Guillaume led the men out of the water and into the frigid air with a time of 51:36. Joe Gambles (AUS), Paul Ambrose (GBR), Maik Twelsiek (GER) and Matt Lieto (USA) followed him closely into transition. T1 was unique for an Ironman as even the top pros took their time to ensure that they were properly dressed for the temperatures on the bike. The top men all spent well over four minutes in the transition before taking on the 112-mile bike course.
Through the first quarter of the bike, Gambles led the way for a group that included Twelsiek, Lieto and Guillaume. Ambrose, who was originally part of that group, struggled to keep pace and eventually dropped out, citing trouble breathing on the bike as the reason. Eventually, Twelsiek made the decision to break away from the others and had a gap of 1:25 at mile 50. The German held a 90-second lead over Mcdonald and a 6:24 lead over Gambles coming off of the bike.
Twelsiek managed to maintain the gap through the first 10 miles of the marathon, but eventually he faded and opened the door for a steady-running McDonald. By mile 14, Twelsiek’s lead stood at only 12 seconds as McDonald was preparing to make the pass. The Australian, known as “Big Sexy” in the triathlon community, took the top spot and didn’t look back. He capped his day off with a 2:59:40 marathon to take the 8:55:14 victory. Despite losing the lead to McDonald, Twelsiek was able to regain some momentum and held on to second position, finishing in 8:57:53. Gambles earned the final podium spot in 9:02:55.
American Dede Griesbauer celebrated her birthday by exiting the swim in first position in a time of 55:12. The conditions showed in the rest of the women’s swim times, with no other pro exiting the water in under one hour. It was Catriona Morrison who was second out of the swim (1:00:02). Like the men, the women took a significant amount of time in transition before starting the tough bike ride.
Griesbauer maintained her position at the front for the first 25 miles, but was being chased by a fast-riding Lundstrom. By mile 41, Lundstrom took over the top spot and held a lead of two minutes over Morrison, with Griesbauer 3:22 back and Angela Naeth (CAN) 4:15 back.
Coming into T2, Lundstrom’s lead stood at 1:43 over an even faster riding Jeanne Collonge (FRA). Third into transition was Naeth, who is also known for her strong cycling skills. Lundstrom struggled to find a solid pace early in the marathon and Collonge overtook her within the first few miles. As both Collonge and Lundstrom maintained steady paces in first and second, respectively, Morrison was running the strongest, but with a significant deficit to make up on the faster cyclists.
As the three neared the finish line it became evident that Morrison wouldn’t be able to catch the two leaders. It also became clear that Collonge did not have the victory wrapped up. It rarely happens in Ironman that a leader will surrender the lead on the marathon and then get it back, but that’s exactly what happened. As Collonge started her last mile, Lundstrom passed her and excelled to the finish line to earn the Ironman victory. Collonge finished in second, 50 seconds back. Morrison rounded out the top three at 10:03:38.
Ironman Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe, Nev. – Sept. 22, 2013
2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
1. Chris McDonald (AUS) 8:55:14
2. Maik Twelsiek (GER) 8:57:53
3. Joe Gambles (AUS) 9:02:55
4. Kirill Kotsegarov (EST) 9:04:39
5. Kevin Taddonio (USA) 9:09:09
1. Asa Lundstrom (SWE) 9:58:53
2. Jeanne Collonge (FRA) 9:59:43
3. Catriona Morrison (SCO) 10:03:38
4. Elizabeth Lyles (USA) 10:08:41
5. Angela Naeth (CAN) 10:10:47