Van Berkel, Sali win IRONMAN Switzerland

Monday 30 July 2018
There is no better way to reign at IRONMAN Switzerland than the Swiss way. The victory in the men’s competition was Swiss made one more time thanks to the brilliant tactics of Jan van Berkel. The 32-year-old was runner-up twice in Zurich, and has taken third place twice as well. He had been dreaming so often of being victorious in his favorite race, but he was never able to reach this great goal. 

This time, van Berkel kept cool instead of attacking on the first half of the run in brutal style and struggling on the second part. He played smart on his home soil, although the race was fast right from the beginning. As always in the crystal clear Lake Zurich, the swim was a bit slower compared to other events, but it was fast enough to drop nine-time winner Ronnie Schildknecht, the uberbiker Cameron Wurf (AUS) and runners like David Plese (SLO) decisively. Van Berkel exited the water in first and started to pace himself solid in the lead group. He remained relaxed even when Wurf made his pass to the front with Plese at his back wheel. The two came off the bike with a bike course record for Wurf and a gap of almost nine minutes, but the tough ride through the hot day cost them a lot. Van Berkel downsized the gap to the front step by step on the run and speeded up on the final of four run laps. He proved his strength on the final seven kilometers, exactly in the section where he has struggled so often in the past. He made a dream come true and took the 18-year-old course record away from Swiss legend Olivier Bernhard.

While tactics dominated the men’s race, the women’s competition was a two-athlete battle right from the start. Sure, Australia’s Annabel Luxford was the strongest swimmer in the field, but as soon as Kaisa Sali from Finland hit the bike course, she started eating up Luxford’s advantage of two minutes. The 36-year-old caught up with the quickest swimmer and sailed away with her to form a leading duo for most of the hilly course. Sali eventually put the cards on the table shortly before the leaders reached the final climb at the enormously crowded Heartbreak Hill next to T2. She embarked on the run with a gap of almost two minutes to Luxford, but the Aussie didn’t throw in. Luxford tried hard to gain time on the leader again, but she obviously invested too much energy into this effort. Sali sailed away, and Skye Moench dropped Luxford on the final stretch of the marathon, too.   

Top 5 Pro Men
1 Van Berkel, Jan SUI 8:09:18
2 Plese, David SLO 8:13:27
3 Wurf, Cameron AUS 8:14:13
4 Phillips, Mike GBR 8:17:36
5 Schildknecht, Ronnie SUI 8:21:52

Top 5 Pro Women
1 Sali, Kaisa FIN 9:06:01
2 Moench, Skye USA 9:14:36
3 Luxford, Annabel AUS 9:16:55
4 Roberts, Lisa USA 9:23:31
5 Gruber, Elisabeth AUT 9:28:25
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