Created On: 17 September 2012

Ironman Wales may have marked the end of 2012 Ironman racing in Europe, but it certainly came to an end in style. Renowned for being one of the toughest Ironman courses on offer, Sylvain Rota (FRA) and Regula Rohrbach (SUI) still managed to break records as they celebrated their maiden victories. 

As the Pro's led the way onto Tenby's stunning North Beach, the perfect conditions couldn't have been kinder for the 1326 registered competitors as they embarked on their 2.4 mile sea swim, escorted by the RNLI. The crowds had come out in their thousands to support the athletes from the spectacular vantage points of North Cliff and the beach. 

Amongst the European strong Pro field, it was Ironman UK's 2012 Champion and home favourite Dan Halksworth in the men's race who was first out the water in a swim record time of 44 minutes. Closely followed by Harry Wiltshire (UK) the two set out on the bike course together after making a 1km transition from North Beach up a zig zagging cliff slope and run through town, look effortlessly easy.

By mile 36 on the bike, Germany's Georg Potrebitsch had ridden into first place followed by Halksworth, Harry Wiltshire and Sylvian Rota (FRA). Daniel Niederreiter (AUT) and Christian Ritter (GER) were a further 4 minutes behind. 56 miles into this testing 112 mile bike course through the stunning Pembrokeshire Coast and Country side, Rota appeared unfazed by the Welsh hills, digging deep and came into bike transition not only the leader but with a new bike record by 6 minutes.  

Whilst Potrebitsch had moved into second place, he pulled out on the run leaving Halksworth in second, now pursued by Niederreiter. Halksworth's chase was to be short lived and the Brit started to slide backwards, as did Harry Wiltshire, as Niederriter moved up into second and Christian Ritter ran his way through and up into third. 

It looked as if Rota's first place was in threat towards the end of the run as Niederreiter and Ritter made a last gasp attempt to catch the tall Frenchman. But it was not to be and the 28 year old whose previous bests included an eighth at Ironman South Africa earlier this year ran home to take the win in 08:52:43.

On celebrating his win Rota said. "I am so happy to have won my first Ironman here in Wales. It was a very very tough course - my legs felt really heavy and I had to dig in very deep to keep going. It is a fantastic event and I am so pleased to be here." 

In the ladies race Switzerland's Regula Rohrbach was the favourite and did not disappoint. In fact she tamed the "savage" course, destroying last years female bike record by 20 minutes.

It was thought she might have put too much into the bike that demands 2000 metres of climbing. so when Irelands Eimear Mullan started to make a dent in the 25 minute lead there was a glimmer of hope for the Irish school teacher to take her second IRONMAN title.

However, Rohrbach got stronger and Mullan started to fade and when the Swiss athlete crossed the line she not only had her first IRONMAN title she had crossed the finish line in a record breaking time of 09:45:09. 

Living in the Swiss mountains must have attributed to Rohrbach's success on the bike. "The home training massively helped. And then the crowds here, they have been fantastic," she enthused.

Mullan came home 15 minutes later at just over 10 hours. "I was too conservative on the bike," she lamented. "I didn't push as hard as I should have as I wanted to conserve some energy, but in doing so I left myself too much to do on the run." 

Rounding out the podium was Joanna Carritt (GBR). Carritt quietly worked away on the bike making her way through the field and executed the same plan on the run to take her to the podium in 3rd place. 

Amongst the 1326 age groupers of all shapes and sizes, were some remarkable stories, many of whom were competing in an Ironman for the first time, including 66 year old Christopher George from London. 

Having been so inspired after watching his son compete in Ironman UK, Bolton last year he looked at the stats, did some maths and figured as a former international oarsman he was up for the challenge. A year after following his son's training programme not only did he cross the finish line in 14:47:57 and win his age group but he also qualified for the Ironman World Championship in Kona - in inspiration to us all. 

Amongst those also winning their age group was youngest and Welsh competitor Beck Hoare, 22, from Mold and 70 year old Sten Mawson from the USA who completed this super tough course in a very impressive 11:41:21 and 13:35:12 respectively. 

Local Welsh pro athlete Paul Hawkins is one of the 7 Ultimate Challenge athletes who have completed all 4 UK events: UK 70.3 and IRONMAN UK, 70.3 Gallway and IRONMAN Wales.

Hawkins was excited to race on home soil but after a mechanical problem on the bike that forced him to stop temporarily even the massive home crowd support was not enough to pull him through to podium position, crossing the line in 10th place in 09:23:25.

On his result he commented: "This was by far my biggest race of the year so I'm gutted not to have finished in a better position. This was a brutal course but absolutely brilliant - the spectators really made the race for me and the support of everyone says a lot about Wales."

Hawkins summed Tenby up perfectly. Wales may have thrown all the wind and rain it could at times throughout the race, but the nothing was going to dampen the incredible Ironman spirit that Tenby  embraced, right up until the last competitor crossed the finish line well into the night of this 17 hour endurance race. 

Kevin Stewart, Managing Director of Ironman UK and Ireland said, "We've had fantastic feedback from the athletes about the support around the course. Although the bike and run are tough they have enjoyed the challenge and its made crossing the finish line all the more rewarding. We'd like the thank the Welsh Government, Pembrokeshire County Council and The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, for their part in the success of the event."

Tags: news,ironman wales

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