Over 2000 athletes, from over 60 countries, took to the start at Claycastle beach for a race which was making its ‘full-distance’ debut here in Ireland. Somewhat unfortunately, the swim leg of the event — a 2.4 mile open water test — which is traditionally the first part of the race, had to be cancelled, due to unsuitable sea conditions.
Brownlee, taking on his first full Ironman event, was the third athlete on to the hill, his looming red jersey drawing loud roars from the fans flanked nearby. The legendary triathlon figure cracked a smile as he went in pursuit of the day’s early leaders, Germany’s Markus Thomschke and Ireland’s Bryan McCrystal.
Sunday might have been the worst day of the year in terms of weather, but it must surely rank as one of the best yet in terms of Youghal’s, and Cork’s, rich sporting history. 625 athletes took on the mammoth challenge for the first time, and there was very strong Cork representation within the line-up, with the local ‘host’ club, South Coast Tri Club, sending out up to 40 representatives.
McCrystal, a top cyclist, produced an admirable display on the day (07;51;19), claiming the title of first Irishman home. ‘‘Look who was chasing me down!’’ joked McCrystal at the finish line, ‘‘Alistair is strong, hard as nails’’. Thomschke crossed the line in third (07;58;46).