Tyler Butterfield produced another strong performance yesterday as he finished seventh at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Fellow Bermudian Karen Smith finished a creditable 15th out of 187 starters in the women’s 45-49 age group.
Pre-race favourite Javier Gómez, of Spain, and American Ben Kanute finished the swim in 24min 5sec to give themselves about a 50-second buffer over a group including Tim Don, of Britain, and Butterfield. Sebastian Kienle of Germany, who had been expected to challenge for a podium spot, did not do himself any favours as he trailed Gómez by 4 minutes out of the water.
It was Kanute, a renowned swim/bike specialist, who powered away on the challenging bike course recording a time of 2hr 8m, to open up a four-minute gap on a closely bunched group of challengers that included Gómez, Don, Maurice Clavel, of Germany, Australian Sam Appleton, Kienle (who recorded a blistering 2hr 7min on the bike, and Andreas Dreitz, of Germany.
Gómez then produced easily the best run of the day (1hr 10min) to catch a gutsy Kanute and take the win in 3:49:45 ahead of the surprising Kanute (3:51:07) with Don in third (3:52:00).
As last year in Australia, it was the run that ultimately cost Butterfield a podium finish as his 2:17:32 secs could not match Appleton (2:14:41), Kienle (1:16:04) and Clavel (1:16:38). Butterfield finished in 3hr 56min 22sec with splits of 25:20 for the swim, 2:10:40 on the bike and 1:17:32 in the run.
However, in such a strong field the Bermudian must be encouraged by another strong performance as he continues his preparation for the full Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii on October 14.
Smith, who has previously finished in the podium at these championships had a solid race, especially as she is still building to full long distance racing fitness after a lengthy period out with injuries.
“I’m pretty happy with the result as this year was about rebuilding and getting fit for ironman racing after a few years off,” Smith said. “The swim was mostly upstream so it made for a challenging start as the current was strong and sighting was so important.
“The course favoured the stronger bikers. After a quick five-mile section, we started to climb Lookout Mountain. It’s four miles straight up. This is followed by 18 miles of punchy uphills. Finally at the crest of the mountain we were anticipating a fast downhill but instead we faced a relentless head wind. At least it was scenic.
“The run course is also hilly but I felt great on the run until mile 9-10 when my pace slowed, but was I able to fight back and end with a strong finish.”
Smith’s time was 5hr 18min exactly. Beni Gras Thompson, of the United States, won the age group in 4hr 53min 54sec, with three women breaking five hours in the age group.