A Proud Day for Canada: Big Wins for Sanders, Wurtele at 70.3 St. George

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Wilson @TiffWilson23

A stacked field, cold(ish) temps, and something called “Snow Canyon” can only mean one thing for Ironman 70.3 St. George: lots of #TriExcuses.

Also, don’t listen to anything Dark Mark says. 

But before we get to those, we should talk about the actual race, and who didn’t get too cold, have a mechanical, feel uncomfortable in the wind, or “train too much that week.” If you listened to the Triathlon Preview Show, you know that everyone and their brother husband was lining up in Utah on Saturday for the 70.3 North American Pro Championship – Rinny, T.O., Heather & Trevor Wurtele, Magali Tisseyre, Lionel Sanders, Cam Dye, Brent McMahon, Kessler, Mary Beth Ellis, and pretty much every Siri Lindley athlete judging by her Instagram feed (once you get past the inspiring quotes/dream board, of course).


It was 54 degrees at the start (pretty damn chilly if you have 4% body fat), calm and overcast on race morning. Things got underway with a

Photo courtesy Tiffany Wilson

Photo courtesy Tiffany Wilson

one loop swim in Sand Hollow Reservoir, where the water temp – measured (unofficially) at 58 degrees – was just slightly warmer than the air.

Cam Dye was first out of the water, followed closely by Tim O’Donnell. Right behind them: Brent McMahon, Brian Fleishman, Sylvain Sundrie, and Michael Raelert. Lionel Sanders, who seems to have his $#%^ figured out this season (race-wise; what’s going on in his trisuit at the end of each race is a different story) was 4:30 back coming off the swim –in such a strong field over the 70.3 distance, the question on everyone’s mind was how big a deficit he’d be able to overcome (which he later showed rather decisively, but we’ll get there).  

In the women’s race, Meredith Kessler exited the swim at the front of a large lead pack that included Holly Lawrence, Mary Beth Ellis, Ellie Salthouse, Magali Tisseyre, Emily Cocks, Jeanni Seymour, and Amanda Stevens. Heather Wurtele – whose bike/run obviously packs a punch – was not too far back, while Linsey Corbin and Mirinda Carfrae sat about 30 seconds behind Wurtele.


“Overcast” turned to rain as athletes hit the bike course.


Photo courtesy Tiffany Wilson

Cam Dye gapped the front pack in the early miles of the bike, putting 45 seconds on McMahon, Raelert, O’Donnell, Manuel Kueng, and Matt Chrabot at mile 8. Joe Gambles (75 seconds behind) was the only one actually gaining time on Dye for quite a while. But wait, wasn’t Sebastian Kienle in this race? Where the heck was he? This is the bike, right?

Kienle and Trevor Wurtele were, in fact, riding together just under 3 minutes behind Dye, with Sanders 1:15 behind them. By the 40k bike split, Sanders had biked his way up to 2nd place, leading a chase pack of Kienle, Joe Gambles, Raelert, TO, and Kevin Collington, and all began to feel right in the world again.

Unfortunately, this was also the point at which the bike course/weather appeared to get the best of some of our stalwart professional triathletes.

This is in French, but I can translate DNF, bike, and winking sad-face emoticon.

Lionel Sanders came off the bike first (2:03:58 split), with Kienle less than 30 seconds behind him – setting up a 2-man battle coming out of T2, as Cam Dye’s (figurative) wheels had fallen off, leaving him with a 2 minute deficit off the bike.

And now, back to the women: Meredith Kessler held onto her lead out of T1, but Holly Lawrence moved to the front at mile 5. Kessler and Lawrence stayed within seconds of each other, leaving Magali Tisseyre riding in 3rd about 1 minute back, and Mary Beth Ellis also 2-ish minutes behind.  What nobody counted on* was the Wurtele train** charging through the field – Heather caught the leaders a little past 40k, and came off the bike in 1st place. However, Holly Lawrence did her damndest to hang on; only 4 seconds separated the two ladies coming into T2. Meredith Kessler also remained close behind, coming off the bike with just a 48 second deficit.

*artistic license. Maybe they did count on this? I mean, someone should’ve.

**train == Cervelo.


Wurtele and Lawrence hit the run together, but Lawrence couldn’t hang (although by all accounts, she was still having a pretty awesome race). Kessler was paying for her bike ride, losing another minute to the leading ladies but hanging solidly onto 3rd – Magali Tisseyre was still her closest competitor, another 2+ minutes back. Heather slowly but gradually extended her lead over Lawrence, ultimately getting the best of her by 1:17 to claim the win.  Although Meredith continued to bleed time to the leaders, her efforts were enough to keep her in 3rd; Tisseyre and Ellie Salthouse rounded out the podium.

  1. Heather Wurtele, 4:16:48
  2. Holly Lawrence, 4:18:04
  3. Meredith Kessler, 4:22:02
  4. Magali Tisseyre, 4:24:36
  5. Ellie Salthouse, 4:26:52

Back to the drama on the men’s side: 1.5 miles into the run, Sanders had only 20 seconds on Kienle, with Raelert, Gambles, and Collington

Photo courtesy Tiffany Wilson

Photo courtesy Tiffany Wilson

also still in contention coming off the bike. Raelert took early command of 3rd place – perhaps a little too confidently, as he faded back and left Collington and Gambles running side-by-side for 3rd/4th by the halfway point. A little further up the road, Sanders had stretched his lead to nearly a minute over Kienle through the 7.6 mile mark, and he just kept going. Gambles appeared to *just* have the edge on Collington in 3rd, while Trevor Wurtele, not wanting to be outdone too much by his wife (note: wild speculation on author’s part) had moved decently through the field and into 6th.

An astonishing 3:48:18 from the start of this whole mess (and it was a wet, rainy mess by then), Lionel Sanders crossed the line to become the 2016 North American 70.3 Champion, with Kienle just under 3 minutes behind him.

  1. Lionel Sanders, 3:48:18
  2. Sebastian Kienle, 3:51:10
  3. Joe Gambles, 3:53:26
  4. Kevin Collington, 3:54:40
  5. Brent McMahon, 3:54:46

Lionel Sanders also won the live race coverage, with his Periscope-ing (that’s a verb, right?) putting IronmanLive’s intermittent semi-correct updates to shame yet again.


About the Author

Adrienne Taren
Adrienne is a MD/PhD in Neuroscience researching stress, your brain & the neuroscience of mindfulness training. She is also a fairly decent triathlete/runner/writer and an average ultra-distance swimmer, if there is such a thing. Visit her blog: http://www.adriennetaren.com/. Follow @SeeSpondyRun