Claire Hann is the latest ‘first time’ Ironman 70.3 Winner in Sweden. Claire completed her first Ironman in 2015, where she won her category and was within 8% of the female pro winner.
The 70.3 European champs in Elsinore was Claire’s first race back from her running injuries earlier in the year. It was her tenth place performance that gave her the confidence to swim and bike with some of the best women in the sport.
Claire’s Experience of Ironman
Looking at the field, the plan from the beginning was to try and swim with the defending champion Lisa Norden (London 2012 Olympic silver medallist) and get a gap on the rest of the field. While my biking has massively improved I knew Lisa was in a league of her own (as recent Swedish National Road Race champion!), so biking with her was probably not realistic. But hopefully a strong swim would give me a head start on the bike over the rest of the women.
The swim went almost exactly to plan. I swam on Lisa’s feet, feeling much more comfortable than I anticipated! Loving the new Vanquish wetsuit! After the swim Lisa and I were two minutes clear of Pernille Jensen, with Renee Kiley and Asa Lundstrom 3 and a half minutes back. On the bike, the course was roughly split into about 3 sections. 25km of climbing, 40km of rolling roads and 25km of (non-technical) descent. So I knew it was important to really invest in the first part of the course.
Just as I got onto the rolling section Pernille Jenson caught me so my plans for having a quick breather at this point went straight out of the window! I knew riding with her on the rolling roads would pay dividends, so I was not going to let her ride away from me. She was little and light, so on the ups I was battling to try and keep her in sight and then on the downs trying to be as aero as possible and reel her back in (thanks to Nopinz for the wind tunnel testing and super fast tri suit)!
We rode with 30 seconds of each other most of the way to the finish of the bike, staying away from Renee and Asa who were riding strongly behind us. Lisa was 5 minutes ahead after the bike and Pernille started the run about 30 seconds in front of me. I caught Pernille on the first lap (of three). We then ran shoulder to shoulder for the whole of the next lap. I eventually managed to put a few seconds in to her at the end of lap 2, but nothing substantial. She stayed within touching distance.
At the end of lap 2 Andy (my coach and partner) told me that I was catching Lisa. I just ignored him as I just didn’t believe that this could be possible! She’s an Olympic medallist, I thought, so that just couldn’t happen. But coming up to 19 km I saw Lisa in front of me. When I caught her with about a km to go, there was no option other than to go straight past and try and push my pace. I still wasn’t distancing Pernille at all, so I just had to keep going and not look back. I thought Lisa might sit on my shoulder but on a small out and back section I saw that she had dropped back and Pernille was passing her too.
It was only at that point when I had the fleeting thought of ‘I could actually win this thing!’. But I was in no way safe, so I blocked that thought out and just gave it everything I had left. The finish line crowd was fantastic but I didn’t really make the most of the finishing chute, no hi-5s, no dancing, I just needed to cross the line! In the end I won over Pernille by about 20 seconds, with Lisa a further 30 seconds back.
It was such an unexpected result that it didn’t seem real at the time! It’s still only just sinking in now. It was, without a doubt, the most stunningly beautiful bike course that I have ever raced on, a brilliantly organised event with superb support all round the run course. It was an all-round incredible day that I will never forget!
“I absolutely love how easy it is to pack the new bike box, it is awesome! It makes travelling with my tt bike sooo much easier!” – Claire Hann
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