It took a record-breaking performance by Spain's Eneko Llanos to hold off Great Britain's Paul Amey for the win in the men's race at Ford Ironman Arizona.
Record day for Llanos
American John Dahlz was the class of the field in the in the single-looped swim in Tempe Town Lake. Frenchmen Stephane Poulat, Ben Sanson and Jeremey Jurkiewicz, along with American Joe Umphenour were all within seconds of the leader as the lead group scrambled up the steps and ran into the transition.
Sanson, Kelly Liljeblad, Umphenour and Jurkiewicz controlled the front of the race during opening miles of the first of three laps on the bike, while race favorites American Tim O'Donnell and Llanos were content to hover 1:45 back of the leaders. Germany's Sebastian Kienle worked his way into the top ten during the lap along with Great Britain's Fraser Cartmell and Paul Amey.
During the second lap, Llanos and Amey showed the way up front. Unfortunately race favorite Jordan Rapp was experiencing abdominal distress and faded out of contention, and eventually out of the race, during the closing miles of the bike.
Llanos led the men into T2, with Jensen, O'Donnell Poulat and Amey following 1:30 back as they hit the marathon course.
Initially, O'Donnell surged towards the front and appeared to be mounting a legitimate challenge for the lead in the opening miles. However the charge stalled out by mile five, and O'Donnell's pace slowed, which started a slide backwards that he would never recover from.
Amey grabbed the lead from Llanos at the nine-mile point in what looked like the decisive move of the race, but could never put in any sizable time on Llanos. Eventually the pair started to run together and remained within seconds of each other for five miles.
With three miles to go, Llanos put in a strong surge on Amey as the lead pair were going through an aid station. Amey attempted to respond to the move, but Llanos was just too strong. It looked like Llanos had a free ride to the finish line, but Amey garnered one last ditch effort and closed to within five seconds of the leader. That would be as close as Amey would get to Llanos, though, as the Spaniard inched away over the last two miles on his way to his second Ironman win of the season.
Llanos's 7:59:38 made him the second man to break the eight-hour barrier in an Ironman in North America - Ronnie Schildknecht was the first to achieve that feat in Florida two weeks ago.
Amey gamely hung on to claim second with outstanding 8:01:23 clocking. Ukraine's Viktor Zyemtsev had to rely and a race best 2:45:55 marathon to come out of nowhere to claim the final podium placing.