Bart Aernouts books 9th (!) straight trip to Kona

Bart Aernouts and Skye Moench were in peak form at Ironman Tulsa

Bart Aernouts jokes that he’s nearing the “Masters” classification for the Ironman World Championship held every year in Kona.

With a fifth place finish at Ironman Tulsa over the weekend against a deep field, he qualified for a ninth straight trip to Hawaii. The 2018 World Championship silver medalist has been one of the most consistent triathletes in the world for nearly a decade.

“Overall I’m very happy with my fifth place in IM Tulsa today, but even more with qualifying for IM Kona again in my first try for this year’s edition,” Aernouts said. “I had a few challenges along the way in Tulsa so this makes me even more pleased with my fifth place.”

Bart Aernouts powered through an energy flat to finish fifth in Tulsa.

Aernouts hadn’t performed a full Ironman — 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run — since the World Championship in October, 2019. Despite the long layoff, he looked like his old self, making his way through the pack on the bike and run to come within 2:14 of the podium.

The swim has historically been Aernouts’ weakest segment, but on Sunday he emerged from the water with the second group of swimmers in 23rd position overall. He called his swim one of his best “in the last years.”

The bike was a stiff challenge due to rain showers and rough pavement. After 70 minutes of riding, the bottles he stashed behind his saddle fell off his bike, forcing him to go the rest of the distance without his in-race nutrition. Despite the setback, he climbed up the standings, up to 13th after 30 miles, sixth after 80 miles and fifth entering the run.

Bart Aernouts is headed to his ninth straight World Championship in Kona.

Over the course of the second half of his run, Aernouts said he was “was running out of energy and realised that the fight for the podium places was over.” He was in fourth place at the 17.3-mile checkpoint, and muscled to the finish line as one of seven competitors to break the 2:45 marathon mark.

With the result, Aernouts accomplished his goal for Tulsa. As a bonus, he proved his ability to overcome unforeseen obstacles, which could serve him well when he takes on the World Championship in October.

Skye Moench finished third in Tulsa, calling it her "best Ironman from an execution standpoint."

Skye Moench ends strong early season block in career form

Moench’s strong early season campaign was tailored towards Tulsa, where she wanted to put in her best performance. After finishing third, she called the race “my best Ironman from an execution standpoint.”

“I committed to what I wanted to do, and pushed through discomfort at times in the swim, bike and run to stay where I needed to stay to get the job done,” Moench said after the race. “It’s amazing what you can do when you just tell yourself you can and have to do it!”

Skye Moench posted her best marathon off a bike by more than six minutes.

Moench was near the front of the field throughout the race. She emerged from the swim at the back of the front group in sixth place, and quickly moved into second place on the bike, behind only Daniela Ryf, who was in dominant form. Entering the run, Moench had separated herself from the pack with Kim Morrison, who was just 40 seconds behind, and more than three minutes ahead of fourth place Sarah Crowley.

Moench couldn’t hang on to silver medal position thanks to a hard charging Katrina Matthews, who posted the fastest run among the pro women at a blistering 2:49:49. But Moench finished the race strong with the third fastest run in the field at 2:56:57. It was her best marathon time coming off the bike by more than six minutes.

“I really wanted to execute a strong sub-three hour marathon, so I went to work pacing and preparing for that,” Moench said. “The field was very competitive and I knew I would have to execute my best race if I wanted to be in contention for a podium spot.”