First Ironman distance win at EMBRUNMAN
Wed 15th August, Plan d’Eau d’Embrun (Hautes-Alpes department).
At 6am on the dot, the gun went off at the water line of the 2018 Embrunman triathlon event. This epic event begins with a 3.8km swim course and as some of you would know, 6am in the high mountains means that daylight is scarce.
Although Diego has focused intensively on his swimming technique and swim training volume, this part of the race is always the most nerve wrecking!
We always look forward to the swim progression he has made when he lines up to compete against some of the best professional triathlon athletes in the world.
Also in this event, Diego did not disappoint and the increased swim training certainly paid off. Diego exits the water into T1 in 59min 25sec and holds 70th position overall in the race. After a cracking T1 (swim – bike) transition, Diego made up several spots and started the gruelling bike course of 188km (with 5000m overall elevation).
With this type of demanding bike course, it is critical for Diego to know the course very well and divide his effort, intensity and focus over the entire distance. Certainly during the descents, a small mistake or lapse of concentration can have a devastating impact on Diego’s race. We know that Diego is a very experienced bike rider, has trained hard at altitude and is using the best bike gear in the industry to cover this bike course without crashes or equipment problems.
Diego is made for this type of racing and once he has climbed the Col d’Izoard (2360m), another two shorter climbs await him with 10% avg. slopes.
Initial bike time tracking and position indicate that Diego was holding 18th position with the leaders group (incl. Andre Vistica) about 11min ahead. Diego’s race plan is working perfectly and he knows it is only a matter of time and mountainous kilometres to reel in even more fellow competitors ahead of him.
The next clocked bike time shows that Diego is really performing strongly and has moved up into 14th position but there is still a long race ahead. Will Diego be able to hold his own, take the race to the leaders and put pressure on them as he moves up on the leaders board?
The peak of the Col d’Izoard marks the 98km point of the bike course and Diego has moved into 8th position overall. At this point, Diego reduces his avg. speed a little and to preserve his position and prepare himself for the second part of the bike leg. At km 137 of the race, we noticed that Diego did have a dip in his intensity but at this point, he is back in the race and still holds his 8th position with the last 50km to go.
With some extra sustenance (gels and a energy/electrolytes drink), Diego regains his superior form and he realizes that a podium spot in about 7 min away. With a strong bike finish and the perfect marathon race, the Embrunman victory could be his…
Diego finishes the 188km bike course with the second fastest bike split of 5h 57min and the race plan has worked, except for the physical dip in the middle.
Supporters who saw Diego exit the T2 zone knew what was coming as Diego’s running pace with blistering fast, right from the start. In 7th position and with a challenging marathon course ahead (450m ascent), Diego had one goal in mind, smash the Embrunman marathon run time record and take the race to the leaders. In no time, Diego was in 5th position with 4min separating him from the podium. The race was on for him and the leaders he was chasing but would Diego be able to hold the pace he was setting for himself…?
At this point, Diego made the mental switch to put everything on the line in his attempt to win the 2018 Embrunman triathlon event. When he overtook the French talented Romain Guillaume, who is a 1st class pro triathlete and rode the fastest bike split, Diego knew he was in 4th position and the leaders were within reach but not without an intense battle ahead.
The natural talent, dedication and persistence lifted Diego to the next level and he continued on his hunt to positions 3, 2 and first. At this running pace, Diego would certainly record the fastest run split and break the marathon record, here at Embrunman France.
With 12km to go, Diego took the lead and the anxiety and nerves amongst his support crew, family and followers moved up another level. Diego was writing history as the Embrunman commentators hadn’t heard of him until the start of the race and certainly now that he was in the overall lead. Some quick online research and Googling made sure that “DIEGO VAN LOOY” echoed through every speaker along the course. Embrunman organisors and the local spectators have a new “chouchou” (favourite)!
With 8km to go, we all held our breath, hoping that Diego would be able to hold his pace and not surrender his leaders position.
And YES, with Diego’s mental resilience and phenomenal physical ability and stamina, he not only held on the victory but he also crushed the marathon time, finishing with a 2h 44min course record.
Diego wins Embrunman 2018 and congratulations, support and messages start flowing in from all over the world.
A big Thank You to #kurtvancoppenolle for your continuous support and encouragement along the course.
Thank you all for believing in me, supporting me on my journey to the first major professional long-course victory. I could not have achieved this result without your confidence, inspiration and motivation.
See you all at my next race event.