Nearly 2,000 athletes travelled to Wales from across the world this weekend, as Pembrokeshire played host to one of the world’s toughest sporting events.
A total of 1,850 competitors crossed the starting line of the Ironman Wales long-distance triathlon in Tenby, as they embarked upon a gruelling 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run.
Volunteers arrived before sunrise to help set up the course and as the race started, the temperature was 18C, with a light covering of cloud.
By 6am, cafés in the town were full of spectators enjoying an early morning breakfast and the course looked dramatic as the sun rose behind St Catherine’s Island.
Organisers said Tenby was “buzzing”, with crowds twice as big as last year.
The cheering was deafening as the competitors, dressed in bright green swimming caps and black wetsuits, sprinted into the sea.According to the event’s website, North Beach is “one of the most iconic settings for an Ironman swim anywhere in the world.”
The first male competitor out of the water was Peru Alfaro San Ildefonso from Spain. One minute and 20 seconds behind him was Welshman Oliver Simon.
After leaving the water, the competitors ran up a kilometre-long incline towards their bikes, grabbing a purple bag containing their shoes on the way.
One car park in Tenby was transformed into a bike park, as hundreds of racing bikes covered in plastic yellow rain covers were lined up in rows for the athletes.
Matt Trautman from South Africa led the pack in the cycling. The crowds cheered as he flew past the 70-mile marker and his family were standing on the sidelines, waving South African flags and wearing bright yellow T-shirts bearing the slogan “Mighty Matt”.
Writing on Twitter before the race, he said: “Ready for one of toughest races on the circuit. No rain forecast, should be great.”
Race commentators have remarked on the “vociferous support” on the course.
During the 26.2-mile run, Matt Trautman and Fraser Cartmell, from Scotland, were neck and neck, but Trautman broke away and completed the race in nine hours, seven minutes and 28 seconds.
After running alongside him throughout, Cartmell had to be content with second place. His time was nine hours, 10 minutes and 16 seconds.
San Ildefonso finished in third place with a time of nine hours, 18 minutes and 28 seconds and joined Trautman and Cartmell on the podium.
Two British men finished in the top eight – Harry Springall, from Leeds, and Charlie Pennington, from Portsmouth.
In the woman’s race, Amy Forshaw, from London, led throughout, prompting commentators to speculate that the outcome of the woman’s race was a “foregone conclusion”. She crossed the line just before 6pm.
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay was among 2,000 athletes signed up to take part, but he was forced to pull out due a severe tear of his Achilles tendon.
The first 50 to finish will qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.