With one final burst after 144.6 miles of effort, Kirill Kotesgaraov surged into the lead and into the Ironman history books
Kotesgaraov, from Estonia, won a three-man sprint Sunday afternoon to win the 2015 Little Debbie Ironman Chattanooga, slipping past American Matt Chrabot in the final strides to win by less than two lengths. Stefan Schmidt from German finished a few steps behind in third. Kotesgaraov's winning time was eight hours, eight minutes and 32 seconds.
All three men collapsed just past the finish at Ross's Landing. Ironman officials believe this is the closest finish in Ironman history.
In the women's pro race Carrie Lester pulled away in the 26.2-mile run to win comfortably with a time of 8;56. Lisa Roberts came in second, more that 12 minutes after Lester finished.
— Jim Tanner
The trio completed the last several miles within eyesight of one another, the closed up into a tight group for the final sprint to the finish line.
The Ironman's announcer shouted that he had "Never seen anything like this, unbelievable," as the three runners crossed the finish line and collapsed. Kirill Kotsegarov of Estonia finished first, taking the lead in the final meters.
City officials later tweeted that the finish was the closest in Ironman history.
About an hour later, pro competitor Carrie Lester finished first among the professional female runners. She had about a 15-minute lead on her closest rival.
But though the top professional winners may have crossed the finish line, the race continues live until midnight as the amateur runners began to arrive at the Chattanooga Riverfront.
Color by Cobb
After listening to a public address announcer give updates on just how close three competitors were in the final stretch of Sunday's Chattanooga Ironman, several hundred spectators who had gathered around the Ross's Landing finish line began to experience a palpable tension.
They craned their necks out over barriers, rang cowbells, clapped their hands and screamed as Kirill Kotsegarov, Matt Chrabot and Stefan Schmid came into a view, each visibly grimacing as the race's ninth hour began to pass.
With more than 2,000 other competitors still strewn about the miles-long course, these were the first three to sniff the end, and the 140.5 miles behind them had done little to create separation between them.
They had already swam 2.4 miles in the Tennessee River and biked 112 miles through the city and deep into Walker County, Ga. Now, here they were, 26.1 miles into the journey's final leg - a 26.2 mile run - and giving all they had to finish first.
"Come on Chattanooga," the announcer yelled as the trio entered the final 100 yards. "This is one of the closest finishes we've ever seen."
Kotsegarov darted ahead of Chrabot in the final few feet, creating a dramatic photo finish that delighted fans. Schmid stumbled across the finish line a few seconds behind them and all three lay sprawled out on the ground before Kotsegarov rose and began high-fiving the delighted fans.
— David Cobb
The skies remained cloudy, but the rain held off for the start of the 2015 Little Debbie Ironman Chattanooga on Sunday.
Men's pro triathlete Balazs Csoke was the first athlete to complete the swim, and Chattanooga-based pro Anna Cleaver was the first woman out of the water.
Approximately 2,500 competitors began the day with a 2.4-mile swim in the Tennessee River. Everyone who started the race finished the swim by the cutoff time, and the field is now out on the 116-mile bike course into North Georgia.
After the bike, the 144.6-mile event will conclude with a 26.2-mile full marathon.
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Chattanoogans are encouraged to head downtown and cheer on the 2,300 athletes competing in the city's second full Ironman Chattanooga on Sunday, but those who have other plans can expect a few changes to their driving routines.
The marquee outdoor event will last from sunrise until well after sunset and feature a 13.1-mile run on city roads that competitors will complete twice. The event also includes a 56-mile bike route originating from downtown and dipping deep into Walker County, Ga., that riders will cover twice. Drivers in Chickamauga can expect delays, but detours will be in place.
Here are the best places to catch the action and a list of traffic changes around town.
WHERE TO WATCH
Swim: There is no parking at the swim start, so spectators wanting to see the first swimmers get into the water at 7:20 a.m. can take a shuttle from Ironman hub at Ross's Landing to the Tennessee Riverpark near Curtain Pole Road, where the race begins. Veterans Bridge and the Walnut Street Bridge also offer solid vantage points, or you can hang out at Ross's Landing where the competitors will transition from the water to bicycles throughout the early morning.
Bike: Riders will begin on Riverfront Parkway, which turns into 20th Street and then turn right onto Market Street to pedal through St. Elmo. They'll continue south on Highway 193, nearly to LaFayette, Ga., before looping north through Chickamauga, where spectators are encouraged to gather in a designated downtown viewing area. Shuttles will be available from Ross's Landing.
Run: There is a plethora of places from which to watch the final leg of the race. Runners go from Ross's Landing along Riverfront Parkway/Riverside Drive and then onto the Tennessee Riverwalk before crossing the Veterans Bridge. Then they meander around the North Shore and come back across the Walnut Street Bridge, which may be the best place to cheer.
Closed until Monday evening: Riverside Drive/Riverfront Parkway between Aquarium Way and Molly Street; Chestnut Street between Aquarium Way and Riverfront Parkway; southbound Veterans Bridge ramp to Riverside Drive.
Closed from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday: right eastbound lane of Riverfront Parkway between Molly Lane and Market Street; right southbound lane of Market Street between West 20th Street and West 40th Street; Interstate 24 on-ramp and southbound off-ramp at Market Street.
Closed Sunday from 12:25 p.m.-midnight: right eastbound lane of Frazier Avenue between Forest Avenue and the Veterans Bridge; right northbound lane of Barton Avenue between Frazier Avenue and Baker Street; right northbound lane of the Veterans Bridge between East Third Street and Barton Avenue; right westbound lane of Amnicola Highway between Old Curtain Pole Road and Lindsay Street; Riverside Drive between Lindsay Street and Molly Lane; Battery Place off ramp from Riverside Drive; Aquarium Way between Riverside Drive and Walnut Street.
Contact staff writer David Cobb at email@example.com or 423-757-6249.