CYRIL Viennot became Ironman UK champion 2017 to qualify for the World Championships in fine style.

The Frenchman was first past the post in Le Mans Crescent, ahead of British athlete Will Clarke with Estonia’s Kirill Kotsegarov completing the top three.

Viennot, aged 35, will now focus on the World Championships, which will be held in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii in October.

And he told The Bolton News winning was all that mattered to him, though his winning time of 8hrs 41mins 7secs is not to be sniffed at.

“I am happy with the time but when you win the time is not very important anyway,” he said.

“I enjoyed the crowd, the support is amazing, it is a very good place for the race. I came here because I had a very bad race in Frankfurt last week and I had to finish in the top four to have a good chance to qualify for Hawaii.

“I just wanted to try my best and see what happened. I won so it’s perfect.

“I didn’t have a plan in mind, normally my best discipline is the bike but I can run fast, the toughest part today was the run.

“My legs were very painful during the last 10k, when you are winning it is easier though.”

As for the feeling when you finish first in a field of 2,345, Viennot admits he felt almost reborn when he was cheered from start to finish.

“I am very happy, the feeling when you finish is like a resurrection, it’s very good,” he said.

“I want to come back next year, you always want to come back when you win, so you never know. I trained in Australia on the Gold Coast, in Frankfurt it was about 73 degrees so for me it was quite cold today.

“I will try to find my wife and we will go to eat some burgers now, then have a week’s holiday with the family now, I need it.”

Less than six minutes behind Viennot was Britain’s Will Clarke, who overtook last year’s winner, Kotsegarov, towards the end of the final leg and built up a lead of more than a minute before the end.

Clarke earned his second place despite the course not being one that particularly suits him.

“I love racing at home, though this course doesn’t suit me to be honest,” he said. “It’s too hard and I like a fast course – I don’t like hills on the run because it takes me out of my rhythm and makes me really struggle, I prefer an easy course where I can run fast.

“I’m smashed, completely, but I’m pleased with the outcome. I did want to try to win the race but it just wasn’t possible today for me, that became clear and there wasn’t anything else I could have done, I was in third for most of the race and I almost gave up three or four times but I said I’d do it for my family and it got me through.

“I had a few walking episodes, especially over the hill because you’re up and down all day. When you’re having a bad moment you have to persevere and do your best and when you’re having a good time you have to capitalise.

“Fortunately my legs came good and I had some energy again and I tagged the guy (Kotsegarov) really hard, he’s tough as old boots so I had to go full throttle.

“It’s really good to do this in front of your home crowd, the finish line was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in triathlon, it was a tough course but it’s an amazing finish with the big screen and all the locals coming out to support, I really enjoyed that and I’m pleased I managed to get second.”

Lucy Gossage proved once again she is the dominant force in the women’s ranks, as she won her fourth Ironman UK title.

The pre-race favourite, Gossage’s 9:39:48 was enough to secure the crown she won last year, as well as in 2013 and 2015.

She almost did not make the start line, as her trusty bike broke just three days before the event. Fortunately she was able – with the help of a friend who spent nine hours fixing up her wheels – to defend her title.

The doctor did it the hard way too, and says this year’s race was her toughest yet.

“I feel pretty smashed,” she said. “I was glad to get to the finish, it was a battle today so that makes the win even sweeter.

“It’s the fourth time I’ve won the event, I think this was the hardest-fought one. In the ones before I had a decent lead going into the run and this one I had to pick up on the way so it was a battle.

“The finish is definitely my favourite bit here. The crowds on the run are amazing, particularly running through town, it was deafening.

“I was working Monday to Wednesday and fixing up my bike on Thursday and Friday, so it’s been a stressful week, for lots of reasons.

“So crossing the finish line is a relief and pride comes later on, it’s definitely relief now though!”