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IRONMAN Kona pre-race vibes with Bart Aernouts / Photo credit: Gines Diaz

Ironman Kona Pre-race Vibes With Bart Aernouts, the Not-so-underdog Underdog

If you Google ‘Bart Aernouts’, the first result that comes up is a Wikipedia page is not for this IRONMAN Kona ‘underdog’, but for a former Belgian professional cyclocross racer.

While impressive in his own right, he’s not the athlete we’re referring to. Our Bart, Bart Aernouts, the triathlete, is somewhat of a mystery. Even Google is confused.


He’s a man of few words. He gets his training done, pays no attention to the fanfare or what his competitors are doing, and carries on.

“Watching Bart race, he never makes a mistake,” said Bob Babbitt about Bart’s race execution. “Everybody else is playing checkers out there, and he’s playing chess.”

He quietly placed second at the 2018 IRONMAN Kona World Championship (the race’s 40th anniversary), and was the second athlete to break the elusive eight-hour mark (7:56:41). The first-place finisher, you guessed it, was Patrick Lange, who defended his title as world champion and got all the praise and recognition.

Photo credit: Gines Diaz

So who is Bart Aernouts and where did he come from?

If you follow triathlon, you’ve likely heard of him before his impressive performance on the Big Island last year. Aernouts, 34, started running around 10 years old and cycling around 12 years old before jumping more seriously in the triathlon world when he was 20.

Despite being an Olympic-distance triathlete early in his career, the Belgian has been winning 70.3s since 2011, before progressing to the iron-distance discipline a year later. He’s raced at the IRONMAN World Championships in Kailua-Kona, HI, eight times, and cracked the top-10 three times before his first podium finish.

His Palmares include victories at Challenge Roth, IRONMAN France, and IRONMAN Lanzarote, just to name a few.

Looking ahead to the 2019 IRONMAN World Championship

The 2019 IRONMAN World Championship is shaping up to have one of the strongest men’s professional fields in recent memory. With a stacked German field of former winners that includes Jan Frodeno and Sebastian Kienle healthy and in top form, and Patrick Lange returning for the elusive three-peat, expectations are high.

“This year is going to be different because maybe more people expect that I can make it to the podium again, for me, it’s another race and I hope to have a really good day,” said Aernouts in the video above. “But it’s Kona, it’s a special race, so I don’t have too many expectations.”

Five weeks prior, Aernouts raced in the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Nice, France where he placed an impressive sixth place. He accredits this top-10 finish to arriving relaxed and fresh on race day – something he’s prioritized on the Big Island year after year.

“It’s important to be 100-percent fit and ready to race on race day, and that’s more important than to be really adapted to the heat,” said Aernouts in our latest blog post on why he trains for the run with a low heart rate. “Kona has really tough conditions and a lot of athletes don’t realize how it impacts and stresses the body. They are just too tired for the race because they’ve been in the heat the whole time — you need to be fresh and rested.”

It’s expected to be especially windy this year, but in classic Bart style, he’s not worried about it. Besides looking forward to a windy race, what are his expectations?

“You can think, ‘okay I did a really good race last year, and I know I can do very well in this race’ and I think it could give you extra confidence, and I think to be on the podium again would mean a lot as well to me because you can show you can do it twice and it wasn’t just one lucky day last year,” said Aernouts at his pre-race interview on Breakfast with Bob. “It’s not that just I go all-in for the win and no other position matters for me, I would be happy with a top-5 again, but of course it made me hungry for more.”

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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.

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