AFTER eight hours, 41 minutes and seven seconds of swimming, cycling and running, Cyril Viennot was in no rush to finish this year’s Ironman UK.

The Frenchman was the first to complete the course, but lapping up his moment of glory, he ran towards the end catching people’s hands, before turning back to greet the cheering crowds once again before he strolled over the finishing line.

Mr Viennot said: “You know when you win the time is not very important.”

Ironman UK was back in Bolton yesterday with the fittest of the fit starting their 140.6 mile ‘ironman’ journey just as dawn was breaking with a a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a marathon which finished in Bolton town centre.

Crowds lined every step of the route, some supporting competitors, others lining up in awe to offer encouragement.

There were 2,345 athletes taking part and almost half were competing for the first time. The youngest participant was Boltonian Jordan Stanworth, who celebrated his 18th birthday on race day, and the oldest was aged 70.

Mr Viennot was the first man to cross the line and favourite Lucy Gossage held on to the title she has won for the past three years as the first woman to finish the gruelling triathlon.

Mr Viennot said: “I came here because I had a very very bad race in Frankfurt last week, I trained so hard and thought I have to try here.

“I had to finish in the top four to have a very good chance to qualify for Hawaii and so I thought ‘you never know, let’s try and we will see’ and I won.”

Mr Viennot won the Ironman Bolton in 2014.

He said: “The toughest part of the course was the run because I did Frankfurt last week, so my legs were broken, the last 10k was horrible, it was very painful.

“I feel very happy, it is like a resurrection, it is very good. When you win the race you always want to come back.

“Now I will find my wife and go to eat burgers and after I have one week of holiday time with my family.”

Ms Gossage crossed the line in nine hours, 39 minutes and 48 seconds, and shared her victory with the crowds.

She juggled her training for the Ironman UK women’s section with her work as a doctor.

She was all smiles but said her achievement would take time to sink in — and finishing was her favourite moment

She said: “I feel pretty smashed, I was glad to get to the finish line, it was a battle today so it makes the win even more sweeter, I think.

“The crowds on the run are amazing, particularly running through town, it’s deafening. I think lots of people know me now so it feels like I get more cheers than anyone else, I really enjoy it.”

This was her toughest Ironman yet. Ms Gossage said: “I’ve gone back to work this year, so it really was a very different year, it was definitely harder, in fact my bike broke on Thursday, I didn’t think I could race so I have a friend who spent nine hours getting a bike ready for me because I wouldn’t have been on the start line otherwise.”

She added: “At some stage I have to stop Ironman, but I don’t know when, it is hard to stop when you love something, so not just yet.”

Ms Gossage is now looking forward to a break.

She said: “This week I was working Monday to Wednesday, fixing bikes Thursday and Friday, so it was a pretty stressful week, it is different this year to last year.

“I think this one will take a while to sink in because it was such a battle, it is kind of relief but pride, but the pride takes a while to sink in, but definitely relief today.”

Professional triathlete Will Clarke from Loughborough was the second Ironman to cross the line with a time of eight hours, 47 minutes and three seconds.

Mr Clarke said: “There wasn’t anything else I could have done to win today, so I am really satisfied with second.

“I was in third for most of the race and in the end I said I would do it for my family and I managed to attack and hit second.“It is really cool to do this in front of a home crowd and the finishing line was one of the best experiences I have had, it was good out on the course but an amazing finish, all the locals coming out and my family there, I really enjoyed that and I was pleased that I could push myself enough to get second.

“It’s a good day because it is my wife’s birthday. I had to be really selfish for this race and now we will have fun week and I will treat her for her birthday.

“I do love racing at home, this course honestly does not suit me it is too hard and I like a fast course and I don’t like hills, it takes me out of my rhythm.

“I think I would come back but maybe not next year. I really found it hard today.”

Third place went to Kirill Kotsegarov, Kirill, who came first last year, with a time of eight hours, 48 minutes and 16 minutes.

Cllr Cliff Morris, leader of Bolton Council, said: “Ironman UK is a brilliant event every year and today has been no exception.

“Even the weather had held out and the sun has shone on the inspirational competitors and the fantastic supporters who line the route to cheer them on.

“It has been a truly wonderful weekend with the largest Ironkids the day before, and the people of Bolton have shown how welcoming they are to others from around the world. They have created a real party atmosphere.”