Mintern & Hughes Win Middle Distance National Champs Chris Mintern and Hilary Hughes are the Middle Distance National Champions for 2019 following victory at the Sheephaven Triathlon in Donegal.Mintern won a hard fought battle with second placed Eoin Lyons, while Hughes blitzed the bike and held a comfortable lead on the run to finish the clear winner in just her first full season of triathlon.Perfect ConditionsConditions could not have been better for the Letterkenny 247 Triathlon Club's 'Sheephaven Middle' race, which was hosting the Middle Distance National Championships and the BMW Triathlon National Series for the first time.A flat calm sea, zero wind and air temperatures in the high teens ensured the 400 athletes competing for the win had the ideal start to their race of 1,900m in the water, 90km on the bike and 21km on foot.Mintern Holds Lead From The StartChris Mintern took an early lead, coming out of the water as the first swimmer in 27mins 21secs, nearly two minutes ahead of the next quickest man Eoin Lyons. Third in to transition was David Sheridan - one week after racing IRONMAN Cork and hot on Lyon's heals. Straight out of T1, Lyons put in a strong attack and almost bridged the entire deficit to Mintern by the 10km mark.Mintern responded however by re-establishing his margin over the course of the hilly bike leg. He returned in to T2 with the quickest bike split of the day - 2hrs 20mins and 06secs. This was 33secs quicker than Lyon's bike split and for much of the run Mintern looked to have victory firmly in his grasp.As the men progressed through the half marathon, the margin between Mintern and Lyons remained static around 2mins. That was until the closing stages of the race however, when with more than three and a half hours of racing behind him and just a few kilometres of running remaining, Lyons put in an incredible attack to make what once seemed like an unbridgeable gap all of a sudden possible. Lyons closed quickly but in the end he fell just short of his target - finishing 19secs behind Mintern, who crossed the line to take his first national title at middle distance in 4hrs 10mins 59secs.Mintern, who has set aside elite draft legal racing for now to concentrate on middle and long distance events as an IRONMAN Pro athlete, was full of praise for the Donegal event:"That's probably the nicest race I've ever done, people were unreal. You go anywhere in Europe racing 70.3s and you find the nicest race in Donegal."Mintern said he suffered towards the end, just as Lyons was mounting his attack:"It got hot on the second lap of the run, I was gasping for the last five or six kilometres of the run, I was hoping the finish would come as soon as possible."Third place in the men's race went to Michael McCarron with a very solid effort across all three disciplines netting him a finish time of 4hrs 21mins 04secs.Hughes Makes Her Mark While the men's race could scarcely be any closer, the women's race was a different story, with Hilary Hughes putting in an incredible performance to win comfortably over a field of experienced athletes.This was not the outcome most expected when the leading woman Laura Wylie came out of the water more than three minutes ahead of the next quickest woman.Next up was defending champion Heather Foley and the overall winner of the last round of the BMW Triathlon National Series, Maeve Maher McWilliams.Hughes came out of the water more than four minutes later but what would be an unbridgeable deficit to most athletes was a mere fraction of what Hughes would claw back on the bike leg.The Westport TC athlete, in just her first 'proper' season of triathlon put in a simply incredible 2hrs 28mins 20secs bike split - 14mins quicker than her next nearest rival.This brought her from just inside the top ten to the very front of the race by T2 and Hughes went out on to the run with a healthy lead over second placed Wylie with Heather Foley in third, Maeve Maher McWilliams in fourth and Ellen Murphy in 5th.On the run, Hughes showed no signs of letting up, allowing the fastest runner of the day (Foley) to claw back just 17secs over 21km. Hughes crossed the line to win her first national triathlon title with a finishing time of 4hrs 43mins 15secs.It would be another nine minutes before Foley came home for second with Maeve Maher McWilliams earning third in 4hrs 55mins 50secs after passing fourth placed Wylie in the closing stages of the run.Results and PicturesProvisional results are available on CoreTiming.ie while you can watch video footage from the race on our facebook page where galleries of all the athletes who competed will be uploaded soon.