The top three finishers at Ultra520K Canada are pictured together following the race in Summerland. From left: Barry Berg, Jon Bell and Kevin Essler.

Eighteen of the 24 athletes who started managed to finish during a hot three days at the 19th running of the Ultra520K Canada triathlon held in the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys on the weekend.

The gruelling ultra-distance race featured a 10 km swim on Skaha Lake and 149.8 first-stage bike ride on Day 1 (Saturday), a 274.2 second-stage bike ride on Day 2 (Sunday), and an 84.4 km double-marathon run on Monday.

It proved to be one of the closest finishes ever in the history of the race as Jon Bell edged out fellow Canadian athlete Barry Berg by just three minutes and two seconds after the 520-km odyssey.

“It was all about what was going to happen on the last few miles,” said race director Steve Brown. “Those two gentlemen waged quite the battle. It was exciting for everyone at the finish line area to see it that close.”

Bell finished at 23 hours, 41 minutes and 41 seconds, while Berg settled for second at 23:44:43.

American Kevin Essler, run winner Leo Lopez Manas of Spain and New Zealand’s Daniel McDonald rounded out the top five.

Christine Suter made it a clean sweep for the Canadians by holding on to win the women’s race, placing ninth overall at 29:46:23.

Canadian Nancy Fedeyko and women’s run winner Paula Miotto of Brazil rounded out the top three and were separated by a mere 72 seconds. Miotto was the only female to clock in under 10 hours in the challenging run from Princeton to Summerland’s Memorial Park on Monday, posting a 9:41:59.

The following is the list of finishers and their overall times from the race:

Jon Bell, Canada, 23:41:41

Barry Berg, Canada, 23:44:43

Kevin Esser, U.S., 23:56:19

Leo Lopez-Manas, Spain, 26:04:47

Daniel McDonald, N. Zealand, 28:20:09

Scott Reutter, U.S., 28:27:38

Ryan McCulloch, U.S., 29:03:17

Chris Howard, Wales, 29:15:54

Christine Suter, Canada, 29:46:23

Doug Fujii, U.S., 30:58:08

Nancy Fedeyko, Canada, 31:15:42

Paula Miotto, Brazil, 31:16:54

Sergio Alburez, Guatemala, 31:43:34

Jackie Campbell, Canada, 32:17:08

Arnold Strebe, U.S., 32:44:21

Nick Hopewell, England, 33:41:33

Rory Bass, Kelowna, 34:06:33

Wendy Wyskiel, U.S., 34:17:44

Brown said it was a “fabulous” weekend, with perfect weather for the first few days.

“It was definitely a really hot one on the run and we ended up having a few athletes being forced to withdraw,” said Brown. “We dodged all the major bullets though with smoke and forest fires and things.”

Penticton’s Stephanie Rivest, a 45-year-old accountant, had a terrific first two days as a first-time Ultra520K competitor but was unable to complete the run.

Mark Naphin and Rizwan Hussain also dropped out during the run.

Rebecca Ball and Lucy Ryan were unable to complete the Day 2 bike within the cutoff time, but both battled bravely to complete the run anyway in 11:48:31 and 11:04:15, respectively.

Brown said there are already 37 athletes registered for the 2020 race.

He said there are still eight spots open for 2020 which would bring the race up to the maximum of 45 entrants.

He added there are already 22 athletes – including a contingent from Australia - committed for the 2021 race.

For more on Ultra520K Canada, including previous winners, course records and registration information, visit www.ultra520kcanada.com.