The searing heat that everyone expected for Sunday’s Ironman 70.3 World Championships held in Las Vegas, Nevada never materialized, instead presenting steady rains that kept riders relatively cool. But it was two hot past champs that claimed top honors. Defending men’s champion Sebastian Kienle of Germany successfully defended his title in 3:54:02 and 2011 winner Mel Hauschildtthat once again claimed the crown she had two years ago in 4:20:07.
“It was a different year, a deeper field, different conditions—and I still won,” an ecstatic Kienle said after the race. “That means a lot to me.”
While all athletes were steeled for the relentless Vegas heat, (which would rear its head in a milder form later in the day), no one banked on a morning of steady rain under slate grey skies. Certainly it would change the race dynamic—but how?
The swim saw Australian Josh Amberger dash out of Lake Las Vegas in 23:22, with American Andy Potts and Germany’s Jan Frodeno on his feet.
Therein began the first round of sorting. In the opening miles, former 70.3 World Champ Craig Alexander was eliminated when he came fast onto the wheel of a rider braking on the wet roads ahead at a roundabout, earning him a drafting penalty. Realizing the day was done, he cruised the bike, and ran for a training day effort.
The early pace—headed up by American Potts, Amberger and America Tim O’Donnell—had a crew of chasers just over 40 seconds back including Bevan Docherty, Callum Millward and Bozzone (NZL), Tim Reed, Greg Bennett, Joe Gambles and Leon Griffin (AUS), Ruedi Wild (SWI), Jan Frodeno (GER), Tyler Butterfield (BER), Tim Don (GBR), Bertrand Billard (FRA) and Americans David Kahn and 70.3 U.S. National Champ Kevin Collington.
The fast pace under spitting skies did manage to shed several hopefuls, including Matty Reed, Ivan Rana (ESP), Brad Kahlefeldt (AUS) and Ritchie Nichols (GBR), all of whom missed the key leading group.
There was one man slightly behind at a two-minute deficit out of the water, and if we make the assumption of who it is, we know how the story goes: Kienle motored up to—and through—the big pack. The collective lifted its effort, but only momentarily, realizing that was a zero-sum game. He also made quick work of a smattering of late breakaway riders Amberger, Potts and Bennett.
With the field now behind him, Kienle continued move like a runaway locomotive toward T2.
Off the bike with a three-minute buffer, Kienle had a massive surge of runners about to bear down once they hit T2. Sure, Kienle won a year ago, he’s not seen the Olympic firepower of Docherty, Frodeno, Wild and Don attack at once. Sure enough, Frodeno took off out of T2 as though shot out of a cannon. The hunt for Sebi was on.
“The way that those guys ran those first couple miles—like Jan Frodeno? My God, I think I went through the first mile sub-five, and he caught and passed me; it was unbelievable,” said Gambles.
But for Frodeno, his galliant effort was a bridge too far; midway through the run, he stepped to the side of the course, removed his racing flats and made a beeline for the medical tent. Overcooked, his day was done.
On the wings of the day’s fastest half marathon, it was the Kiwi Bozzone who flew over the rolling course to take second two minutes behind Kienle, finally shoving away two years of injuries and surgeries (Achilles) as well as concussion after a crash into the open door of a parked car ahead of Ironman 70.3 Auckland earlier this year.
“I crossed the finish line and if felt like I’d won the race,” Bozzone said. “It’s been a tough couple of years. I guess one of the things I learned with my trials and tribulations it given me new meaning. It’s been less about winning races, and more about the journey, what I learn in the races, and how I develop as a person.”
Gambles, who benefitted from the dogfight he was in with Bozzone throughout the run, claimed the final podium spot. “It was an amazing day, and hey, I was beaten by two better athletes. Hats off.”
Potts and Tim Reed finished out the top five.
The women’s race, the contenders showed their cards early, and they were the expected names: defending champ Leanda Cave, a pair of up-and-coming aces in Australian Annabel Luxford, Germany’s Svenja Baslen and Hauschildt., pursued by Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf , and Austrian Lisa Huetthaler .And coming steadily forward through the field after a 30-minute swim: American Heather Jackson.
“Last year I went too hard on the bike and cooked my legs for the run, so I was a bit more patient with the way I approached the bike today,” Jackson said.
Behind, names like Americans Margie Shapiro, Laura Bennett, Amy Marsh, Kelly Williamson and Canadian Heather Wurtele didn’t have the bike legs to work in the wet conditions, and names like Angela Neath and Magali Tisseyre were independently adrift.
Late in the bike, Cave, the defending 70.3 World Champ, began to fall off pace with the now hammering leading group consisting of Hauschildt, Bazlen, and Luxford. Jackson, managed to close within a few minutes of the leaders. But with just a few miles left until T2, Hauschildt washed both wheels out on a corner and slid onto the tarmac.
“I wanted to go a bit harder and get a gap, and I took the corner a bit too aggressively, Hauschildt said. “In the past I’ve come up with flat tires or stiff, but I got up and was able to get on the bike again.”
Said Luxford, who saw the spill: “I’ve never seen someone pop up off the ground as fast as she did.”
While Luxford took off out of run transition with the race lead (and Norden served time for an on-course penalty) taking her from the equation, it only took two miles for Hauschildt to capture and pass her for the lead. From there, her 1:21:37 half marathon sealed the runaway win for the Aussie.
While Jackson’s been known for her bike prowess (and indeed, it carried her from 25th out of the water to 6th off the bike, this year it was her run that carried her forward to the podium. With the day’s fourth-fastest run (), she was able to finally move past a steady-effort pace of Luxford to take second place, as Luxford finished third.
It was about being a little more caution this year,” Jackson said “Knowing I now have the strength on the run to reel them in—and that some of those girls would fade—the plan worked out.”
Making a fantastic return to racing after over a year of injuries, Scotland’s Catriona Morrison patiently motored on the bike and run to earn a remarkable fourth place finish, setting her up as she prepares for Ironman Lake Tahoe.
“I wanted to come top 10, so this result, it’s so special, after so much pain and misery,” Morrison said.
Bazlen rounded out the top five. Cave, the defending champ, would fade late in the bike and on the run to finis13th. “This one’s already gone,” she said. “Got a big race next month to focus on,” referring to her Hawaii Ironman World Championship title defense.
2013 Ironman 70.3 World Championships
Sept 8, 2013, Las Vegas, Nevada
1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run
1. Sebastian Kienle (GER) 3:54:02
2. Terenzo Bozzone (NZL) 3:56:06
3. Joe Gambles (AUS) 3:56:55
4. Andy Potts (USA) 3:57:37
5. Tim Reed (AUS) 3:57:42
6. Kevin Collington (USA) 3:57:48
7. Leon Griffin (AUS) 3:58:17
8. Tim O’Donnell (USA) 3:59:36
9. Tyler Butterfield (BER) 3:59:42
10.Will Clarke (GBR) 3:59:56
1. Melissa Hauschildt (AUS) 4:20:07
2. Heather Jackson (USA) 4:25:19
3. Annabel Luxford (AUS) 4:25:59
4. Catriona Morrison (SCO) 4:27:50
5. Svenja Bazlen (GER) 4:27:52
6. Daniela Ryf (SUI) 4:28:46
7. Lisa Huetthaler (AUT) 4:29:58
8. Lisa Norden (SWE) 4:31:44
9. Kelly Williamson (USA) 4:32:30
10.Heather Wurtele (CAN) 4:33:11