Daniela Ryf turned in one of the most dominant triathlon performances of all time today, topping runner-up Rachel Joyce by 13 minutes to claim her first Kona crown. Ryf’s finishing time of 8:57:57 is tied for the sixth fastest time in the history of the race. Joyce’s runner-up finish was the second of her career and her third consecutive year on the podium. Aussie Liz Blatchford finished third, matching her result from her Hawaii debut in 2013.
Reigning and three-time champ Mirinda Carfrae was forced to pull out of the race near the turnaround of the bike, suffering the after effects of a run-in with a car while she was out training two days ago. According to Carfrae, the incident left her with severe soreness in her shoulder and back, which got significantly worse the longer she rode.
The race kicked off with Briton Jodie Swallow making a solo breakaway in the swim, finishing in just over 55 minutes to start the day with a one-minute lead on the chase group that included all of the favorites, except for reigning and three-time champion Mirinda Carfrae, who found herself nearly six minutes behind at the start of the bike.
Ryf wasted little time doing what everyone expected her to do and moved to the front at the start of the bike, but she had plenty of company. Going with her were the likes of Leanda Cave, Mary Beth Ellis, Michelle Vesterby and Liz Blatchford. Thirty miles in Ryf had a lead of a few seconds over a chase pack of nine, but over the next 10 miles that lead grew to nearly a minute and she showed no signs of slowing down. Joyce and Blatchford were the big movers farther down the road, closing to within two minutes by the time the road turned uphill at Waikoloa.
The lead women enjoyed a light rain as they hit the turnaround at Hawi, by which point Swallow as the only athlete in the same zip code as Ryf. The Swiss superstar, only five weeks removed from her second Ironman 70.3 world title, dropped the hammer as soon as she turned south to head back to town and there would be no response from her rivals. Swallow kept to within two minutes up until mile 80, at which point Ryf found yet another gear and her lead ballooned to more than seven minutes over Swallow and double-digits over the rest of the field. Ryf’s bike split of 4:50:47 was the fastest of the day by more than four minutes. More importantly, it gave her a lead of 11 minutes on Joyce, who became Ryf’s biggest threat with Carfrae out of the race.
Ryf opened the marathon with her pace under 6:30 per mile, and as the case on the bike, no one was able to give an honest chase. Joyce, as expected, was the big mover, making her way up to second by the time she crested Palani Road at mile 10. Swallow and Ellis ran in second and third, respectively, but both appeared to be struggling as they headed back out onto the Queen K for the most testing miles of the race. Farther back, Vesterby and Blatchford were moving through the field, as was American rookie Heather Jackson, who found herself in 10th at the top of Palani.
Ryf remained calm, cool and under control for the section out to the Energy Lab and back, and by the time she was headed back into town, her lead was nearly 12 minutes and her first Ironman world title was all but certain. By the time she broke the tape she was 13 minutes ahead of Joyce, who would finish as the runner-up for the second time.
Ryf’s 13:02 margin of victory is the largest since 2009, when Chrissie Wellington topped Mirinda Carfrae by 19:57. Blatchford finished another four minutes behind Joyce to claim her second podium place in three years. Vesterby was next across the line another four minutes later, capping off what is by far the biggest result of her career. Jackson was next across the line to round out the top five, finishing as the top American in her Big Island debut.
The win marks the fifth world championship of Ryf’s career, a remarkable feat for someone only 28 years old. Ryf has won the Ironman 70.3 world championship each of the past two years, as well as an ITU U-23 world title in 2008 and an ITU Mixed Relay world title as part of the Swiss team in 2010.