Photos by Jay Prasuhn
A postcard-perfect Southern California day laid out perfect performances, as Canadian Lionel Sanders and reigning 70.3 World Champ Holly Lawrence decimated their respective fields to win at Ironman 70.3 Oceanside today.
Everyone expected reigning two-time Ironman World Champ Jan Frodeno of Germany to sew up another win to add to his sparkling palmares, and it looked like it was fated in the mens race; Frodeno exited Oceanside Harbor solo in 22:45, 55 seconds ahead of noted swim ace Andy Potts, and two minutes ahead of a second group of chasers.
But no one noticed that Sanders exited in 25:20. It was, by his own accounts, the best swim of his career.
“The swim has been the final frontier for me,” Sanders says of his off-season focus. “I juine a swim club and been swimming with little eight and nine-year-olds, whooping me. It’s like starting over again, but I needed to do it and it’s paying off.”
Frodeno cruised alone in front when, at mile 17, April’s Fool dropped a joke on Frodeno: a flat rear tire. His first CO2 cartridge wouldn’t push air, and it wasn’t another 10 minutes before neutral support could toss him a replacement cartridge. It worked and sent his back on his way, but at that point with a deficit of 12-plus minutes, it was done. Frodeno pulled out.
“I was just about to catch him, saw his pulled to the side and I was sad. I fuckin’ hate it,” Sanders said flatly. “It’s so lame; We’re talking about sending people to Mars, and we get flat tires racing professionally.” Sanders said. “A race was ended because of a puncture.”
With just a small deficit to the front, Sanders had the race lead by mile 18, and simply rode away from and out of sight of his competitors. Only Brazilian Igor Amorelli and German bike power Andreas Dreitz gave chase, breaking away from a larger group behind.
That group behind was as organized as it could be; Australian Joe Gambles, Americans Andy Potts and Chris Leiferman and Trevor Wurtele, Italy’s Dominico Passuello moved as a legal but motivated collective, but were unable to manage the gap to Dreitz and Amorelli. And by the same token, the duo of Dreitz and Amorelli were hemorrhaging time to Sanders out front. It was an stacked exercise in futility.
By run transition, it was game over. Sander’s 2:05:42 bike split had sealed his deal. He ran the flat, fast 13.1 in 1:14 and crossed for the victory in 3:50:04.
Leiferman earned one of his finest career results, using a race-best 1:12:12 half marathon to take second. Switzerland’s Ronnie Schildknecht, using the race as prep for his upcoming start at Ironman Texas, was “happily surprised” with the speed in his legs as he rolled from 11th off the bike to a third-place result.
The women’s race was another show of singular force, this time by Lawrence. The reigning 70.3 World Champ showed why she flies the rainbow colors.
She came out of the water second behind short-course specialist Jen Spieldenner in 25:01, with names like Meredith Kessler and Ellie Salthouse about 40 seconds off pace, and Heather Wurtele just over a minute back. It was a manageable gap for her competitors… save one. Multiple-time race champ Heather Jackson had a rough swim, clocking 28:47, leaving her on the back foot all day.
Wurtele said she felt good about her own pace and power early on the bike, “until I started getting splits that she was three minutes, or five minutes ahead,” Wurtele said.
Ironically Lawrence was unsure of how she was faring, fearful she was losing her lead. “Training’s been going well, but it’s been six months, a long offseason,” Lawrence said. “When you haven’t gone hard for that long, it’s a question mark. I mean, I haven’t even run off the bike all offseason.”
But indeed, Lawrence was running away with the show, and finally started to feel it midway through the bike. “I felt good all day and was getting good power numbers,” she said.
A 2:21:40 bike split earned her a comfortable seven-plus minute buffer onto the run. By the time chasers Ellie Salthouse and Heather Wurtele entered T2, Lawrence was already a mile and a half down the road.
At the finish, an ecstatic Lawrence crossed for the win, with rising talent Salthouse taking an impressive second. “Holly’s the benchmark,” Salthouse said. “If we want to win this year, we have to beat Holly.
Wurtele managed a calf cramp through the last few miles, limping across to hold off a hard-charging Jackson to scoop up the final podium place by just 30 seconds.
2017 Ironman 70.3 Oceanside
April 1, 2017, Oceanside, Calif.
1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run
- Lionel Sanders (CAN) 3:50:04
- Chris Leiferman (USA) 3:53:15
- Ronnie Schildknecht (SUI) 3:57:49
- Andreas Dreitz (GER) 3:58:09
- Andy Potts (USA) 3:58:29
- Trevor Wurtele (CAN) 3:59:15
- Domenico Passuello (ITA) 4:00:15
- Joe Gambles (AUS) 4:00:36
- Kennett Peterson (USA) 4:01:33
- Jason Pederson (USA) 4:03:13
- Holly Lawrence (GBR) 4:14:18
- Ellie Salthouse (AUS) 4:23:21
- Heather Wurtele (CAN) 4:25:22
- Heather Jackson (USA) 4: 25:52
- Jen Spieldenner (USA) 4:28:07
- Jackie Hering (USA) 4:28:31
- Rachel Joyce (GBR) 4:31:20
- Kelsey Withrow (USA) 4:32:40
- Malando Elmore (CAN) 4:35:16
- Allison Linnell (USA) 4:38:46