Jan Frodeno swam and rode very well, and then ran away to capture the 2015 Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Sebastian Kienle and Javier Gomez rounded out this European-dominated event. Daniela Ryf completely smashed the competition in the women's race on a beautiful day in Austria.
It was a warm day in Zell am See and the swim was wetsuit legal for all. At 10:45am local time, the pro men started their day with a cannon shot. Andi Böcherer, defending champion Javier Gomez, and Jan Frodeno set the pace in the men's race but by the turnaround a line of 30 to 40 swimmers stretched out over 100 meters. Michael Raelert and Manuel Kueng were never outside of the top five swimmers, but in the end it was Böcherer who narrowly edged Gomez out of the water in 22:12.
Böcherer continued his fast racing once on the bike while another German (not Sebastian Kienle) rode himself up and into the picture. Böcherer and Dreitz crested the course's high point together, but Dreitz arrived at the bottom of the twisting descent alone and with a considerable lead.
At 65km Böcherer held onto second place, about 30 seconds behind. Frodeno was another minute back, and a foursome of Nils Frommhold, Raelert, Gomez and Italian Jonathan Ciavattella 2:45 behind the leader.
The reigning Ironman Hawaii champion, Sebastian Kienle, was charging hard over the back half of the bike, and was moving into contention.
"I think my swim was a little better than I expected and I think there is even more potential," said Kienle. "I was able to do some catching up but not as much as I had wanted. But I would never have expected to sit between Jan Frodeno and Javier Gomez and have the best run split."
"A lot of guys nuked themselves on the climb and if you look at Andi Dreitz and Andi Böcherer, they did not look very happy on the run," added Kienle when asked about holding back during the first half of the bike.
The last quarter of the bike leg was technical and Frodeno navigated it best, eating into Dreitz's lead. Dreitz was first into T2 with the best bike split of 2:07:35, but Frodeno was only 45 seconds behind.
The 2008 Olympic gold medalist wasted little time in overtaking Dreitz for the lead, and fortified his advantage over the first of two run loops. Behind Frodeno, Kienle was the big mover and overtook Böcherer and Dreitz during the run. Raelert and Gomez were also strong on the run.
On the final lap, Frodeno, Kienle, and Gomez all maintained their podium positions. With the day’s fastest run, Belgian Bart Aernouts passed four of his competitors while on the final lap, including Raelert in the finish chute, to place fourth.
"I gave it my all on the bike, and that is what I felt when I started the run," said Frodeno. "The bike was really interesting and I was really happy to only have lost 1:20 to the top of the climb."
Javier Gomez was near the front of the race most of the day but could not catch either Frodeno or Kienle.
"I have been racing a lot lately and unfortunately I did not have a good race," said Javier Gomez. "I gave it my best but these guys were flying."
Lauren Brandon had the fastest women's swim split with a time of 22:46, but the American did not finish the race. Defending champion Daniela Ryf also had a great swim.
Within 6 miles of the bike course, Ryf pushed to the front of the race and never really looked back. Coach Sutton had told her to not use up all her bullets in the early part of the bike, and on the climb Ryf did not push that far ahead of the competition.
Canadian Alicia Kaye exited the water with two other swimmers, Ricarda Lisk and Jodie Swallow, fewer than 30 seconds behind Ryf, but could not catch the flying Swiss sensation. Behind Ryf and American Alicia Kaye, German Anja Beranek was having a great ride and so was Canadian Magali Tisseyre. But the best ride of the day belonged to Ryf, who dominated the 56 miles through the Salzburgerland Region and entered T2 with an insurmountable four-minute lead over Beranek and a race-best bike split of 2:21:10. Beranek also put daylight between herself and the rest of the women's field, and established a three-minute cushion over Kaye and Tisseyre, who entered T2 together.
Out on the run along the banks of the Zeller See, Ryf never showed weakness and her lead extended to over 11 minutes, thanks to a 1:22:51 run split. Her strong race gave her back-to-back World Championship titles at the 70.3 distance.
Canadian Heather Wurtele stalked Beranek, Tisseyre, and Kaye over the half-marathon and finished runner-up with the second fastest run of the day. Beranek held on for third and Tisseyre ran out of room and finished fourth. Kaye maintained her composure for fifth in her first showing at a 70.3 World Championship.
"Last year [the 70.3WC] was a challenging race because I was dealing with injuries, but this time I had a great race, and the body was doing what the mind wanted to do," said Ryf. "I wanted to give my all, and I ended up doing so."
Ironman 70.3 World Championships
Zell am See / Kaprun Austria / 8/30/2015
1. Jan Frodeno (GER) 3:51:19 (22:14, 2:09:04, 1:16:32)
2. Sebastian Kienle (GER) 3:52:48 (24:04, 2:09:54, 1:15:22)
3. Javier Gomez (ESP) 3:55:05 (22:12, 2:13:38, 1:15:35)
4. Bart Aernouts (BEL) 3:56:28 (25:38, 2:12:07, 1:14:55)
5. Michael Raelert (GER) 3:56:34 (22:15, 2:13:19, 1:17:17)
1. Daniela Ryf (SUI) 4:11:34 (23:46, 2:21:40, 1:22:51)
2. Heather Wurtele (CAN) 4:23:07 (26:33, 2:27:39, 1:24:56)
3. Anja Beranek (GER) 4:24:10 (24:32, 2:24:18, 1:31:17)
4. Magali Tisseyre (CAN) 4:25:33 (24:55, 2:27:56, 1:28:45)
5. Alicia Kaye (USA) 4:27:39 (24:03, 2:28:58, 1:30:35)