On a day in which three-time Ironman World champion Craig Alexander faded to his worst-ever 12th place finish and two-time Kona champion Chris McCormack DNF'd, Pete Jacobs kept the Australian's men's stranglehold at Kona in place for the sixth straight year.
Jacobs combined a 3rd-best among top contenders 51:28 swim which was notable on a day of slower than usual splits, a breakthrough-for-Jacobs 3rd-best 4:35:15 bike split on a day plagued by harrowing side winds, and a 3rd-best 2:48:05 run. Those consistently excellent splits added up to an 8:18:37 finish which gave him a relatively comfortable 5:03 margin of victory over runner-up Andreas Raelert of Germany and 5:32 over third place Frederik Van Lierde of Belgium.
Jacobs topped off a four-year run to glory at Kona that began with a breakthrough 8th place finish in 2009, a 9th place finish in 2010 that made headlines for his race-best, third-best-ever-at-Kona 2:41 marathon, and last year's resounding 2nd-place finish to Craig Alexander and race-best run.
Belgian superstar Marino Vanhoenacker started with an excellent 52:11 swim and quickly took charge of the bike - finishing the 112-mile leg with a 4:25:29 time that gave him an 8-minute lead -- and would have been the day's best official bike split had he finished the race.
Vanhoenacker held the lead through much of the run before he DNF'd, presumably succumbing to the effects of his redlining bike leg.
New German uberbiker Sebastian Kienle made a big impression on the race as he set the fastest bike split with a 4:33:23 split despite dealing with a flat tire. Kienle overcame a 55:21 swim with his strong bike effort and finished with a creditable 7th-best 2:54:24 run to finish 4th in a time of 8:27:08. Bart Aernouts of Belgium set fastest run with a 2:47:10 split that brought him home in 11th place in 8:37:31.
Andy Potts swam a race-best 50:32 and added a 4:43:52 bike split and a 2:53:18 run to finish top American and 7th overall in 8:31:45. Tim O'Donnell finished 8th overall and 2nd American in 8:33:28.
Much like Jacobs, Leanda Cave of Great Britain has been on a steady ascent to the top of the Kona podium beginning with her 10th place finish in 2010, and her rapid ascent to 3rd place last year behind dueling stars Chrissie Wellington and Mirinda Carfrae.
On this day in which defending champion Wellington was a spectator as part of her year off from competition, Cave came to Kona for the first time not as an outsider with lessons to be learned but as a legitimate co-favorite with more experienced Ironman stars Caroline Steffen and Mirinda Carfrae, thanks to her impressive win at the 2012 Ironman 70.3 World Championship last month.
Under the coaching of Siri Lindley, Cave came fully prepared for the Ironman distance. That confidence showed with a top 56:03 swim among women contenders (Amanda Stevens was first out of the water), a 5th-fastest 5:12:06 bike split (including a 4-minute penalty), and a 3rd-best 3:03:13 run. All together Leanda's splits added up to a 9:15:54 time that played out to a 64 seconds margin of victory over runner-up Caroline Steffen of Switzerland and 5:47 over 2010 Ironman World champion Mirinda Carfrae, who was struggling late in the race due to missing a key nutrition bottle that fell off during the bike.
Unlike Jacobs' race-long gradually increasing lead, the women's race was a fierce duel with shifting tides. After losing 3 to 4 minutes on the swim, Carfrae unleashed her hard-won improved bike and joined Leanda Cave and Caroline Steffen at the front on an energy-sapping day hounded by side winds on the Queen K highway. For her pains, Carfrae posted a virtually tied-with-Cave 5:12:18 bike split which left her once again with a significant deficit, this one 10 minutes, to Steffen's second-fastest 5:06:49 bike split (second to the legendary six-time Kona champion, 45-year-old Natascha Badmann's 5:06:07, which propelled Badmann to a 6th place finish).
Thanks to her swift bike split, Steffen started the run with a 2:30 advantage on Mary Beth Ellis (56:06 swim and 5:07:57 bike) a 6-minute cushion over Cave and approximately 8 minutes on Carfrae.
After the Palani climb at Mile 10, Steffen still had a 3 minute lead on Cave and Mary Beth Elis, who were running elbow to elbow, and Carfrae stalking them both a minute further back. By mile 14, Steffen's lead held at 3 minutes, and Cave, Ellis and Carfrae were all within 10 seconds of one another.
Carfrae seemed ready to close, but perhaps worn down by her ambitious bike, Carfrae's charge stalled and she fell back a bit.
By mile 23, Ellis, who served a 4-minute penalty on the bike, fell back to 5th and was replaced in the chase by German Sonja Tajsich, who was charging to a race-best 2:59:26 run that brought her home 4th.
Carfrae halted her slide but failed to advance and the race came down to a duel between Cave and Steffen. By mile 23, Cave had advanced to Steffen's side and both women pushed hard. Just before mile 24, Cave was the stronger and made a definitive move and opened a 100-meter lead. Cave, perhaps haunted by Carfrae's come-from-behind capability, went full throttle to the finish to seal the deal.
Carfrae, obviously suffering, grimly held on to the final spot on the podium.
With her win, Cave now has an ITU Olympic distance World Championship (2002), an ITU long course World Championship (2007), and an Ironman 70.3 World Championship and Ironman World Championship in two glorious months in 2012.
Caitlin Snow of the U.S. posted a women's 2nd-best 3:03:06 run to finish 9th in 9:36:18.
Ironman World Championship
October 13, 2012
S 2.4 mi. / B 112 mi. / R 26.2 mi.
1. Pete Jacobs (AUS) 8:18:37
2. Andreas Raelert (GER) 8:23:40
3. Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) 8:24:09
4. Sebastian Kienle (GER) 8:27:08
5. Faris Al-Sultan (GER) 8:28:33
6. Timo Bracht (GER) 8:30:57
7. Andy Potts (USA) 8:31:45
8. Timothy O'Donnell (USA) 8:33:28
9. David Dellow (AUS) 8:35:02
10. Dirk Bockel (LUX) 8:36:21
11. Bart Aernouts (BEL) 8:37:31
12. Craig Alexander (AUS) 8:40:49
13. Jordan Rapp (USA) 8:42:49
14. Jeremy Jurkiewicz (FRA) 8:44:45
15. Axel Zeebroek (BEL) 8:45:12
1. Leanda Cave (GBR) 9:15:54
2. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 9:16:58
3. Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) 9:21:41
4. Sonja Tajsich (GER) 9:22:45
5. Mary Beth Ellis (USA) 9:22:57
6. Natascha Badmann (SUI) 9:26:25
7. Gina Crawford (NZL) 9:28:54
8. Linsey Corbin (USA) 9:32:18
9. Caitlin Snow (USA) 9:36:18
10. Amy Marsh (USA) 9:38:15
11. Rachel Joyce (GBR) 9:40:16
12. Michelle Vesterby (DEN) 9:42:22
13. Rebekak Keat (AUS) 9:43:43
14. Heather Wurtele (CAN) 9:44:04
15. Kelly Williamson (USA) 9:46:51