On a day of bitter cold water temperatures (54 degrees Fahrenheit) which led organizers to cancel the swim and turn the race into an impromptu bike-run, Jordan Rapp survived an extremely hilly bike course with an estimated 6,000 feet of climbing and won the ITU Long Distance World Championship on the run in Henderson, Nevada.
With no wiggle room in road closure time to replace the swim with an opening run, ITU officials opted to begin the event with a staggered time trial-style start with cyclists leaving every few seconds.
Famed for his cycling prowess, Rapp's 3:09:21 split was just the 4th best bike but he then accounted for his 2:42 margin of victory over runner-up Joe Gambles with a race-best 1:49:32 split on the demanding, hilly 30 kilometer run -- 2:57 better than Gambles' effort.
Rapp's total time was 5:00:15.
The victory comes 19 months after Rapp suffered near-fatal injuries when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver while on a training ride in late March of 2010. Rapp made a spectacular return to competition a year ago with a 4th place finish at Ironman Arizona. Rapp continued his comeback this year with a win at the ultra-distance Leadman Epic, 3rd place at Rev 3 Portland, 2nd place at Calgary 70.3 and race-best bike and run while winning Ironman Canada.
Sylvain Sudrie of France, the defending ITU long distance World Champion, rode 3:09:13, virtually matching Rapp (3:09:21) and Gambles (3:09:17) on the bike and was just 3 seconds quicker than Gambles' 1:52:29 run.
But Sudries' 1:45 transition was 33 seconds slower than Gambles', and thus provided the Australian with his 26 seconds advantage over Sudries' third place time.
Denmark's Martin Jensen, who had two previous 3rd place finishes at the ITU Long Distance Worlds, broke into a 5-minute, 40 seconds lead after a race-best 3:03:33 bike split. But after that sizzling effort, Rapp passed him about 10 miles into the 18.6-mile run as Jensen faded with a 2:00:16 run that brought him home in 4th place, 5:08 behind Rapp, 2:16 behind Gambles, and precisely 2 minutes behind Sudrie.
The USA's Nicholas Thompson, a weaker swimmer who benefited by the swim cancellation, overcame a 16-minute deficit on the bike with a second-best 1:50:58 run to finish 5th, 6:15 arrears of Jensen.
Notably, Michael Raelert, who dominated the Ironman 70.3 world for two straight years before a hip injury sidelined him for much of 2011, fell to 6th place with a 1:57:47 run that was 8 minutes 15 seconds slower than Rapp's.
Rachel Joyce of Great Britain finished in 5:34:15 outpacing runner-up and fellow Briton Leanda Cave by 3 minutes 20 seconds for her second big win of 2011. Joyce followed up a promising 2010 which featured a 2nd at Antwerp 70.3 and a 5th place at Ironman Hawaii with a win this year at Ironman Lanzarote, a 2nd at Ironman South Africa, a 4th at Ironman Hawaii and now her first World title.
Joyce earned all of her winning margin with a 3:33:09 to 3:36:42 advantage on the bike, as Cave's race-best 1:59:20 run was just 11 seconds better than the champion's 1:59:31.
The USA's Meredith Kessler 3:35:15 bike gave away 2:06 to Joyce's opening leg, but her 2:03:54 run left her 6:30 behind Joyce and 3:10 back of Cave at the finish.
Australia's Nikki Butterfield, who dazzled at Hy-Vee with her race-best bike, set a race-best 3:31:13 first split at Henderson to lead the field into T1. But Butterfield's 2:11:58 run left her in 4th place, 10:19 back of Joyce.
The USA's Homo Malaika was another 2:03 back in 5th place.
ITU Long Distance World Championship
November 5, 2011
B 120k / R 30k
1. Jordan Rapp (USA) 5:00:15
2. Joe Gambles (AUS) 5:02:57
3. Sylvain Sudrie (FRA) 5:03:23
4. Martin Jensen (DEN) 5:05:23
5. Nicholas Thompson (USA) 5:11:38
6. Michael Raelert (GER) 5:11:41
7. Massimo Cigana (ITA) 5:13:14
8. Esben Hovgaard (DEN) 5:16:49
9. Scott Neyedli (GBR) 5:17:22
10. Petr Vabrousek (CZE) 5:18:47
11. Julien Loy (FRA) 5:19:54
1. Rachel Joyce (GBR) 5:34:15
2. Leanda Cave (GBR) 5:37:35
3. Meredith Kessler (USA) 5:40:45
4. Nikki Butterfield (AUS) 5:44:34
5. Malaika Homo (USA) 5:46:37
6. Erika Csomor (HUN) 5:51:40
7. Tenille Hoogland (CAN) 5:55:54
8. Michelle Vesterby (DEN) 5:56:34
9. Janine Sax (NZL) 6:02:43
10. Ewa Bugdol (POL) 6:07:06
12. Amanda Lovato (USA) 6:10:21