Frederik Van Lierde of Belgium won his first Ironman World Championship and Mirinda Carfrae won her second Kona title with a records-smashing run and overall performance.
Frederik Van Lierde became the second Belgian with the same surname to win the precious Ironman World Championship and did it with an understated, quiet, perfectly balanced swim, bike and run that had all the hallmarks of a master craftsman making a fine-fitting cabinet.
Van Lierde combined a tied-for-fastest 51:02 men's pro swim, followed with a 4th-fastest 4:25:37 bike split and concluded with a 4th-fastest 2:51:18 men's marathon to finish in 8:12:29 with a 2:50 margin of victory over a career-highlight runner-up finish for Luke McKenzie of Australia and 6:55 over 3rd-place Sebastian Kienle of Germany, besting his 4th place finish last year on day in which the new German Uberbiker enjoyed a punctureless ride but not his best run.. Van Lierde's win comes as no big surprise after three straight victories on the tough course at Ironman Nice, a dominating win at Abu Dhabi International and a third place finish at this race a year ago. It also marks the third Kona victory for a Belgian Van Lierde as non-related Luc won in 1996 and 1999.
The race also rewarded Luke McKenzie, a 6-time Ironman winner, with his greatest day on the big stage at Kona. McKenzie was the only man to chase down breakaway star Andrew Starykowicz -- the Ironman bike record holder with a 4:04 split last year at Ironman Florida -- on the bike. But unlike Starykowicz, who was obviously trashed after the bike and faded out of the top 20, McKenzie held firmly to the lead until Mile 16 of the run. At that point, Van Lierde, on methodical pace for a 2:51:18 marathon, passed McKenzie, who was bravely mustering a 2:57:20 run after his probable race-best 4:22:27 split that was 8 seconds faster than Uberbiker du jour Sebastian Kienle. That run brought McKenzie home in 8:15:19, covered in glory for his runner-up finish, 2:50 back of Van Lierde and 4:05 ahead of the much more highly regarded pre-race favorite Kienle
The race also delivered on its reputation as a consistent democratic heart breaker of all time greats. On what may be his final crack at Kona, three-time Ironman World Champion Craig Alexander finished 23rd and defending champion Pete Jacobs was even further back as neither could muster their world-beating selves on a day where the heat only increased as the day wore on. Two-time 2013 Ironman winner Luke Bell and highly regarded Bevan Docherty also were far off their capabilities on a cloudy, warm day.
On a happier note, Tim O'Donnell finally earned the crown of top American at Kona with his 5th-place finish in 8:22:25, 39 seconds behind 4th place finisher James Cunnama of South Africa.
For all O'Donnell's heroics, fiancée Mirinda Carfrae overshadowed her husband-to-be and everyone else including the recently retired, legendary 4-time champion Chrissie Wellington. Rinny Carfrae won her second Ironman World Championship in quite different fashion from Van Lierde -- storming back from a middling 58:50 swim and a much-improved 4:58:18 bike split that only surrendered 3 minutes to her fastest rivals. All that was prelude to her masterpiece -- a 2:50:35 marathon that broke her own Kona run record by 1:34. To give it an even deeper level of respect, Carfrae's run was third fastest overall on the day including the men. It was also 43 seconds faster than men's winner Frederik Van Lierde. It's not only fast, it's beautiful to behold -- Carfrae's perfectly beautiful stride must one day be painted on a modern Greek frieze to commemorate its classical lines and seemingly effortless speed.
And when it's time to stop marveling about her run, it's time to applaud one of the greatest all around triathletes in history as she hit the finish line in 8 hours, 52 minutes and 14 seconds - smashing Chrissie Wellington's women's race record by 1 minute and 48 seconds. In the process, Carfrae became the first woman to break 9 hours at Kona three times -- one ahead of Paula Newby-Fraser and Chrissie Wellington.
Finally, Carfrae has put together a Kona resume of surpassingly consistent excellence - 2nd to Chrissie Wellington in her 2009 Kona debut, 1st in 2010, 2nd to Wellington in 2011 and 3rd while off form last year.
To simply mention Carfrae's marvelously statistical dominance would do both the Australian and her close rival a disservice as Rachel Joyce of Great Britain led halfway through the run and pushed Carfrae hard with an 8:57:28 clocking that is the 5th fastest women's time in Kona history and makes Joyce just the 4th member of the very exclusive club of women who have broken 9 hours at Kona.
Joyce started off with a 54:09 swim topped only slightly by Haley Chura (53:55), Meredith Kessler (54:06) and Liz Blatchford (54:07) and edging out Caroline Steffen by 1 second. Joyce then unleashed a 4:55:25 bike split that was outpaced only by Yvonne Van Vlerken (4:54:38) and Meredith Kessler (4:55:13), who led much of the bike leg, and Joyce edged Michelle Vesterby's fine 4:55:53 split.
At the start of the run, Joyce was 7:34 ahead of Carfrae and did not go gentle into the run as she started off much faster than her eventual 3:03:35 pace. Ultimately, Carfrae rolled on like a train going downhill and slammed past Joyce after a brief, gentle pat on the back at Mile 13 for a job well done. Also notable a on a day dominated by Carfrae's heroics was still-new-to-the-Ironman game Liz Blatchford of Great Britain. IOTU short course veteran Blatchford began with a front pack 54:07 swim, continued with a 5th-best 4:47:40 bike leg and finished with a highly respectable 3:03:21 marathon that was 14 seconds faster than Joyce's run and 2 seconds faster than Van Vlerken's marathon. Van Vlerken also had a day to be proud of - 4th place, 59 seconds behind Blatchford and 4:35 ahead of the talented Caroline Steffen.
The bright spot for American women was the best-ever 6th-place Kona finish of Caitlin Snow of Brockton, Massachusetts who finished with a 2nd-fastest 2:58:51 women's marathon to hit the line in 9:10:12 1:03 behind Steffen and 7 seconds ahead of fellow American Meredith Kessler, who finished 7th.
Ironman World Championship
October 12, 2013
1. Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) 8:12:39
2. Luke McKenzie (AUS) 8:15:19
3. Sebastian Kienle (GER) 8:19:24
4. James Cunnama (RSA) 8:21:46
5. Tim O'Donnell (USA) 8:22:25
6. Ivan Rana (ESP) 8:23:43
7. Tyler Butterfield (BER) 8:24:09
8. Bart Aernouts (BEL) 8:25:38
9. Timo Bracht (GER) 8:26:32
10. Faris Al-Sultan (GER) 8:31:13
11. Eneko Llanos (ESP) 8:32:04
12. Cyril Viennot (FRA) 8:33:12
13. Igor Amorelli (BRA) 8:34:59
14. Christian Ritter (GER) 8:35:23
15. Ben Hoffman (USA) 8:36:25
20. Andrew Starykowicz (USA) 8:43:00
22. Craig Alexander (AUS) 8:43:59
29. Chris Legh (AUS) 9:01:42
32. Pete Jacobs (AUS) 9:06:39
DNF: Dirk Bockel (LUX), Bevan Docherty (NZL), Jordan Rapp (USA), Ronnie Schildknecht (SUI), Jan Raphael (GER), Pedro Gomez (PRT), Andreas Raelert (GER), Clayton Fettell (AUS), Bas Diederen (GER).
1. Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) 8:52:14
2. Rachel Joyce (GBR) 8:57:28
3. Liz Blatchford (GBR) 9:03:35
4. Yvonne Van Vlerken (NED) 9:04:34
5. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 9:09:09
6. Caitlin Snow (USA) 9:10:12
7. Meredith Kessler (USA) 9:10:19
8. Michelle Vesterby (DEN) 9:11:13
9. Gina Crawford (NZL) 9:14:17
10. Linsey Corbin (USA) 9:17:22
11. Amanda Stevens (USA) 9:17:57
12. Leanda Cave (GBR) 9:25:07
13. Jessie Donavan (USA) 9:25:16
14. Natascha Badmann (SUI) 9:27:57
15. Kristin Moeller (GER) 9:31:41
DNF: Jodie Swallow (GBR), Mary Beth Ellis (USA), Heather Wurtele (CAN), Rebekah Keat (AUS), Sara Gross (CAN) , Mareen Hufe (GER), Anja Beranek (GER), Sonja Tajsich (GER).