On a day with variable weather, the biggest constant was the domination of Lucy Charles-Barclay, earning a decisive victory in St. George to take the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship.
The story pre-race was that Taylor Knibb, after indicating earlier in the week that she might not race, was in fact on the starting line in her lime green swim cap.
As the cannon went off, Lucy Charles-Barclay went right off the front, with Knibb trying to close up to her with a chase pack behind her. Her effort failed: Charles-Barclay had :44 on Holly Lawrence, Knibb, Jeanni Metzler and more at halfway. Meanwhile, Daniela Ryf found herself another 30 seconds back.
At swim exit -- Charles-Barclay swam 24:36 with nobody in sight around her (this time bested all but the lead pack of men). To put it in perspective, Charles-Barclay was out of transition before any other swimmer exited the water.
The group of Lawrence, Knibb, and Metzler were 90 seconds adrift. Ellie Salthouse and Ryf were yet another minute behind, with Jackie Hering trying to close up. Jocelyn McCauley and Skye Moench were almost 4 minutes behind as they hit land.
Knibb, riding a road bike with clip-ons and ~10 gels electrical taped to her top tube, began a charge -- gapping the chasers and putting 10 seconds into Charles-Barclay. Lawrence and Ryf lost time. By mile 13, though, Charles-Barclay reclaimed the gap over Knibb, and Ryf continued to hold steady at 2:30 behind, dropping the likes of Lawrence and Metzler.
Nearing the halfway mark, Knibb dropped back to Ryf -- both 2:45 adrift of Charles-Barclay. Lurking under 5 minutes back were Salthouse, Metzler, and Emma Pallant-Brown. As the women hit less than 20 miles remaining on the bike, Charles-Barclay continued to pull away -- over three minutes to Knibb, and over four minutes to Ryf. A chasing group of Pamella Oliviera, Salthouse, Pallant-Brown, Metzler, Moench, and Katrina Matthews all were within two minutes of Ryf.
Heading into Snow Canyon, it was all about Charles-Barclay and Knibb. The rest of the field was losing significant chunks of time -- Ryf now 6:13 down, Moench 6:54 behind, and Pallant-Brown closing up chasers under 7 minutes off the lead.
At bike end, it was Charles-Barclay with a 2:14:59 bike split with a massive lead over the field -- nearly 5 minutes over Knibb, who rode 2:18:27, and six minutes over Ryf, who came in with a 2:18:23 split. Matthews, Moench, Metzler, Pallant-Brown, Lawrence, Oliveira, and Salthouse rounded out the top 10 positions.
Charles-Barclay held her lead through the opening miles, but Ryf headed backwards. Matthews, Pallant-Brown, and Metzler had all passed Ryf, with Moench and Lawrence under 90 seconds behind Ryf in sixth.
With a quarter of the run done, Charles-Barclay had extended her lead to nearly six minutes over Knibb. The fastest woman on course was Metzler, now only 1:15 behind Knibb for second place. Ryf and Moench were running shoulder to shoulder, almost 9 minutes arrears.
At halfway, Charles-Barclay held steady on her lead, with Knibb 6:15 behind. Metzler had closed to within 45 seconds of Knibb. Matthews was 40 seconds behind Metzler, and had a 45 second gap over Pallant-Brown.
Metzler continued her relentless march toward Knibb. With five miles left to run, Metzler had only 30 seconds left to close to wind up in second. Their pace was nearly 30 seconds per mile faster than those in fourth and fifth; it seemed like the podium had been solidified -- it was just a question of the order on the lower steps. With less than two miles to go, Metzler made the catch and pass on Knibb.
At the finish, Charles-Barclay broke the tape in just over 4 hours, running a tremendous 1:18 half marathon, with an over 8 minute margin to Metzler and Knibb. Ryf would finish 11th, more than 17 minutes off the win.
1. Lucy Charles-Barclay 4:00:20
2. Jeanni Metzler 4:08:39
3. Taylor Knibb 4:08:50
4. Katrina Matthews 4:10:46
5. Emma Pallant-Brown 4:12:11
6. Skye Moench 4:12:50
7. Jackie Hering 4:15:03
8. Holly Lawrence 4:16:03
9. Nikki Bartlett 4:16:18
10. Anne Reischmann 4:17:11