Daniela Ryf earned a record fourth Ironman 70.3 World Championship title with a 6th best 24:24 swim, a race-best 2:15:27 bike split and a 2nd-fastest 1:16:59 half marathon to finish in 4:01:12 with a 3:46 margin of victory over Lucy Charles of Great Britain and 6:09 over 3rd place finisher Anne Haug of Germany.
Ryf quickly overcame a 1:24 deficit to Charles in the swim, catching Charles 29 kilometers into the 90 kilometer bike leg. While Charles stuck close to Ryf the rest of the ride and into T2, Ryf sprinted into the lead and closed with a second-best run for a decisive margin over Charles, who closed with a 1:20:36 run. Anne Haug started the run with a 7:40 deficit to the two leaders. Haug then unleashed a race-best 1:15:11 run to take 3rd place, 6:09 behind Ryf and 2:23 behind Charles.
The win was Ryf’s 4th Ironman 70.3 World title, which is two more than the next-best total of Melissa Hauschildt (2011, 2013). Ryf previously won 70.3 Worlds gold in 2014, 2015 and 2017.
Lucy Charles of Great Britain, perhaps the best female swimmer in Ironman history, sprinted away from the field, taking a 50 meter lead halfway through the swim at Kings Beach in Nelson Mandela Bay in the Indian Ocean. Charles finished in 23:00 with a 1:05 lead on first year pro Fenella Langridge of Great Britain, 1:23 to 1:25 on a pack of seven women led by last year’s 4th place finisher Sarah True of the U.S., Pamella Oliveira of Brazil, Radka Vodickova of the Czech Republic, three-time Ironman 70.3 World Champion Daniela Ryf of Switzerland, home country favorite Jeanni Seymour, Imogen Simmonds of Switzerland. Surprisingly, Anne Haug of Germany, not a noted swimmer, came out in 9th place.
Noted cyclist-runners Emma Pallant of Great Britain, last year’s runner-up Ellie Salthouse of Australia and Heather Wurtele of Canada trailed by 2 to 3 minutes at T1.
By 15 kilometers, Daniela Ryf closed Charles’ lead to 34 seconds, while the duo opened a 2:20 lead on a chase group of seven women led in order by Haug, Vodickova, Simmonds, True, Seymour and Oliveira. Next up were Langridge at +3:04, Salthouse at +3:49 and Wurtele and Pallant all plus 4 minutes down.
While she was making up time, Ryf struggled with a broken zipper on her tri suit creating sub-par aerodynamics and threatening a one minute stand down penalty if the problem was created on purpose.
By 20km, Ryf approached Charles and took her time hydrating before making a push at the downhill at kilometer 28. At 1:15 into the race, Ryf put on a high cadence surge and immediately stretched out a lead of 30 meters on the seaside road. After two kilometers, Charles recovered and started to chip away back at Ryf’s lead.
While the two leaders pushed each other to a faster pace, the chase group fell back to 3:30 arrears – whereupon the Ironman live feed went dark leaving the viewers wondering what was happening.
At 28.7km, Ryf was in the process of passing Charles and the two leaders were being chased by a pack of six led by Haug (+3:29), Vodickova (+3:33), Simmonds (+3:35), True (+3:37), Seymour (+3:40), and Oliveira (+3:42). Chase pack two was led by Salthouse (+4:53), Pallant (+4:53) and Wurtele (+5:12) while Langridge was falling back from her strong position after the swim to 15th place, 5:52 arrears.
By 38km, Charles was sticking close to Ryf, just 3 seconds back as they increased their lead to 4:10 to 4:45 over a pack of six including Haug, Simmonds, Vodickova, True, Oliveira and Seymour with Pallant and Seymour just under 6 minutes behind.
Halfway through the bike leg, Charles continues to stick close to Ryf, 6 seconds behind, while Haug. Simmonds and Vodickova rode 5 minutes back. At 52 km, Sarah True fell 8 minutes back.
At the 80 km mark, Charles proved herself impervious to any last minute surges by Ryf. Charles pulled within 15 meters whilst the duo increased their lead to over 7 minutes on the chasers. In the final two kilometers, Charles grew ever closer to Ryf, pulling within 10 meters as they crossed the dismount line.
After a 2:15:27 bike split, Ryf sat down in transition together with Charles to change into their run shoes. Ryf, with Olympics experience, earned an 8 seconds lead starting the run with a faster transition. At the start of the run, Ryf’s broken zipper remained open. Within the first mile, Ryf opened a 300 meter lead and surged away.
Race rules state that the competitor’s triathlon top cannot be zipped below the sternum, but Ryf's top was zipped all the way down due to a broken zipper. When a zipper breaks, race rules state that the competitor cannot be penalized.
At T2, the four closest chasers – Vodickova, Simmonds, Haug and Oliveira - arrived 7:40 behind the leaders. Next in line were Ellie Salthouse, Emma Pallant, Seymour and Wurtele 11 minutes arrears.
After 2.4 km, Ryf held a 15 seconds lead - 80 meters - on Charles. After 2.5 km, Anne Haug pulled away from the chasers in 3rd place, making up 15 seconds on Ryf and 30 second son Charles. At 5.2 km, Ryf increased her lead to 28 seconds on Charles while Haug, running at a 1:15 half marathon pace, pulled within 7:11 of the leader, 6:41 of Charles. Simmonds and Vodickova battled elbow to elbow for 4th place. 57 seconds behind Haug.
At 7.7 km, Ryf opened a 1 minute lead on Charles, who held a 6 minute margin on Haug.
Daniela Ryf ran the first 10km – just under halfway - in 36:52, a 1:18 half marathon pace, which gave her a 1:32 lead on Charles and 6:55 on Haug. At their respective paces, Charles should hold on for second place, 2 minutes ahead of Haug.
At 15.6 km, the margins remained unchanged - Ryf held a 2:48 lead on Charles and 6:46 on Haug.
After a record 1:16:59 run, Ryf crossed the line in 4:01:12 with a 3:46 margin of victory over Charles and 6:09 over 3rd place finisher Anne Haug, who closed with a fantastic, women's-best 1:15:10 run split.
In the final miles of the run, Imogen Simmonds fell back and Pamella Oliveira of Brazil charged into 4th place, 6:22 behind Haug and 6 second ahead of Radka Vodickova of the Czech Republic in 5th.
Isuzu Ironman 70.3 World Championship
Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa
September 1, 2018
S 1.2 mi. / B 56 mi. / R 13.1 mi.
1. Daniela Ryf (SUI) 4:01:12:12 S 24:24 B 2:15:27 R 1:16:59
2. Lucy Charles (GBR) 4:04:58 S 23:00 B 2:17:11 R 1:20:36
3. Anne Haug (GER) 4:07:21 S 24:27 B 2:23:17 R 1:15:11
4. Pamella Oliveira (BRA) 4:13:44 S 24:25 B 2:23:18 R 1:21:30
5. Radka Vodickova (CZE) 4:13:50 S 24:25 B 2:23:30 R 1:21:40
6. Imogen Simmonds (SUI) 4:14:40 S 24:26 B 2:23:29 R 1:22:34
7. Jeanni Seymour (RSA) 4:14:57 S 24:25 B 2:27:21 R 1:19:09
8. Ellie Salthouse (AUS) 4:15:12 S 25:44 B 2:25:55 R 1:19:24
9. Emma Pallant (GBR) 4:15:53 S 25:56 B 2:25:57 R 1:20:05
10. Sarah True (USA) 4:16:00 S 24:24 B 2:29:12 R 1:17:59