Jan Frodeno and Daniela Ryf won the first round of the Nasser Bin Hammad Triple Crown with decisive victories on a windy day at Ironman 70.3 Dubai. Thanks to their wins, Ryf and Frodeno are the surviving contestants for the $1 million awarded to the winners of all three Triple Crown events in 2016.
Frodeno started his day with a a race-best 16:00 swim (shortened to 1,200 meters due to wind-whipped chop and side currents) that gave him a 2 seconds advantage on Josh Amberger, and then extended his lead to 3:01 with a race-best 2:02:33 ride into the desert and back knifing into fierce winds. As Amberger fell back on the run, Frodeno extended his lead with a race-best 1:13:49 half marathon that brought him to the finish in 3:34:48, with a 6:54 margin of victory over Amberger (1:17:33 run). Amberger defended his runner-up finish against hard charging Bart Aernouts of Belgium, who took 3rd after outrunning 4th place Terenzo Bozzone of New Zealand down the stretch 1:15:06 to 1:15:28. Aernouts finished 3rd in 3:43:58, 9:10 behind Frodeno and 3 seconds ahead of the 2015 Challenge Dubai winner Bozzone.
“I had a real dream of a day. One of those days you can just push with the pace the whole day. It was a perfect day for me,” said Frodeno.
Upon reflection, Frodeno said his domination did not some easy. “Conditions were tough,” he said. “That was obvious when they changed the swim to the Marina and made it 700 meters short. I got surprised by the wind [on the bike] two or three times and I had a few white knuckle moments.”
The 1200 meter run from the new swim to the transition exit added distance but answered questions that Frodeno had of his fitness.
“It was a long run. But even on the run already I felt I had good legs. I was able to play with the throttle. But in these races early on you never know how much gas in is in the tank.”
On the wind-whipped ride, Frodeno was challenged early by Amberger but answered well.
“It took [Josh] about 30k to catch me,” said Frodeno. “Then he took some time to catch his breath, and he never passed me. On the way out there was a bit of a tailwind. But once we turned back into the wind, it was now or never - and he never did.”
Frodeno credited his extensive work in the wind tunnels and focus on his aerodynamic position for his winning ride: “Aerodynamics always helps. One of my big advantages I always squeeze myself into the aerodynamic position. I do a lot of work on it - stretching, core, all that sort of stuff.”
Frodeno said the victory was nice but not overwhelmingly significant.
“Like I say, so far it does not mean much. It is great to finally make a race in the Middle East. Three times now I've had a crash or got sick just before. It is something I can point my finger at to let guys know I've not just been partying after Kona. I've been training too, so count me in for the battle this year.”
Frodeno said he was concerned about his wife Emma's pregnancy and the imminent birth of their first child - and was happy he will soon be flying home. He said Emma will forgive him for taking on this race so close to the birth.
“It is one of those things,” said Frodeno. “A shot at a million bucks, you have to take a bit of a risk. We weighed it all up. Saw the doctor a few hours before I got on the plane. He said 'Go.' So, I did. I talked to Emma right after the race and she is relaxing at home.”
Ryf led the swim inside the protected waters of the Jumeirah Marina in 20:09, which gave her a 1 second advantage over Swiss up and comer Celine Schaerer, 16 seconds over Caroline Steffen, 1:29 over Finnish star Kaisa Lehtonen, and 1:46 over U.S. contender Jocelyn McCauley. Belgian long course star Tine Deckers trailed by 2:45 starting the bike.
After a women's-best 2:17:21 bike split that was 2:21 better than McCauley, 2:34 better than Steffen and 4:38 better than Lehtonen, Ryf started the run with a 2:46 lead on Steffen, 4:37 on McCauley and 6:08 on Lehtonen.
After a women's 2nd-fastest 1:20:52 run, Ryf finished in 4:01:09 with a 3:52 margin on runner-up Steffen, who fought off a furious charge by Lehtonen.
Lehtonen, during a women's-best 1:18:34 run, passed McCauley and came up on Steffen's heels with 2 kilometers to go. With gutsy determination, Steffen fought back and hit the line in 4:05:01, just two seconds ahead of her Finnish rival and 3:52 back of Ryf. Saving her best for last, Steffen's women's 3rd-best 1:21:56 run was enough to protect the silver. Lehtonen took 3rd 3:54 back of the winner.
McCauley ran 1:24:12 to take 4th, 4:24 back of Lehtonen and 1:24 ahead of 5th place Andrea Forrest of Australia.
“Big compliment to Caroline [Steffen]. I think she did really good in the first 50km on the bike. She really pushed the pace and she was really hurting me and then I tried to wait a bit. I started to hurt more, the last 40km I wanted to see where my legs were and decided to push a little bit hard. Every time I wanted to slow down I pushed harder, that's pretty much the tactic. With the wind and the carpet on the floor the run felt quite slow, but I'm really happy,” said Ryf.
Ironman 70.3 Dubai
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
January 29, 2016
S 1.2 k. */ B 56 mi. / R 13.1 mi.
1. Jan Frodeno (GER) 3:34:48
2. Josh Amberger (AUS) 3:41:42
3. Bart Aernouts (BEL) 3:43:58
4. Terenzo Bozzone (NZL) 3:44:01
5. Jaroslav Kovacic (SVN) 3:44:35
6. Nick Baldwin (SEY) 3:49:20
7. Brad Williams (USA) 3:49:48
8. Miquel Blanchart (ESP) 3:49:54
9. Andrej Vistica (CRO) 3:51:20
10. Olivier Godard (LUX) 3:53:19
1. Daniela Ryf (SUI) 4:01:09
2. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 4:05:01
3. Kaisa Lehtonen (FIN) 4:05:03
4. Jocelyn McCauley (USA) 4:09:27
5. Andrea Forrest (AUS) 4:10:51`
6. Deidre Casey (IRE) 4:13:28 * AG
7. Tine Deckers (BEL) 4:14:13
8. Corinne Abraham (GBR) 4:19:13
9. Celine Schaerer (SUI) 4:19:13
10. Annah Watkinson (RSA) 4:22:12