Daniela Ryf broke 9 hours to fend off defending champion Kaisa Lehtonen by 5:24 at the Ironman African Championship at Nelson Mandela Bay. Ben Hoffman defended his 2016 title with a sub-8 hour performance that edged Nils Frommhold by 50 seconds.
Daniela Ryf went into this race unsure if she could finish as she pulled her back before the race and could not swim for 10 days. Still, the two-time Ironman World Champion tied for the lead in the swim with Kate Comber in 53:47 which gave her a 6 to 9 seconds lead on top contenders Julia Gajer of Germany, Susie Cheetham of Great Britain and Katja Konschak of Germany, while 2016 Ironman World Championhip 5th place finisher Kaisa Lehtonen of Finland was 1:41 down.
Halfway through the bike leg, Gajer, Cheetham and Lehtonen formed a lead pack that was 2:08 ahead of Ryf and even farther ahead of the rest.
At this point, Ryf was warmed up and all worries about her back were over. By the finish of the bike leg, Ryf’s women’s-best 4:50:50 split earned her a 3:32 lead on Lehtonen, 5:02 on Gajer and 6:30 on Cheetham.
Ryf’s women’s best 2:57:27 marathon was 1:43 better than Lehtonen and brought the Swiss champion home in 8:47:02 with a 5:24 margin of victory over her Finnish rival. Cheetham finished with a 3:08:36 run which gave her the final spot on the podium, 17:24 behind the winner.
Ryf told Ironman media: "To be honest, it's a bit of a miracle for me. I pulled my back before the race. I couldn't swim for ten days and I was hoping that my back would stay the swim. Finally I found my pushing legs on the bike."
Lehtonen said: "I tried to do everything that is possible, the run was really hard today.“
After cyclist extraordinaire Cameron Wurf led the men’s field following a race-best bike split, defending Ironman South Africa champion Ben Hoffman of the U.S. and Nils Frommhold of Germany took over and waged a fierce duel through the marathon that left all other contenders in their wake. At the finish, Hoffman’s race-best 2:42:52 run was 51 seconds better than Frommhold’s 2:43:43 effort and brought him to the finish in 7:58:40 with a 50 seconds margin of victory.
”I exceeded all expectations,” Hoffman told Ironman media. “It’s absolutely awesome. A sub-8 hour time wasn’t on my radar. I’m just blown away.”
Frommhold told Ironman media that he is full of respect for Hoffman.
David McNamee of Great Britain fell back 6 minutes on the bike leg and 2 and a half minutes on the run to take 3rd. “It’s just an incredible race,” said McNamee. ”It was great to be back here.”
Josh Amberger of Australia led the swim with a 48:01 clocking that gave him a 3 seconds margin on Harry Wiltshire of Great Britain, and included in a lead pack of 20 just over one minute back were prominent contenders Frederik Van Lierde of Belgium, Frommhold, McNamee, James Cunnama of South Africa, super cyclist Cameron Wurf of Australia, Hoffman, Kyle Buckingham of South Africa and Eneko Llanos of Spain.
Previous Ironman South Africa champion Frederik Van Lierde was attacked by a group of four thugs while training eight days before the race. The robbers hit his helmet with sticks and robbed him of his mobile phone and sunglasses. Van Lierde was shocked but escaped relatively unharmed.
Wurf, a pro cyclist who rode the Giro d’Italia, took off fast and established a 3:19 lead at 133km. By the finish of his race-best 4:20:11 bike split, Wurf held a 2:00 lead on Frommhold and 2:03 on Hoffman. Swim leader Amberger was next at +7:58, Jan Van Berkel was +8:11, Van Lierde was +8:12 and Kyle Buckingham was +8:14.
Halfway through the run, Hoffman established a 49 seconds lead on Frommhold, 4:38 on hard charging McNamee, 8:07 on Buckingham, 9:02 on Boris Stein, 9:16 on Cunnama and 9:52 on Van Lierde. While Hoffman’s hard work created a gap, Frommhold has far from done. At 26.5km, the German reduced the deficit to 39 seconds. At 31.5km the gap was down to 29 seconds. At that point, Hoffman shut the door and finished the job with a 2:42:52 marathon, which gave him a 7:58:40 finish and a 50 seconds margin of victory.
Ironman African Championship
Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa
April 2, 2017
S 2.4 mi. / B 112 mi. / R 26.2 mi.
1. Daniela Ryf (SUI) 8:47:02
2. Kaisa Lehtonen (FIN) 8:52:26
3. Susie Cheetham (GBR) 9:04:49
4. Astrid Stienen (SHN) 9:24:37
5. Gurutze Frades (ESP) 9:24:59
6. Katja Konschak (GER) 9:25:40
7. Alexandra Tondeur (BEL) 9:26:29
8. Jeanne Collonge (FRA) 9:27:18
9. Nikki Bartlett (GBR) 9:27:49
10. Katharina Grohmann (GER) 9:29:20
1. Ben Hoffman (USA) 7:58:40
2. Nils Frommhold (GER) 7:59:30
3. David McNamee (GBR) 8:07:31
4. Kyle Buckingham (RSA) 8:08:58
5. Jan Van Berkel (SUI) 8:12:35
6. Boris Stein (GER) 8:16:12
7. Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) 8:19:10
8. Giulio Molinari (ITA) 8:21:09
9. Andrej Vistica (HRV) 8:23:21
10. James Cunnama (RSA) 8:25:42
11. Cameron Wurf (AUS) 8:25:31