Sebastian Kienle joined a list of German uberbikers who were able to win the Ironman World Championship on the bike and Mirinda Carfrae took her 3rd Kona crown with yet another record-setting run that overcame a 14 minutes 33 seconds deficit to Daniela Ryf after the bike leg.
Sebastian Kienle shrugged off his terrible race a month ago at Mt. Tremblant as he failed to defend his two straight Ironman 70.3 Worlds titles - answering that failure with a resounding victory at the Ironman World Championship in Kona. Kienle emerged from his usual swim deficit to take charge from Maik Twelsiek at 75 miles of a rather windy bike leg. Whereupon Kienle turned on the afterburners and posted the day's best split - 4:20:46 - which gave him an 8 minutes 30 seconds lead at T2.
With the cream of Ironman runners behind him, Kienle responded with a 2:54:36 run which advanced him to the finish in 8:14:18 with a 5:05 margin of victory over surprise second place finisher Ben Hoffman of the U.S. and 6:15 over third place finisher, 2008 Olympic gold medalist Jan Frodeno.
In a back and forth duel, Hoffman had an 3:18 advantage on Kienle in the swim, gave back 11:34 to Kienle's rocket ship bike split, then closed on Kienle's 8:16 lead with a 2:51:25 run that took back 3:11 but left the Boulder, Colorado veteran 2nd - a career-best major performance.
Frodeno lost even more time to Kienle on the bike - 16 minutes 33 seconds, due to two flats and a penalty - then made up 6:50 with a 2nd-best 2:47:46 run - which left him 3rd - 1:09 behind Hoffman.
Defending champion Frederik Van Lierde stayed in the game with a 51:05 swim, then dropped out of serious contention with a 4:32:17 bike split which was 8 minutes worse than his stellar ride last year, and then showed just how hard it is to repeat at Kona with a 2:56 run split that was 2 minutes slower than Kienle's defensive marathon and brought the Belgian home 8th, 9:53 behind this year's winner.
Ivan Rana, whose 3rd-fastest-ever Ironman performance at Austria earlier this year made him a podium contender, fell off the back with multiple troubles on his way to a 4:58:10 bike split, then earned some redemption with the day's best run split - a stellar 2:44:38 effort that brought him out of the basement to a 17th place finish in 8:38:59.
Maik Twelsiek, the last man to stick with Kienle on the bike, mustered only the second sub-4:30 bike split - 4:24:03 - then followed that bravura effort with a 3:07 marathon that brought him home in 8:31:06 - one place out of the money and one place off the stage at the awards ceremony.
The win culminated a steady progression by Kienle from 4th in 2012, 3rd last year and top of the podium this year.
This race also shuffled the deck on the quest to be top American male.
Last year's American breakthrough kid Timothy O'Donnell came apart late in the bike and took a noble survival slog run to finish over an hour back of the men he planned to beat.
Instead, unheralded Ben Hoffman put together a perfect race that more reflected his 2:43 marathon at Coeur d'Alene than his low starting number. When challenged by far more famous men near the end of the run, Hoffman refused to crack and joined the elite in the sport with his brave runner-up finish.
Next up, in his 7th crack at Kona, Andy Potts posted his best-ever result -- 4th - one better than O'Donnell managed last year.
What could Rinny Carfrae do for an encore after last year's bravura performance in which she smashed Chrissie Wellington's Kona course record, set a new women's Kona marathon record with a 2:50:38 time that was faster than men's winner Frederik Van Lierde and became the woman with the most sub 9-hour Kona times -- three?
This year Carfrae did not break 9 hours, but she threw in one amazing feat -- a run for the ages which obliterated a 14 minutes and 33 seconds lead by Rachel Joyce and a similar deficit to Daniela Ryf. Carfrae dug her own hole with an awkward 1:00:14 swim in choppy conditions which gave away 4 and 6 minutes to her top contenders,. Then she really struggled in the head- and cross-winds afflicted bike leg to arrive at T2 with a 5:05:48 split that gave away 11 minutes to Daniela Ryf and 9 minutes to Rachel Joyce. Thus she began her ace in the hole - her fabulous run.
Carfrae began by taking 1 minute back on the first mile of the run along Alii Drive,
then chipped past six rivals like a hungry Pac Man until only Ryf was left. Sure enough approaching the 23 mile mark, Carfrae cruised past Ryf with a friendly but brief word of congratulations then cruised to the finish with a 2:50:26 marathon that broke her 2013 record by 12 seconds and gave her a 2:02 margin of victory over the amazing Swiss whose career was given a boost this year by coach Brett Sutton.
Before this second place finish, Ryf had an undefeated season spotlighted by her victory at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship at Mt. Tremblant. Ryf''s strength was, as usual, the bike. Her 4:54:33 split was race-best, but her 3:07:00 marathon gave the race to Carfrae.
Rachel Joyce fought hard all day to a 3rd place finish - 1:26 behind Ryf and one place off her runner-up finish to Carfrae at Kona last year. Joyce could take some bows for her 2nd-best 4:56:49 bike split. But, like Ryf, her 3:06:27 run did her no favors in trying to hold off the Carfrae Express.
Carfrae's come-from-behind heroics outdid Mark Allen's erasure of Thomas Hellriegel's 13-minute deficit to take the win on the run in 1995 and Karen Smyers' 13-minute come-from -behind victory over Paula Newby-Fraser at Kona that same year.
Ironman World Championship
October 11, 2014
S 2.4 mi. / B 112 mi. / R 26.2 mi.
1. Sebastian Kienle (GER) 8:14:18
2. Ben Hoffman (USA) 8:19:23
3. Jan Frodeno (GER) 8:20:32
4. Andy Potts (USA) 8:21:38
5. Cyril Viennot (FRA) 8:22:19
6. Nils Frommhold (GER) 8:11:43
7. Tim Van Berkel (AUS) 8:23:26
8. Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) 8:24:11
9. Bart Aernouts (BEL) 8:28:28
10. Romain Guillaume (FRA) 8:30:15
11. Maik Twelsiek (GER) 8:31:06
1. Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) 9:00:55
2. Daniela Ryf (SUI) 9:02:57
3. Rachel Joyce (GBR) 9:04:23
4. Jodie Swallow (GBR) 9:10:19
5. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 9:12:43
6. Julia Gajer (GER) 9;16:58
7. Liz Lyles (USA) 9:18:11
8. Gina Crawford (NZL) 9;19:21
9. Mary Beth Ellis (USA) 9:20:46
10. Liz Blatchford (AUS) 9:23:34