Here’s the story partway through this year’s Hawaiian Ironman World Championship, 3 hours in and as the men round the cone at Hawi. Two of the top-3 men in last year’s race have already pulled out during the bike leg. Patrick Lange has vacated the race and the wind, which vacated last year’s race, has returned.
The race looked great for the 2-time defending champion Patrick Lange as he was part of a 9-man swim pack that jumped to a robust 5-minute lead on the überbikers. Josh Amberger ran up the ramp in 47:28 followed by Jan Frodeno, Amberger, Kona rookie Alistair Brownlee, Daniel Bakkegard, Tim O’Donnell, Maurice Clavel. Lange, Braden Currie, Jesper Svensson rounded out the front swim group.
A 17-man pack followed just over 3 minutes back, which included Andi Boecherer, Patrik Nilsson, Ben Hoffman, Andy Potts and David McNamee. Then the Matts, Russel and Hanson, Wurf, Sebastian Kienle and Lionel Sanders were just under 5 minutes down out of the water.
Brownlee took the bike ride like it was an ITU race, riding out of the saddle all the way up Pay ‘n Save Hill, shedding 4 of the 9 front pack swimmers right off the back of the train. He’s been pushing near 100rpms the whole way, a good 15 beats a minute faster than typical. These top 5, Amberger, Clavel, Frodeno, Brownlee and O’Donnell, rode alone, with the überbikers halving the swim gap by the turn at Hawi.
Lange, dropped from the front pack, kept getting passed on the bike ride. He had a fever last night, according to race coverage. Finally, at Kawaihae, one of the points where you can dive down from the “high road” to the Queen K, he saw his handler, stopped, and pulled the plug. The wind, blowing from the East, kept picking up, hitting the riders from the side at about 30mph. McNamee, 3rd last year, was another race casualty, dropping from the race in the early miles.
Now on the way back from Hawi, when it’s Double Jeopardy and the scores really change, O’Donnell made the move he made last year and it’s caused a little gap between the front 3 – which include Clavel and Frodeno – and the slightly gapped Brownlee and Amberger.
Lucy Charles-Barclay led the entire women’s swim with Lauren Brandon on her feet. They raced to a big gap over the chasers, which included perennial winner and defending champ Daniela Ryf. Sarah True’s up-and-down season continues, with a flat just after leaving T1.
Lauren Brandon could not ride Charles-Barclay's pace and after the left turn at Kawaihae Charles-Barclay looked to be keeping her gap from everyone, with a more-than-5min lead on Annie Haug, Imogen Simmonds, Sarah Crowley and Carrie Lester. One difference is Charles-Barclay is her much more refined bike position about her Shiv Disc.
The women’s chase pack came out 5min behind the leading pair in the water, and have remained right at that distance. Ryf came out in that group. But Ryf has fallen to 8min and change behind the leaders on the bike. Remember, last year her last 30k on the bike was second best of the day. Not in the women’s race. Second to Cameron Wurf. She’s a second-half racer, but she does make you worry during the first half.
More to come...
[PHOTOS: Eric Wynn]