Patrick Lange again bested pre-race predictions in winning the Amazon-sponsored Hawaiian Ironman World Championships for the second straight year.
The German also broke his course record in Hawaii for the second year in 7:52:39 on a course many felt would never yield a sub-8-hour finish.
The day began with Josh Amberger leading out the swim as expected. The Aussie held back, even backstroking at times, checking behind to make sure he didn’t swim too fast. His plan was to exit the water with fellow cycle-mates, which he did.
By the 20-mile mark the uberbikers began to make contact with race leaders. Andrew Starykowicz and Cameron Wurf rode through everyone but Amberger, and the 3 shared the pace with as they pulled away from the rest.
Trailing these were a pack led by Andreas Dreitz, which included Lange, Javier Gomez, Tom O’Donnell and a half-dozen others. Dreitz seemed to be paying special attention to Lange, though the race was exceptionally clean of draft and position infractions.
Wurf, who blew the bike course record up last year, rode another good weather year to yet another course benchmark, finishing up with a 4:09:06 split. Wurf’s pace distanced Amberger first and late in the bike ride Starky, who rode in with a 4:12:18, also under Wurf’s record of last year. Amberger was 3rd in off the bike.
Wurf didn’t come just to win the bike. Five miles into the run he was still in the lead but last year’s winner Lange, who came in off the bike in 10th place, had gotten himself up into 2nd. Gomez, the pre-race favorite according to a lot of seasoned observers, faltered in the last 5 miles of the bike ride and never quite rebounded. Lange and the other veteran Hawaii competitors found their legs; Gomez was good, but not the overcoming runner he usually is. Gomez would finish 11th.
While Lange had made it up to 2nd by mile-5, he wasn’t clear of the rest of the field. O’Donnell and Braden Currie were step-by-step with him, with Bart Arnouts just seconds behind. The good weather was mostly holding, but the day was heating up. Meanmwhile, Michael Weiss had made it up to Gomez – the Austrian rode into contention from well back with a 4:11:28, second fastest ride of the day.
But the catch was inevitable and Lange was clear of the field by mile-10, and he began to gap all his rivals. The veteran Arnouts found good legs and was keeping pace with Lange, but remained a minute behind and couldn’t close that gap. The harsh pace both men kept meant they distanced their rivals. The only runner who looked as if he might make a run was the Scot, David McNamee, who finished 3rd place in last year’s race and was looking for more.
By mile-20 Lange had scratched out an extra couple of minutes on Aernouts. McNamee worked his way through the field to 3rd place, just as he did last year. Wurf had faded to 9th, but was by no means dying. The entire top-10 in the men’s field was on fire.
Lange never faltered, and crossed the line unofficially in 7:52:39. Upon crossing the finish line, the first thing Lange did was walk over to his girlfriend Julia, drop to a knee, and ask for her hand in marriage (fortunately she said yes). “Crazy energy,” said Lange after the finish. “I love this race. Awesome volunteers. I love you all. You cannot imagine it. I’m overwhelmed and grateful.”
The only record Lange did not take down was his run record. His 2:41:32 didn’t quite eclipse his time from last year.
The Belgian Bart Aernouts, in his 7th Hawaiian Ironman, came home in 7:56:41, becoming the 2nd racer ever to cross the line in Kona in under 8 hours. Second place was his best placing here. “It’s a dream come true. I was the whole way on my own. Mentally harder. It’s all about not pushing too hard in the beginning. I did it in my own. It’s unbelievable.”
McNamee’s 8:01:09 was also under the old course record, running 2:46 while taking his sweet time in the finish chute, soaking in his second consecutive 3rd place.
Notably, Matt Russell finished in 6th place in 8:04:45, just 4 seconds behind Braden Currie and only competing here after a very late Kona qualification. Russell overcame a horrific, life threatening bike accident and appears to have made a full recovery. Russell was the 2nd American after 4th place O’Donnell, and 40-year-old Andy Potts finished 8th, giving the US one of its better days in recent years at this men’s race.
Hawaiian Ironman World Championships
October 13, 2018
S 2.4 mi. / B 112 mi. / R 26.2 mi
1. Patrick Lange (DEU): 7:52:30 (52:42; 4:16:05; 2:41:32)
2. Bart Aernouts (BEL): 7:56:41 (54:07; 4:12:26; 2:45:42)
3. David McNamee (GBR): 8:01:09 (49:31; 4:21:19; 2:46:03)
4. Tim O'Donnell (USA): 8:03:17 (47:45; 4:18:46; 2:52:34)
5. Braden Currie (NZL): 8:04:41 (49:28; 4:17:18; 2:53:39)
6. Matt Russell (USA): 8:04:45 (2:52:57)
7. Joe Skipper (GBR): 8:05:54 (2:54:16)
8. Andy Potts (USA): 8:09:34 (2:56:27)
9. Cameron Wurf (AUS): 8:10:32 (3:06:19)
10. Michael Weiss (AUT): 8:11:04 (3:00:03)
[Photos: Timothy Carlson]