Ben Hoffman of the United States and Kaisa Lehtonen of Finland and won their elite titles on the run at the Ironman African Championship in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa.
Hoffman combined a 4th-fastest 49:50 swim, 2nd-best 4:29:50 bike split and a race-best 2:45:50 run to finish in 8:12:37, with a 2:14 margin of victory over Tim van Berkel of Australia and 6:15 over 3rd-place finisher Marko Albert of Estonia. Hoffman trailed swim leader Albert by 21 seconds and bike leader Bas Diederen of Netherlands by 3:04 before breaking away from co-leader Tim van Berkel at kilometer 29 of the run.
Lehtonen combined a women’s 4th-best 58:21 swim, 4th-fastest 4:59:41 bike leg and women's best 3:02:34 marathon to finish in 9:06:50, with a 2:59 margin of victory over Susie Cheetham of Great Britain and a 4:53 advantage over 3rd-place finisher Lucy Gossage of Great Britain. Lehtonen overcame a 6:10 deficit to Jodie Swallow after the swim and a 12 minute deficit to Annabel Luxford after the bike leg with a women’s-best 3:03:34 run that brought her past Luxford at 30km into the run.
The win adds to Lehtonen’s 2015 European Triathlon Union middle distance championship in 2015 and silver at the 2014 ITU long distance World Championship.
Jodie Swallow led the women's swim in 52:11 which gave her a 3:56 lead over Annabel Luxford, 6:05 on Dede Griesbauer of the U.S., 6:10 on Kaisa Lehtonen of Finland and Susie Cheetham of Great Britain, 6:12 on Darbi Roberts of the U.S., 6:42 on Bianca Steurer of Austria, 11:09 on Annah Watkinson of South Africa, and 11:09 on Lucy Gossage of Great Britain.
At the turnaround at 90km, Swallow led Luxford by 1:30, Lehtonen by 11:45, Cheetham by 14:09, Gossage by 15:15, Griesbauer by 17:20 and Asa Lundström of Sweden by 18:17.
A short time later, Swallow took a hard fall which hurt her elbow and surrendered the lead to Luxford. By 135km, Luxford led Swallow by 1:54, Lehtonen by 11:36, Gossage by 14:41, Cheetham by 15:22 and Lundstrom by 17:27.
After a by-far women’s best 4:49:17 bike split, Luxford led at T2 by 7 minutes over Swallow (5:00 bike split), 12 minutes over Lehtonen (4:59:41 bike split), 14 minutes over Gossage (4:56:10 bike split), 16 minutes over Lundstrom (4:58:18 bike split) and 17 minutes over Cheetham (5:04:26 bike split).
After 5k of the run, Luxford led Lehtonen by 11:02, Gossage by 12:21 and Cheetham by 14:26.
After 30 minutes struggling with a very sore elbow from the bike crash, Jodie Swallow withdrew from the race.
By 18km, Luxford was fading and Lehtonen was charging, cutting her deficit to 5:53. Cheetham was gaining too and trailed the leader by 8:54, Gossage by 9:58. By the 23km mark, Lehtonen cut her deficit to Luxford to 2:14, Lehtonen then sped by her Australian rival by 28km and raised her lead to 3:45 over Susie Cheetham at 33km.
Marko Albert of Estonia led the men out of the swim in Nelson Mandela Bay in 49:36 which gave him a 1 second lead on Eric Watson of Australia, 10 seconds on Bas Diederen of Netherlands, 14 seconds on Ben Hoffman of the U.S., 22 seconds on Christian Kramer of Germany, 23 seconds on Tim Van Berkel of Australia, 1:43 on South African Kyle Buckingham and 2:18 on countryman James Cunnama, 4:48 on Boris Stein of Germany and 5:34 on Ronnie Schildknecht of Switzerland.
By 40km of the bike leg Diederen passed Albert for the lead. By 60km Diederen led Ben Collins of the U.S. by 6 seconds, Albert by 20 seconds, and Buckingham, Van Berkel, Cunnama, Christian Kramer and Ben Hoffman by a 2 minutes margin.
At the halfway point of the bike leg, Albert retook the lead with a margin of 2 seconds over Diederen, 5 seconds on Ben Collins, and 3-plus minutes on a group that included Buckingham, Van Berkel, Cunnama, Kramer and Hoffman. Stein was 4:55 own in 9th and Matt Trautman of South Africa was 10th with a 5:37 deficit. By 152km, Diederen took his turn at the front 5 seconds ahead of Albert, 9 seconds in front of Collins and 2:36 to 2:48 ahead of Stein, Van Berkel, Hoffman and Buckingham.
After a 3rd-best 4:29:42 bike split, Diederen led the men into T2 with a 1:02 lead on Albert (4:30:53 split), 3:03 on Van Berkel (4:32:33 split), 3:04 on Hoffman (4:29:36 split), 3:07 on Stein (race-best 4:28:17 split), 3:36 on Buckingham, 4:11 on Christian Kramer, 6:19 on Matt Trautman, 8:25 on Cunnama and 9:58 on Ronnie Schildknecht. Collins fell out of contention after a 4:41:55 bike split and ultimately finished 15th after a 3:08:39 run.
After 8.5km of the run, Diederen maintained a minute lead on Albert while Hoffman and Van Berkel whittled their deficits to 2:20 apiece and Stein lost 20 more seconds to stay in 5th place.
On the second lap at 15.8km, Diederen surrendered the lead to Albert, who led Hoffman and Van Berkel by 17 seconds, a hard charging Trautman by 2:18, Diederen by 2:27 and Boris Stein by 3:19.
Halfway through the run, Ben Hoffman and Tim Van Berkel charged to the lead, running side by side while Albert trailed by 24 seconds, Trautman by 2:02, Stein by 3:32, Buckingham by 4:37 and Diederen by 5:34. In the next 8km, Cunnama withdrew while Hoffman dropped Van Berkel who trailed by 46 seconds, Albert 3:01 down and dogged by Trautman 21 seconds later, while Stein stood 5th, 4:47 arrears.
By 37km of the run, Hoffman held a steady 1:23 lead over Van Berkel, 5:20 over Trautman and 6:11 over Albert. In the end, Hoffman’s race-best 2:45:50 run was 2:25 faster than Van Berkel and 6:15 better than Albert, and provided virtually all of his margin of victory.
Ironman African Championship
Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa
April 10, 2016
S 2.4 mi. / B 112 mi. / R 26.2 mi.
1. Kaisa Lehtonen (FIN) 9:06:50
2. Susie Cheetham (GBR) 9:09:49
3. Lucy Gossage (GBR) 9:11:43
4. Asa Lundström (SWE) 9:15:34
5. Annabel Luxford (AUS) 9:28:31
6. Verena Walter (GER) 9:35:35
7. Bianca Steurer (AUT) 9:39:24
8. Annah Atkinson (RSA) 9:44:10
9. Katherina Grohmann (GER) 9:50:26
10. Dede Griesbauer (USA) 10:01:18
1. Ben Hoffman (USA) 8:12:37
2. Tim Van Berkel (AUS) 8:14:51
3. Marko Albert (EST) 8:18:52
4. Matt Trautman (RSA) 8:19:25
5. Boris Stein (GER) 8:19:51
6. Ruedi Wild (SUI) 8:24:47
7. Alessandro Degasperi (ITA) 8:29:37
8. Christian Kramer (GER) 8:29:57
9. Ronnie Schildknecht (SUI) 8:32:11
10. Jens Petersen-Bach (DEN) 8:34:03