On a soggy, rainy day in Montenegro, Denmark’s Magnus Ditlev exited the water in fifth place, zoomed ahead with a 2:06:00 timed bike leg and was the first man to cross the line after the run. However, when scorers and referees examined Ditlev’s large margin at the finish, they concluded that he did not complete the entire 21.2 kilometer run and disqualified the Danish competitor.
As it turned, things were not at all so simple. And Ditlev had a very strong case against the DQ. But race officials felt they did not have a case to reverse the call. And so many of his rivals, filled with sympathy and sportsmanship, shared their prize purses with Ditlev.
The race went according to Hoyle through the bike leg and T2. To set the scene, Ditlev came out of the water in fifth place, trailing swim leader Mattia Ceccarelli by 50 seconds. Ditlev then unleashed a race-best 2:06:00 bike split which gave him a 4:33 lead on Ceccarelli, then Lange and Frommhold.
According to first reports, Ditlev increased his lead to 7:27 midway through the run and maintained that to the finish. In official accounts, when race officials informed Lange that his deficit had increased by two and one half minutes in the first 10k of the run, Lange exclaimed: “How is this possible?”
Ditlev maintained his margin to the finish and was celebrated as the winner in the official press release one hour after the finish. But once race officials consulted with race marshals and observers in the race, they ruled that Ditlev had not completed the entire run course and disqualified the Dane.
As it turned out, Ditlev was following the lead bicycle, who led Ditlev off course. As Ditlev’s former manager posted on social media: “It was a 400 meter ‘cut’.” Slowtwitch commenter “lassekk” wrote that “Ditlev was initially given a 5 minute penalty. Which is of course way longer that what it would have taken for him to run the 400 meters, so that seemed like a fine way to say "course cutting is never ok, even though we fucked up as organizers.” But also leaving him in the game - and actually with the win as he finished [pre-DSQ] 8 minutes ahead of Lange!!! It was then later changed to a DSQ. I really think 5 minutes would have been a good resolution.”
Adding to the mystery, Ironman bikers accompanying the leading competitor on the run always follow the competitor.
While the fellow competitors who pitched in and gave some of their shares to Ditlev were commendable, previous race officials facing a similar dilemma were far more magnanimous.
In the early ‘90s, pro Andy Carlson was leading the Wildflower long course by a good margin when he ran to the 10-mile mark and found the volunteers were late coming to mark the turnaround. After running a futile mile further down the road, he was so discouraged he ultimately dropped out, exhausted and heartbroken.
Afterwards, race director Terry Davis manned up and gave Andrew Carlson a full winner’s paycheck – same as the pro who crossed the line first.
The official recap
In the official account of the race, Patrick Lange of Germany won the race in 3:48:21 by a 2:22 margin over Ruedi Wild of Switzerland and 3:06 over 3rd place finisher Nils Frommhold of Germany.
After the swim and on the bike, Lange and Frommhold rode up to Ceccarelli, but at the 15 kilometers mark, Ditlev rode into the lead. At the 30-kilometer mark, Ditlev extended his lead to 1:12. When he arrived at T2, Ditlev finished the leg in 2:06:00 with a 4:33 lead on Ceccarelli, Lange and Frommhold.
After a second-fastest 1:10:26 half marathon, Lange crossed the line in 3:48:21 with a 2:22 margin over Ruedi Wild (who recorded the day’s best 1:09:45 run split) and 3:06 over third-place Nils Frommhold.
Lucy Hall of Great Britain led the women’s field wire-to-wire and finished in 4:17:09 with a 2:14 margin over Emma Bilham of Switzerland and 4:32 over 3rd place finisher Els Visser of the Netherlands.
Hall recorded the fastest swim time and grabbed a sizeable lead over the rest of the field. After 24:18 minutes she was already on her bike when the next ladies came out of the water. Emma Bilham of Switzerland followed with a gap of almost three minutes, directly followed by Margie Santimaria. One of the other favorites, Els Visser, came in fourth into T1 and was then almost five minutes behind.
After 30k, Bilham closed the gap to 1:26, and Visser drew within 3:20. By 60 kilometers, the scenario changed. Visser drew within 4:05, still in third position, but Bilham - the woman on the move - advanced within 1:17 of Hall. When the leaders arrived in T2, Hall led Bilham by 1:20 and by 4:57 over Visser.
In the half marathon, Hall protected her lead with a 1:20:22 split and finished in 4:17:09 with a 2:14 lead on Bilham and Visser took 3rd with a 4:32 gap to Hall.
October 10, 2021
S 1.2 mi. / B 56 mi. / R 13.1 mi.
1. Patrick Lange (GER) S 23:28 T1 1:35 B 2:11:46 T2 1:04 R 1:10:26 TOT 3:48:21
2. Ruedi Wild (SUI) S 24:25 T1 1:25 B 2:14:08 T2 0:58 R 1:09:45 TOT 3:50:43
3. Nils Frommhold (GER) S 23:30 T1 1:25 B 2:11:56 T2 0:59 R 1:13:36 TOT 3:51:27
4. Mattia Ceccarelli (ITA) S 23:09 T1 1:25 B 2:12:13 T2 0:57 R 1:15:58 TOT 3:53:45
5. Tobias Dahl Thomsen (DEN) S 24:55 T1 1:42 B 2:14:19 T2 1:17 R 1:13:44 TOT 3:56:00
6. Ognjen Stojanovic (SRB) S 23:25 T1 1:34 B 2:19:23 T2 1:07 R 1:10:46 TOT 3:56:17
7. Andrej Vistica (CRO) S 27:41 T1 1:42 B 2:14:02 T2 2:56 R 1:12:07 TOT 3:58:30
8. Alberto Casillas (LIU) S 24:19 T1 2:17 B 2:13:41 T2 1:12 R 1:17:19 TOT 3:58:50
9. Andrea Pizzeghella (ITA) S 24:49 T1 1:52 B 2:19:55 T2 0:49 R 1:12:46 TOT 4:00:13
10. Samuel Böttinger (GER) S 29:13 T1 1:39 B 2:17:05 T2 1:05 R 1:14:37 TOT 4:03:42
DSQ Magnus Ditlev DEN S 23:09 B 2:06:00 R DSQ
1. Lucy Hall GBR S 24:18 T1 1:25 B 2:30:01 T2 1:01 R 1:20:22 TOT 4:17:09
2. Emma Bilham SUI S 27:05 T1 1:40 B 2:28:19 T2 0:42 R 1:21:35 TOT 4:19:23
3. Els Visser NED S 29:03 T1 1:28 B 2:30:06 T2 1:05 R 1:19:57 TOT 4:21:4`1
4. Gabriela Zellinka (HUN) S 29:06 T1 1:40 B 2:35:05 T2 1:22 R 1:23:17 TOT 4:30:33
5. Margie Santimaria (ITA) S 27:11 B 2:40:03 R 1:26:47 TOT 4:37:00
6. Nikola Corbova (SVK) S 31:53 T1 1:28 B 2:43:36 T2 1:05 R 1:24:53 TOT 4:43:38
7. Melanie Baumann (SUI) S 38:30 B 2:58:20 R 1:28:40 TOT 5:10:13
8. Elizabeth Nyitray (USA) S 31:15 B 3:04 R 2:04:06 TOT 5:42:52