Germany's Patrick Lange, always gracious, never the victim of expectations, surprised himself but few others by winning the 2017 Hawaiian Ironman World Championship.
Lange finally caught a frontrunning Lionel Sanders no more than 3 miles from the finish, coming home in a new course record of 8:01:40. Lange, ever the gentleman, apologized to Crowie for breaking his record when interviewed at the finish by Mike Reilly. And he meant it.
Sanders, from Canada, got exactly what he wanted: a battle royal. The large finish crowd was conflicted; both men are so well liked. Sanders got as large an ovation for his runner-up finish as did Lange for his win. The two embraced at the finish for as genuine a show of camaraderie as you'll find.
The race began with some trepidation over the swim conditions, as the water was washing machine bumpy yesterday. But the swim turned out to be fast, especially for Josh Amberger. The Aussie seemed purposely to start apart from the front swim pack and immediately distanced himself. He took his own line - a better one than the large front pack - and swam in with a 47:09 split, the fastest in years and not far from the record. Amberger finished 1:20 in front of a large pack which included defending champ Jan Frodeno as well as Lange.
That pack of almost 3 dozen gobbled up Amberger like a PacMan, while the überbiker pack of Sanders, Sebastian Kienle, Cameron Wurf and Boris Stein quickly formed 5 minutes behind Amberger.
The hard riders got to the front by 60 miles, leaving Kienle and Sanders 50 mischief miles remaining with which to make life hard for the runners. And take advantage of those miles they did. Lange rode his pace or his power, dropping off fairly early. In fact, it seemed the earlier a rider dropped off (Potts, Lange, and even Boris Stein) the better they fared at the finish.
Ex-cyclist Wurf, Sanders and Kienle forged ahead, taking their turns in front, until Wurf shot forward - possibly in the hunt for the fastest split and the course record - and Kienle lagged a bit. That's how they came in: Wurf with a bike course record of 4:12:54, smashing Normann Stadler's record; Sanders in 4:14:19, and Kienle in 4:14:57.
Frodeno was within striking distance, fewer than 2 minutes behind Kienle, and most of the rest came in somewhere between 4:20 and 4:29 (Lange wheeled in with a 4:28:53).
Most assumed Frodeno would charge to the front, but the talented German suffered from what seemed an overcoming hamstring ailment and was not a factor, walking the early miles.
Sanders looked horrible. But he always looks horrible when he runs, and as he's looking horrible he buries his competitors. Indeed, over the early miles Sanders was running 2:37 pace, putting distance between him and everyone. Lange started fairly conservative and just got faster and faster.
Kienle accordianed from 1:20 to 2:40 behind Sanders, and finally faded a bit to finish 4th. David McNamee (GBR), who finished 3rd after running a 2:42:11.
Hawaiian Ironman World Championship
October 14, 2017
S 2.4mi / B 112mi / R 26.2mi
Results: Elite Men
1. Patrick Lange (GER) 8:01:40 (48:45, 4:28:53, 2:39:59)
2. Lionel Sanders (CAN) 8:04:07 (53:41, 4:14:19, 2:51:33)
3. David McNamee (GBR) 8:07:11 (48:40, 4:28:55, 2:42:11)
4. Sebastian Kienle (GER) 8:09:59 (53:44, 4:14:57, 2:57:12)
5. James Cunnama 8:11:24 (ZAF) 8:09:59 (49:09, 4:21:03, 2:56:46)
6. Terenzo Bozzone 8:13:06 (NZL) 8:09:59 (48:41, 4:26:20, 2:53:48)
7. Andy Potts 8:14:43 (USA) 8:09:59 (49:01, 4:31:02, 2:50:47)
8. Patrik Nilsson 8:18:21 (SWE) 8:09:59 (53:44, 4:14:57, 2:55:51)
9. Ben Hoffman 8:19:26 (USA) 8:09:59 (53:44, 4:22:00, 2:54:26)
10. Boris Stein 8:22:24 (GER) 8:09:59 (53:48, 4:23:59, 3:00:42)
11. Ivan Rana 8:24:53 (ESP)
12. Bart Aernouts 8:26:28 (BEL)
13. Thiago Vinhal 8:27:24 (BRA)
14. Igor Amorelli 8:27:26 (BRA)
15. Tim Van Berkel 8:28:05 (AUS)
Run photo: Timothy Carlson