India Lee upsets IRONMAN World Champ at T100 Miami

“I am speechless…It’s mad.” Those are the words of the Women’s T100 Miami champion. It wasn’t one of the women with a stacked racing resume to cross the finish line first. It was the United Kingdom’s India Lee outlasting reigning IRONMAN champion Lucy Charles-Barclay on the run to break the tape. Lee had the fastest bike and run splits of the day and said that, “Today was the first day I had a run I was proud of.” Known as a strong biker, it was her run that secured her the victory. While she knows that this is a big result, Lee added that, “I’ll celebrate it for today but I’m not going to get too far ahead of myself.” It’s going to be a long season but it’s India Lee that sits atop the T100 standings after the first race of the series.

The Race:

When the gun went off, Lucy Charles-Barclay predictably moved right to the front of the swim to set the opening pace. One of the storylines pre-race was how several of the women’s wild cards were strong swimmers and how that might affect race dynamics. Most of these women, however, were confined to the chase pack. Only Lucy Buckingham was able to hang with Charles-Barclay. They swam under 25:00, with a sizable gap back to everyone else. Sara Perez Sala, Paula Findlay, India Lee, Holly Lawrence, and Haley Chura, followed the leading duo out of the water. A little further back, Daniela Ryf, Tamara Jewett, Lucy Byram, Emma Pallant-Browne, and Kat Matthews, came out together.

Charles-Barclay and Buckingham got on the bike together and maintained a 45 second gap over Lee and Lawrence through 15k. Findlay was 1:20 back. Byram and Matthews were 2:00 back. 30k into the bike, a member of Buckingham’s team came onto the broadcast and said they were surprised she was still up front, disclosing that she had been struggling with stomach issues throughout the day. Sure enough, just after halfway, Lee passed into second and Buckingham dropped out. At the 60k to go mark, Charles-Barclay’s lead began to dwindle under the stadium lights, with Lee 15 seconds in arrears. Having company did not seem to phase her as Jan Frodeno remarked, “What I like about Lucy Charles-Barclay is that she hasn’t looked back once…she’s laser focused…her mindset is to just keep moving forward.” Charles-Barclay and Lee would finish out the bike leg together. Lawrence, Matthews, Findlay, and Byram, grouped themselves together in the main chase pack. Pallant-Browne’s day unfortunately ended early, after pulling off to the side to receive medical attention just past 70k.

Charles-Barclay moved to the front early after coming out of T2 with Lee but was never able to create any real separation early on in the run. With 2:44:00 showing on the clock, Lee hit the front for the first time. She built up a small gap of around 30 seconds that would ultimately hold throughout the back half of the run. Her lead never really seemed to grow or shorten but the damage was done. Lee broke the tape in 3:27:12. To beat the reigning IRONMAN Champion, someone had to do something truly special tonight. Lee outclassed the field on both the bike and run. Charles-Barclay had to settle for 2nd. Holly Lawrence finished in a well-deserved 3rd place. Paula Findlay was 4th and Daniela Ryf was 5th.

Quick Take #1 – You still have to be really good to podium at a race of this caliber but maybe there’s more of an opening for athletes to break through with more racing opportunities on the calendar. At last year’s PTO races, out of the 18 men’s and women’s podium spots, 15 were claimed by top-5 PTO ranked athletes. PTO ranked #’s 2/9/5 made up the men’s podium today. The women’s podium was made up by #’s 15/4/22.

Quick Take #2 – What will the implications be on the overall series standings if you were a DNF (6 men/5 women) today or if you stuck it out to pick up points? Will it pay off for those who went to the well this early in the season? Time will tell.

Quick Take #3 – Today was not the best day for the stronger runners. Jason West was around 7 minutes down coming off of the bike in the men’s race and finished 7th. In the women’s race, Emma Pallant-Browne dropped out just after 70k on the bike and Tamara Jewett was also a DNF.

Quick Take #4 – While the commentating and production were both on point today, the lighting during the end of the women’s race needs to be called out. There should be no excuse for athletes to race in the dark at a venue that is used to hosting events under the lights. The last thing that needed to happen during a great day of racing was someone crashing out because they couldn’t see where they were going.