Knibb Dominant, Defends IRONMAN 70.3 World Title

Taylor Knibb successfully defended her IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship, building a comfortable gap during the course of the bike and then continuing to accelerate through the win to take victory in Lahti, Finland. Knibb closes out a very successful August with two victories (here and in Milwaukee) and a clinched Olympic slot for 2024.

Kat Matthews took second, having passed long-time second place holder Imogen Simmonds in the final kilometers, using a 1:16:38 run split to break away from fourth place Emma Pallant-Browne to then chase up. Simmonds was the only woman who had been effective at riding with Knibb early on in the bike, and was able to use that effort to solidify a podium position today. Paula Findlay completed the top 5 with a balanced effort.

After the race, Knibb was understated on her win. “I was just grateful to make it to the start and finish line today. I’m grateful it’s over and to have had a good race. I took the run out probably a bit too fast, and it’s just a long day.”

Matthews, meanwhile, was elated with her second place finish. “I had a really good day. They don’t come always, and I had a bad day a few weeks ago, and I got really boosted by IRONMAN Triathlon’s instagram about my swim, thinking 'hey, I can actually swim!' I was a little bit disappointed that Taylor just ‘ticked off’ this race. It would be disrespectful to say that this wasn’t a big goal. I had full focus on this race, but now I am locked in on Kona in 7 weeks time.”

As for Simmonds? Her performance came as a bit of a surprise. “A bit of a shock when I came out of the swim and realized I was in the front pack. I came in not thinking too much and just thought let’s have some fun today. Taylor had a phenomenal ride. I tried to hang with her for a little bit and then realized I needed to pull back to stay within my capabilities. I then tried to hang on on the run. It’s great to be at the pinnacle of the sport again.

Simmonds was one of many athletes who had fallen ill out of Singapore, and mentioned that in her post race interview as well. "I was very well rested — I was on the edge, did minimal training, and ultimately wound up recovering and being able to race well today. It’s just awesome to be back."

As the Race Happened

Dense fog delayed the swim start by 30 minutes this morning. It was comfortably a wetsuit legal swim for all athletes, and the fog / haze stayed around all morning long.

Lucy Buckingham and Taylor Knibb shot to the front of the swim early, creating a five woman lead group that was joined by Pamella Oliveira, Caroline Poole, and Imogen Simmonds. Buckingham earned top swim honors with a 24:43 swim, which was good enough for a 1:22 gap on the first chase pack led by Ellie Salthouse. Also in that main chase were Daniela Ryf, Kat Matthews, Paula Findlay, Emma Pallant-Browne, and Tamara Jewett.

Onto the bike course, and as expected, Knibb stormed into the lead, with Simmonds the only of the lead swim pack able to stay in contact (in part thanks to Buckingham earning a drafting penalty). By the quarter bike mark, Knibb and Simmonds had dragged out another 40 seconds on the main chase group, which was now whittled to just five riders by the intensity of riding through the long grind uphill: Ryf, Findlay, Matthews, Pallant-Browne, and Salthouse.

It was over the next 10 kilometers where Knibb finally snapped the elastic to Simmonds, beginning to build her trademark lead into T2. She gained a minute on almost the entirety of the field over this section of the bike course, with the lone exception being Laura Philipp, who had now ridden her way up to eighth on the road. The big news was Salthouse earning a penalty and dropping out of the chase pack and all the way down to 37th.

Knibb continued to push the power on the bike, extending her lead over Simmonds to 1:36 by two-thirds through the ride and over four minutes to the Matthews, Findlay, Ryf, and Pallant-Browne group. Philipp was another minute behind with Amelia Watkinson with her. Marjolaine Pierre and Emilie Morier rounded out the top 10 riders. Into transition and Knibb’s 2:07:52 bike split was good enough to earn her a 2:09 lead on Simmonds. The gap was now 5:08 to the chase pack, and 6:47 on Philipp.

Knibb rocketed through transition (earning another 20 seconds in T2 alone, in part due to taking the time in T1 to put on socks there unlike other athletes) onto the two loop run course. And through the opening miles, Knibb remained the fastest woman on course. Simmonds still held second, but was ceding 15 seconds per kilometer to Knibb in pace. Matthews had taken third and Pallant-Browne was fourth, both matching Knibb’s early pace. Findlay was fifth, and Ryf sat sixth but was in danger of losing that position to Philipp or Watkinson, who were within 30 seconds of Ryf and closing quickly.

Through the first loop of the run and Knibb’s lead had built out to almost four minutes over Simmonds. Matthews and Pallant-Browne were now running together, matching the pace of Knibb but still 1:50 behind Simmonds. Findlay remained in fifth, another 1:50 behind Pallant-Browne and Matthews. Philipp was 90 seconds off of Findlay, with Watkinson and Ryf running nearly together in 7th and 8th another 30 seconds off the pace. Pierre and Anne Reischmann closed out the top 10.

On the second loop of the run, the front continued to hold station — with Knibb having built enough of a cushion for a 25 second port-o-john stop. The big move in the opening kilometers on loop 2 was Matthews flooring the accelerator and dropping Pallant-Browne, to the point where she was now within a minute of catching Simmonds for second. Further back and Findlay had solidified her fifth place standing, having built out her gap on Philipp to two minutes. And Ryf was heading the wrong way, now down in 9th and running slowest of the top 10 contenders.

Matthews’ run pace late was unbelievable — closing up to Simmonds and blowing past her for second comfortably. But in the end it was the Taylor Knibb Show. Her 1:18:05 run brought her to victory in 3:53:02. Matthews had the fastest run of the day to bring her home second — her speed was such that she built almost a minute gap over Simmonds in third.

Top 10 Finishers

Taylor Knibb 3:53:02
Kat Matthews 3:57:05
Imogen Simmonds 3:57:56
Emma Pallant-Browne 3:58:35
Paula Findlay 4:00:32
Laura Philipp 4:02:27
Marjolaine Pierre 4:03:13
Amelia Watkinson 4:03:29
Daniela Ryf 4:03:57
Anne Reischmann 4:06:18

On Coverage

Outside Watch Grade: F: Quite simply, Outside Watch never worked. The website crashed. The app wouldn’t load. IRONMAN was flooded with complaints across all of their social platforms Eventually, IRONMAN had to put out an announcement on social media as they pivoted to a YouTube broadcast: “Due to the technical issues on Outside Watch, the 2023 VinFast IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship livestream is now available on Head over to to catch all the action. Thank you for your patience.”

It’s simply unacceptable for that degree of a failure at a World Championship race.

Broadcast Grade: B-: Once the broadcast was available on YouTube, it was stable and consistent. Michael Lovato and Dede Greisbauer did a relatively good job on commentary with the data and camera feeds that they were receiving. As expected, Mirinda Carfrae was excellent in her role as on-course reporter, sharing that with Matt Lieto, whose hits unfortunately had more freezing issues than others.

But the larger issues came with the lack of footage available, or the strange choices in production cuts from one athlete to another. There was a gap in camera coverage of anybody outside of that front chase group. We were able to watch Matthews close the gap up to Simmonds, and we were left to wonder what was happening as the feed switched back onto Knibb, who unless she had started walking, was going to win the race comfortably. By the time the feed swapped back, the pass had already happened — and even the commentary team was talking about that choice in camera feeds.

These are things that are excusable at a random 70.3 with a broadcast. That’s not the case for a world championship. And when combined with the technical issues, it makes for a frustrating experience to be a triathlon fan, especially when you’re starting the race watching experience at 1 AM.

Image 1, 2: Nigel Roddis / Getty Images for IRONMAN
Image 3: Ville Kaskivirta for IRONMAN