Daniela Ryf dominated this race with a swim that kept her in contention, a bike split that would look like a misprint if it were anyone but her, and a solid run that did not extend her. She distanced a rejuvenated Holly Lawrence, who finished second place both last year and this, but discovered after last year's Oceanside race she'd fractured an ankle in the process.
The men's race was more nerve-wracking, if you had a personal stake in one of the top 2 contenders. Ben Kanute had been dinking around in the shorter stuff in recent months, Mixed Relays, Super League, while Rodophe Von Berg had been burnishing his half-distance resume with impressive 2018 finishes. Kanute won here today, but in a nail-biter.
Holly Lawrence returned to racing over the Winter after taking 8 months to heal an ankle discovered to be fractured after finishing 2nd at this very race a year ago. She won twice in Bahrain, in December and January, besting good fields in the process. Would this Oceanside be kinder than the last?
It started well for the Welsh national, as Lawrence’s hard pace stretched out the swim. She led the women into T1 with a 25sec lead over a 3-woman group of Ellie Salthouse, Daniela Ryf and Sarah True. Arriving in as singles were Jennifer Spieldenner, Paula Findlay and Anna Noguera, in that order, all within a minute of the lead. Then a long wait before Heather Jackson came in more than 2:30 down on Lawrence.
To no one’s surprise Ryf shot to the lead, dragging Lawrence with her. But not for long. Nobody rides with Ryf, unless perhaps if Lucy Charles is in the race, and she wasn’t.
While Lawrence appeared to the outside world to have earned a painfully heroic second place last year, Lawrence said the emotional stress this year was much tougher. "Biking with a broken foot last year was easier than the race today," she said. "Really. I just really struggled out there." She elaborated. "I was just way down on the race. I honestly was considering pulling out. On the bike, I told myself just to get to transition. And then it was pretty much everyone yelling my name, encouraging me. That was the reason that I didn‘t drop out. They were all to blame."
Despite her women's best swim, Lawrence said she quickly felt drained on the bike. "Daniela went by me pretty quick. I soon realized I was pretty limited with what my legs could do. I was riding like 210 watts. Whereas my normal output is 240-250. I was way off the mark of what I usually ride."
Lawrence was 5 minutes back by mile-40 of the bike ride, with Findley and Salthouse just under a minute further behind.
Jackson wasn’t keeping pace either. As of mile-40 she was 5th, gaining places, but only by nicking off the detritus: Noguera, then Spieldenner and finally True.
Ryf soloed, of course, into T2 after riding a 2:17:06, and for comparison’s sake, Ruedi Wild was 3rd off the bike in the men’s race and he only rode 3 and some minutes faster than Daniela. Holly Lawrence came in off the bike 6:30 down on Ryf, but with a 90 second cushion on Ellie Salthouse and Paula Findlay, who came in together. Heather Jackson was another 3 minutes back.
The half-marathon was pro forma, Ryf with the comfort to enjoy a 1:24, high-fiving at the end. She finished in 4:09:19, and while the men were about 4 minutes behind last year's winning times, Ryf's finish was 3 minutes faster that last year's winner. Shd also set a women's ace recof Lawrence had to keep her foot on the gas, to keep a distance to Salthouse, who finished 3rd, and the 4th place Findlay.
This was a good finish for Holly Lawrence, who was 2 minutes ahead of her time at this race last year, and this should eclipse the unhappy end to last year's Oceanside result.
The men’s race lacked the traditional firepower of this race, the Germans skipping it and Lionel Sanders pulling a glute muscle on a training run a week before. Still, about 40 pro men made the line for their share of a total race purse of $50,000. A front pack of 5 exited the swim, with Eric Lagerstrom taking it. Dylan McNeice, Ben Kanute, Adam Bowden and Sam Appleton were in tow.
Kanute, speed-sharp off a winter of supersprints, shot to the lead on the bike with Appleton right there. But Appleton crashed out, leaving Kanute to lead solo. Rodolphe Von Berg, who had a breakout season in 2018 in 70.3 racing, quickly moved up to second, distancing a duo of chasers: Ruedi Wild and Miki Taagholt.
Von Berg showed off his bike power in this race, gobbling up Kanute before T2, with a 2:09-and-change bike split in the same neighborhood as what Sanders and Frodeno rode here last year.
Kanute erased Von Berg's late charge into T2 with an economical transitin. "“I got to T2 first,” said Von Berg. “But Ben left first. Yeah I put socks on and he didn’t.”
It’s rare to see Kanute outridden. The two entered the run together. Wild, Bowden, and Miki Taagholt were in a group 4 and-a-half minutes back, with Taylor Reid another minute back.
Kanute was in an unfamiliar position. Usually he swims and bikes to a lead, and tries to hold on in the run. In this race he was motored up by the faster cyclist Von Berg.
"That last little bit on the bike is always really challenging," said Kanute. "Legs are tired. "
Kanute said he began the run smoothly and quickly built a 40-seconds lead until he started to feel his energy fading. "About Mile 9 or 10 it was a struggle to bring it in. Rudy started to take out some time on me. I was just trying to hold as steady as possible the last few miles. You know when it started off he came out of transition about 10 seconds behind. It slowly grew to about 40 to 45. Then he took back about 20 seconds. In just a few miles. He was able to bring it home strong and I was struggling a bit."
Von Berg watched Kanute very gradually edge away from him, to almost a minute by mile-8. But then the bleeding stopped, and the pendulum began to swing very slightly back. With 2 miles to go Von Berg had cut the gap to just over a half-minute.
Kanute had enough in the tank, running a 1:13:38, and took the win. Von Berg made a game charge, but ran out of tarmac, falling just 12sec short!
Adam Bowden, fresh off a win 5 weeks ago at 70.3 Dubai, came home 3rd with a half-mary slightly faster than the pair who finished in front of him. Canada's Taylor Reid came home 4th, and the fastest run of the day was turned in by 5th place Justin Metzler, in 1:13:33. Ruedi Wild and Eric Lagerstrom were 6th and 7th.
April 6, 2019
1.2 mi. Swim; 56mi Bike; 13.1mi Run
1. Daniela Ryf (SUI) 4:09:19 Swim: 24:20, Bike: 2:17:06; Run: 1:24:07
2. Holly Lawrence (GBR) 4:14:06 Swim: 23:54; Bike: 2:24:26; Run: 1:22:24
3. Ellie Salthouse (AUS) 4:16:41 Swim: 24:18; Bike: 2:25:26; Run: 1:23:29
4. Paula Findlay (CAN) 4:17:27 Swim: 24:36; Bike: 2:25:09; Run: 1:24:14
5. Heather Jackson (USA) 4:18:23 Swim:26:28; Bike: 2:26:30; Run: 1:22:08
1. Ben Kanute (USA) 3:49:25; Swim: 21:51; Bike: 2:10:45; Run: 1:13:38
2. Rodolphe Von Berg (USA) 3:49:37; Swim: 22:43; Bike: 2:09:50; Run: 1:13:52
3. Adam Bowden (GBR) 3:53:33 Swim: 21:55; Bike: 2:14:57; Run: 1:13:34
4. Taylor Reid (CAN) ) 3:56:38 Swim: 24:10; Bike: 2:13:31; Run: 1:15:18
5. Justin Metzler (USA) 3:57:06 Swim: 22:46; Bike: 2:17:37; Run: 1:13:33
[PHOTOS: Talbot Cox]