Ryf Throws Down One for the Ages in Kona

Defending champion Daniela Ryf from Switzerland was vulnerable coming into the race after having faltered in races earlier in the summer, but it didn’t show. Ryf stormed the Island, mugged her competitors, and was thoroughly dominant throughout, in all 3 disciplines, but especially during the bike leg. She finished in 8:46:46, setting a new record over this course, earning the most important course record in all of triathlon.

Jodie Swallow and Meredith Kessler swam much of the race side-by-side, with Daniela Ryf and Alicia Kaye just behind. Leanda Cave, Anabel Luxford and Michelle Vesterby followed. A dozen or so together made up the front pack as they rounded the turnaround boat to head for home. The drag race, or the friendly side-by-side camaraderie (it’s hard for an observer to tell), between Swallow and Kessler continued throughout the race, Kessler taking the prize at the end. Mirinda Carfrae, Melissa Hauschildt and Heather Jackson trailed about 6 minutes back.

Kessler, on her Ventum, bolted to the lead, with Ryf tucked into a legal distance behind. Denmark’s Michelle Vesterby, 4th here last year, got itchy feet about a dozen miles into the bike ride and did what few people do: she passed Ryf, along with Kessler, and for a brief moment a pair of Cannondales led both the men’s (Potts) and women’s (Vesterby) race. Kessler and Vesterby took turns trading the lead early on with Ryf’s fearsome bike power held in abeyance for the time being.

Ryf’s patience wore out about an hour into the bike ride and she shot to the lead, but the other women didn’t lay down. Vesterby traded pace with last year’s winner several times, but Ryf eventually pulled away. Not without a ride-mate, however! Swim-bike expert Anja Beranek was not intimidated and stuck with Ryf as the two rode on.

Beranek stuck to Ryf like glue, around the left hand turn at Kawaihae and all the way up to the Hawi turnaround. Mary Beth Ellis, in her final race, formed part of a group that included Kessler, Swallow, Vesterby and Annabel Luxford, about 3 minutes down. Alicia Kaye drifted to about 4 minutes back of the lead with tough runners Heather Jackson and Mel Hauschildt hovering about 8 minutes down. The best runner of them all, Mirinda Carfrae, was about 9:30 down halfway into the bike.

By 75 miles into the ride the toll of the pace was starting to wear on Beranek. She’d drifted to 14 seconds arrears of Ryf. The 4-woman chase group was breaking up and was now 5-and-change minutes down, but World Long Course champ Jodie Swallow, having only won that title 2 weeks before, fell far off the pace.

Ryf did all her damage in the last 40 miles of the bike ride. By the time she came into T2 her top-split 4:52:26 pushed her lead out to 8 minutes over Beranek. The second fastest ride went to Heather Jackson at 5:00:31, just a bit better than Beranek’s 5:00:42. But Beranek swam 6 minutes faster, so had a lead of that size over Jackson.

Heather Jackson was third in off the bike, but she was only seconds in front of Annabel Luxford. Both were 14 minutes behind Ryf. Mary Beth Ellis and Meredith Kessler were next, another minute down. Vesterby and Swallow were a further minute behind.

Three-time Kona champ Mirinda Carfrae had 22 minutes to make up. Anybody else, you wouldn’t give it a second thought. Carfrae is not anybody else. Indeed, she tore through the field. She ran all the way into 2nd place.

But Ryf was simply dominant, “My best race ever,” she said. "I doubted the whole week about the bike after (last month’s poor performance at 70.3 Worlds in the Australian city of] Mooloolaba.” Obviously the concern was unfounded!

Carfrae ran gamely, earning another high finish to go with her 3 wins here. But even Carfrae’s usual overwhelming run split, 2:58:20, trailed Ryf’s 2:56:51. This was a split Ryf wasn’t thought to be able to run after such a dominating swim-bike, more so because Ryf wasn’t pressed in the run, and had more in the tank.

Ironman World Championships
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
October 8, 2016
S 2.4 mi. / B 112 mi. / R 26.2 mi.


Pro Women

1. Daniela Ryf (SUI) 8:46:46
2. Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) 9:10:30
3. Heather Jackson (USA) 9:11:32
4. Anja Beranek (GER) 9:14:26
5. Kaisa Lehtonen (FIN) 9:15:40
6. Michelle Vesterby (DEN) 9:19:05
7. Sarah Piampiano (USA) 9:22:31
8. Asa Lundstrom (SWE) 9:22:59
9. Lucy Gossage (GBR) 9:25:57
10. Carrie Lester (AUS) 9:28:17
11. Camilla Pedersen (DEN) 9:31:15
12. Heather Wurtele (CAN) 9:32:51
13. Linsey Corbin (USA) 9:33:51
14. Mary Beth Ellis (USA) 9:38:52
15. Sarah Crowley (AUS) 9:42:34

Natascha Badmann (SUI) S 1:05:13 B 5:22:25 R 3:44:06 TOT 10:20:00