Daniela Ryf held off fellow Swiss and defending champion Imogen Simmonds by 5:08. Daniel Bakkegard of Denmark authored a come-from-behind victory over Filipe Azevedo of Portugal at Ironman 70.3 Dubai.
Daniela Ryf set a new women’s course record with a time of 3:56:54, which gave the four-time Ironman World Champion a 5:08 margin of victory over fellow Swiss and defending champion Imogen Simmonds and 8:23 over 3rd place finisher Sara Svensk of Sweden.
With this win, Ryf clinched the first race of the Nasser Bin Hamad Triple Crown series. To take home her second $1 million bonus purse, Ryf needs to win the Ironman 70.3 World Championship and the Ironman 70.3 Middle East Championship in Bahrain.
After an over year-long racing hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ryf exited the swim in 6th place, 8 seconds behind Simmonds’ women’s-best 26:31 split, 7 seconds behind Cecilia Perez of Mexico, and 5 seconds behind Elena Danilova of Russia.
After 20 kilometers Ryf rode into 2nd place but trailed Simmonds by nearly 2 minutes. After the midway mark, Ryf stayed with Simmonds pace, then surged in the home stretch to take the day’s fastest bike time of 2:08:36 and arrived at T2 in a virtual tie with Simmonds.
With a faster transition, Simmonds broke first onto the run, but Ryf quickly dispatched her fellow Swiss and crushed the field with a blistering 1:16:50 run to finish with a 5:08 lead on Simmonds.
“I was so happy to be able to race again,” Ryf told Ironman media. “It’s been a long time, so to jump in that water and get going with the other girls was a good feeling. It felt like I’m back to doing what I’m supposed to do, in my natural surroundings.”
Ever the perfectionist Ryf picked apart a few blemishes in her dominating performance. “On the bike, I was struggling a little bit to get that cadence up, and feeling comfortable in the time trial position took me a while until I was warmed up,” she told Ironman media. “Imogen really pushed it hard, she rode really strong so I think I had some good competition to get me out of my comfort zone and getting back to feeling race pain In general the run was a very fast run for me but there is still room for improvement.”
All in all, Ryf admitted, “It feels like showtime again.”
Bakkegard and Andrea Salvisberg of Switzerland emerged from the swim in identical 23:21 times, 51 seconds ahead of Antony Costes of France and 52 seconds ahead of Filipe Azevedo of Mexico and 1:34 ahead of Rasmus Svenningsson of Sweden.
On the super-fast, super flat Dubai course, the top men flew in a tight pack as the top five arrived at T2 within 17 seconds. After a race-best 1:54:37 bike split, Antony Costes of France led the field into T2 with a 4 seconds lead over Filipe Azevedo of Mexico, 10 seconds over Svenningsson of Sweden and Andreas Salvisberg of Switzerland, and 17 seconds over Bakkegard.
With just 17 seconds deficit, Bakkegard made quick work of his rivals on his way to a second-best 1:10:01 half marathon which brought him to the line in a race-record 3:33:02 time with a 1:01 margin of victory over Azevedo (1:10:58 run split). Azevedo hung on for dear life for a one second margin over third place Rasmus Svenningsson of Sweden, whose race-best 1:09:20 run split could not quite make up for his 1:34 deficit after the swim.
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Ironman 70.3 Dubai
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
S 1.2 mi. / B 56 mi / R 13.1 mi.
1. Daniel Bakkegard (DEN) S 23:21 B 1:55:45 R 1:10:01 TOT 3:33:02
2. Filipe Azevedo (POR) S 24:13 B 1:54:40 R 1:10:58 3:34:03
3. Rasmus Svenningsson (SWE) S 24:55 B 1:54:03 R 1:09:20 TOT 3:34:04
4. Andreas Salvisberg (SUI) S 23:21 B 1:55:38 R 1:11:06 TOT 3:34:05
5. Antony Costes (FRA) S 24:12 B 1:54:37 R 1:11:51 TOT 3:34:36
1. Daniela Ryf (SUI) S 26:39 B 2:08:38 R 1:16:50 TOT 3:56:54
2. Imogen Simmonds (SUI)S 26:31 B 2:08:54 R 1:22:10 TOT 4:02:02
3. Sara Svensk (SWE) S 29:18 B 2:09:32 R 1:21:22 TOT 4:05:17
4. Elena Danilova (RUS) S 26:34 B 2:16:39 R 1:19:40 TOT 4:07:37
5. Cecilia Perez S 26:32 B 2:16:38 R 1:20:19 TOT 4:07:27