Daniela Ryf extended her record of wins at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship to five with a dominating victory in Nice, France. She won over runner-up Holly Lawrence of Great Britain and 3rd place Imogen Simmonds of Switzerland.
Ryf combined a tied-for-third best 26:32 swim, a dominant 2:33:38 bike split and a 3rd-best 1:18:37 half marathon to finish in 4:23:03 with a 3:59 margin of victory over Lawrence and 5:02 over 3rd place finisher Simmonds.
“I don’t think it matters how many titles you have, I think it’s races like today that matter,” Ryf told Ironman Live at the finish line. “For me today was a fantastic day, the girls were pushing really hard, I think it was amazing. The level in the swim was just fantastic, you know it’s crazy to see how well everyone swims at the moment and I had a fantastic swim but came out with ten other girls! Then on the bike the same, I felt good but everyone was pushing hard and the girls were attacking at certain moments and in the end I was happy to make a little gap downhill. You needed a lot of skill today. Then on the run Holly was pushing hard today, and I knew I had to show a really good run to be able to win. I really got pushed to my absolute maximum today and that’s what World Championship races are about."
Ryf previously won the Ironman 70.3 World championship in 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018. She also won the Ironman World Championship in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 making the case that she is the is either already or well on her way to consideration as the greatest female long distance triathlete in history. No one else comes close to her record at the 70.3 World Championships and she stands tied for third in Ironman World Championship victories behind only Paula Newby-Fraser with eight and countrywoman Natascha Badmann with six and is tied with Chrissie Wellington with four wins.
U.S. young star Chelsea Sodaro’s breakthrough 4th place finish, 8:04 behind the winner, can be primarily credited to her 2nd-fastest 1:17:56 run split, 41 seconds faster than Ryf. This race followed Sodaro’s 2018 win at Indian Wells and 2019 victory at Santa Rosa.
Last year’s 70.3 Worlds runner-up Lucy Charles-Barclay of Great Britain led the field by a minute after her race-best 25:23 swim and was in or near the lead halfway through the challenging bike leg until she suffered a penalty for drafting and sat through a 5 minute stay in a penalty tent. Charles-Barclay finished 5th, 8:47 behind the winner.
Times were slower than last year’s 70.3 Worlds in South Africa (winning time 4:01:12, bike time 2:15:27, best run time 1:16:59) which can be explained by very likely shorter than standard run course last year and the 1,300 meter climbing on the classically tough bike course in the Maritime Alps in Nice.
With water at 75 degrees Fahrenheit, wetsuits were not allowed for this pro race. As usual Lucy Charles-Barclay jetted away to a minute lead midway through the swim, followed by a pack of 12 that included Holly Lawrence of the UK, Pamella Oliveira of Brazil, Ellie Salthouse of Australia, Haley Chura of the U.S., Lisa Norden of Sweden, Radka Kahlefeldt of the Czech Republic, Paula Findlay of Canada, Amelia Watkinson of New Zealand, Imogen Simmonds of Switzerland, and Chelsea Sodaro of the U.S.
At the finish, Charles-Barclay hit the finish in 25:23, 58 seconds ahead of Oliveira, 1:00 ahead of Lawrence and Salthouse, 1:05 ahead of Chura and Norden, 1:09 up on Ryf, 1:14 on Kahlefeldt and 1:16 on Findlay, 1:17 on Amelia Watkinson of New Zealand and Simmonds.
At the swim to bike transition, Lawrence sliced 20 seconds from Charles-Barclay and put 35 seconds on Ryf. In the first 15km of the bike, Charles-Barclay held a 28 seconds lead on Ryf and 30 to 38 seconds on a pack including Simmonds, Lawrence, Norden, Radka Kahlefeldt, Findlay, and Pamella Oliveira of Brazil with Amelia Watkinson of New Zealand holding 10th place, 41 seconds arrears.
By 27 kilometers and well into the gradual part of the climb, Holly Lawrence seized the lead by 1 second over Ryf, 4 seconds on Charles-Barclay, 6 seconds on Imogen Simmonds of Switzerland, 11 seconds on Findlay, 14 seconds on Norden and 15 seconds on Watkinson.
At 35k into the race – just 1.5 kilometers from the summit of the climb at Col de Vence - Amelia Watkinson surprised the field by surging into the lead by 13 seconds over Ryf, Lawrence, Simmonds and Charles-Barclay. At that summit, Watkinson led by 29 seconds over Ryf, followed by Simmonds (pictured below), Lawrence and Charles-Barclay.
During the next 10 kilometers on a relatively flatter ridgeline, Watkinson maintained a 29 seconds lead on Ryf, 37 seconds on Simmonds, 43 seconds on Lawrence and 50 seconds on Charles-Barclay.
On a faster downhill, Watkinson started to slow while Charles-Barclay passed Ryf for 2nd place, then Lawrence passed Ryf who settled into 3rd ahead of Simmonds.
Charles-Barclay was assessed a penalty and stopped to serve 5 minutes in a penalty tent. Soon thereafter, at 2:04 into the race time, Ryf utilized her superior handling skills to pass Watkinson for the lead, then Lawrence followed into 2nd place.
At 61 kilometers into the bike leg, Ryf led a pack of in touch chasers led by Holly Lawrence (+1:20), Simmonds (+1:22) and Watkinson (+1:38). Further back were Norden (+4:51), Findlay (+5:16) and playing catch-up Charles-Barclay +5:33). Strong runners with a whisper of a prayer of a podium included Kahlefeldt (10th place +8:33), Chelsea Sodaro of the U.S, (11th +8:36) and Kaisa Sali of Finland and Emma Pallant of Great Britain at +10:02 and +10:06.
Back on the flats in the outskirts of town approaching T2, at the 80 kilometer mark Ryf powered to open a 2:25 lead over Lawrence and Simmonds, then came Watkinson (+3:25). Norden (+6:22) Charles-Barclay (+7:09) Findlay (+8:04) Manon Genet (+8:16).
After her race-best 2:33:38 bike split, Ryf entered T2 with a 2:35 lead on Simmonds, 2:37 on Lawrence, 4:18 on Watkinson, 6:34 on Norden, 7:11 on Charles-Barclay and 8:35 on superb runner Chelsea Sodaro (just above).
After 5k, 2016 Ironman 70.3 World Champion Holly Lawrence chopped Ryf’s lead to 2:00. But that was to be as close as she came to the Swiss champion nicknamed Angry Bird.
After 10.8 kilometer of the 21.2 kilometer run leg, Ryf led Lawrence by 2:21, Simmonds by 2:59, Charles-Barclay by 7:7:15, Sodaro by 7:38, Watkinson by 7:46 and Radka Kahlefeldt by 9:30.
Once she established a safe lead, Ryf cruised home with a 3rd-best 1:18:37 run split among those in contention, which was good enough to increase her margin of victory to 3:59.
Ironman 70.3 World Championship
September 7, 2019
S 1.9 km. / B 91.5 km / R 21.2 km
1, Daniela Ryf (SUI) 4:23:03 S 26:32 T1 2:47 B 2:33:38 T2 1:33 R 1:18:37
2. Holly Lawrence (GBR) 4:27:02 S 26:23 T1 2:20 B 2:36:50 T2 1:23 R 1:20:08
3. Imogen Simmonds (SUI) 4:28:10 S 26:40 T1 2:35 B 2:36:16 T2 1:31 R 1:21:10
4. Chelsea Sodaro (USA) 4:31:07 S 27:23 T1 2:34 B 2:41:34 T2 1:43 R 1:17:56
5. Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) 4:31:50 S 25:23 T1 2:42 B 2:42:03 T2 1:26 R 1:20:19
6. Radka Kahlefeldt (CZE) 4:33:38 S 26:37 T1 2:32 B 2:43:02 T2 1:30 R 1:19:59
7. Amelia Watkinson (NZL) 4:34:06 S 26:40 T1 2:36 B 2:37:59 T2 1:33 R 1:25:21
8. Manon Genet (FRA) 4:34:14 S 29:16 T1 2:45 B 2:39:26 T2 1:33 R 1:21:16
9. Emma Pallant (GBR) 4:34:26 Splits N/A
10. Sara Svensk (SWE) 4:35:23 S 29:23 T1 2:40 B 2:44:12 T2 1:52 R 1:17:18