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Gomez, 5-time ITU Olympic distance World Champion, 2012 Olympic silver medalist and 2012 XTERRA World Champion, joined Michael Raelert, Craig Alexander and Sebastian Kienle as a two-time World Champion at the 70.3 distance with a 3:49:45 finish that gave him a 1:22 margin of victory over Kanute and 2:15 over 3rd place finisher Tim Don of Great Britain, who earned his second Ironman 70.3 Worlds podium.
Gomez started his day with a second-best 24:09 swim that gave him a 4 seconds deficit to Kanute and almost a minute lead on the next best challengers. While Kanute dominated the bike leg with a 2nd-fastest 2:08:11 split, Gomez rode a conservative 9th-best 2:12:27 bike split that brought him to T2 in 8th, 4:16 behind Kanute and 26 seconds behind first chaser Sebastian Kienle, who posted the day’s fastest 2:07:46 bike split. On the undulating run filled with modestly rolling hills, Gomez methodically sliced through the field, catching Kanute at Mile 8 on his way to a day’s fastest run.
At the finish, Gomez simply said, “I am tired.” Paying tribute to Kanute, the 24-year-old U.S. Olympian who scored a World Championship silver in just his 3rd 70.3 race of the season, Gomez said, “Ben did an amazing job to take the lead from the start and hold it halfway on the run.”
Kanute, who had enough left after his scintillating bike split to run 1:16:24 and hold off a late race run by Tim Don, was gobsmacked. “I can't believe it,” Kanute said at the finish. “I am at a loss for words. Coming through the second lap of the run, the crowd, you guys, were awesome. I guess I just stuck by my game plan.”
Ben Kanute and Javier Gomez sprinted ahead of the field early on the swim and Kanute hit the ramp first in 24:03 with a 5 seconds lead on Gomez. Tim Don of Great Britain led the chasers with a 56 seconds deficit, followed closely by Carlos Quinchara, Sam Appleton of Australia, Matt Chrabot of the U.S., Mauricio Mendez of Mexico, Rodolphe Von Berg of the U.S., Maurice Clavel of Germany, Ivan Kalashnikov of Russia, Reinaldo Colucci of Brazil, Tyler Butterfield of Bermuda, defending champ Tim Reed of Australia, and Brent McMahon of Canada.
Key contenders included 7-time 70.3 winner Andreas Dreitz of Germany (+2:36), Matt Hanson of the U.S. (+3:34), 2-time Ironman 70.3 World Champion and 2016 Ironman 70.3 runner-up Sebastian Kienle of Germany in 30th (+ 4:19), and Jesse Thomas of the U.S. in 31st (+4:19).
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After the first flat 5 miles of the bike leg, Kanute led Gomez by 20 seconds. Then in a 14-man pack, from 1:40 to 2:12 arrears, came Appleton, Don, Chrabot, Butterfield, Quinchara, Clavel, Colucci, Von Berg, Kalashnikov, Mendez, McMahon, Pieter Heemeryck of Belgium, and defending champ Tim Reed of Australia.
After the 900 foot ascent over the next 3.1 miles, Kanute stretched his lead over Gomez to 55 seconds and extended his margin over a chase pack of eight men – Don, Chrabot, Heemeryck, Clavel, Appleton, Colucci, Von Berg, and Mendez – by a margin from 2:13 to 2:38.
Falling further back were McMahon (+3:14), Reed (+3:47), Butterfield (+4:10), Dreitz (+4:16), and Kienle in 25th, 5:05 behind the leader.
Once the leaders finished the climb and embarked on a 20-mile plateau at the top, Kanute started to pull away to a larger lead. At 23 miles, Kanute led an 8-man pack including Heemeryck, Gomez, Von Berg, Chrabot, Clavel, Don, Appleton, and Colucci by 4:03 to 4:12. Ready to pounce, Kienle was within 37 seconds of the chase pack
By Mile 30, 2nd through 11th were 3:45 behind Kanute, separated by 17 seconds. Kienle took over 2nd, Gomez 5th, and Don 10th. A few miles later, Clavel surged and took a turn at the front of the chase pack.
By Mile 45, Kanute had plateaued and his lead was slimmed to 3:38 to 3:54 over a 10-man pack including Kienle, Clavel, Appleton, Butterfield, Gomez, Don, Heemeryck, Dreitz, Von Berg, and Chrabot. Falling back were Colucci (+6:23), Reed (+7:57), McMahon (+7:59), and Kevin Collington and Drew Scott (+8:00). Superb runner Mauricio Mendez - a 1:12 half marathoner in a 70.3 race - held down 20th, 8:04 behind Kanute.
In the last 10 miles, Kienle showed a spot of anger, waving on Gomez to take his turn at the front. With 4 miles to go, Kienle re-passed Gomez, Appleton, and Chrabot.
Kanute led the field into T2 after a 2:08:11 bike split. Kanute had a 3:50 lead on Kienle, 3:56 on Butterfield, 4:00 on Clavel, 4:02 on Sam Appleton, 4:03 on Tim Don, 4:13 on Pieter Heemeryck, 4:16 on Gomez, 4:17 on Dreitz, and 4:46 on Matt Chrabot.
Looking unruffled as he started the run, Kanute opened the question: Can he hold on to a podium finish? Based on history, the top contenders to run Kanute down for the victory included ITU Olympic distance World Champions Gomez and Don, plus top 70.3 runners Kienle and Appleton.
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After a quarter mile, Kanute held a 3:50 lead on Kienle, 3:56 on Butterfield, 4:00 on Clavel, 4:11 on Don, Appleton by 4:11, Butterfield by 4:14, Heemeryck by 4:25, Gomez by 4:27, and Dreitz by 4:17.
In the first kilometer, Kanute looked a little the worse for wear, grabbing his side to loosen a stitch, as he approached the first significant uphill. Running 6:10 for the mile, Kanute would probably lose that lead to men like Gomez, who was cranking at 5:17/mile pace.
After 2km, Gomez passed Kienle for 2nd pushing quickly to a 30 meter gap on the German. Next up were Appleton and Don. At the 3.5 mile mark, Gomez trimmed Kanute’s lead to 2 minutes. Next up we're Kienle (+2:30), Appleton (+3 minutes), Don (+3:05), and Clavel (+3:06).
After 2.2 miles, Kanute led Gomez by 2:56, Kienle by 3:04, Appleton and Don by 3:32, Clavel by 3:33, and Heemeryck by 3:42. By Mile 4.2 Kanute led Gomez by 1:35, Kienle by 2:33, Don, Appleton and Clavel by 3:01, and Heemeryck by 3:10. At Mile 5, Kanute led Gomez by 1:06.
Running 35 seconds per mile faster than Kanute, Gomez appeared on schedule to pass Kanute just after Mile 6.
Halfway through the run, Don blasted by Kienle for 3rd looking strong, trailed by Clavel and Appleton.
Coming to the 7 mile mark, Kanute seemed to have regrouped and was putting off the Gomez pass as long as possible. Even the mighty Gomez gritted his teeth and was pushed to his max. After 3 hours and 22 minutes of a sub 3:50 race, Kanute was about to surrender to the 5-time ITU World Champion. After Gomez took a breath, he waited a few seconds to regroup, then surged and quickly built a 30 meter lead.
At 8.2 miles, Gomez led Kanute by 9 seconds, Don by 2:06, Kienle by 2:41, and Appleton and Clavel by 3:15.
A few minutes later Gomez was leaving Kanute behind while Don was 1:57 back of Kanute and charging. Running 30 second per mile faster than Kanute, Don had a shot to pass the daring 24-year-old front-running American in the final mile. However, Kanute rallied and upped his pace after the Gomez pass. After Mile 9.4, Kanute remained 35 seconds down to Gomez and maintained a 1:37 lead on Don.
At 10.8 miles, Gomez increased his lead on Kanute to 1:01, who retained a 1:18 lead on hard-charging Don. With two miles to go, Kanute appeared to have a good chance to hang on to silver. At this time, Appleton passed Kienle for 4th.
After a race-best 1:10:30 run, Gomez finished in 3:49:45 with a 1:22 margin over Kanute (1:16:24 run) and 2:15 over 3rd place Tim Don (1:13:05 run). Appleton ran 1:14:41 to finish 4th, 3:49 behind Gomez, 1:34 behind Don, and 1:12 ahead of 5th place Kienle (1:16:04 run).