Daniela Ryf overcame a tough start to claim her first IRONMAN win in South Africa while the USA’s Ben Hoffman defended his title, breaking the Standard Bank IRONMAN® African Championship course record in the process.
Reigning IRONMAN World Champion Daniela Ryf immediately set the pace at the start of the swim with North American Champion Julia Gajer, defending African Champion Kaisa Lehtonen and the UK’s Susie Cheetham close behind. Ryf was first out of the water in 53:47 followed by Gajer (+0:06) Lehtonen (55:29) and Cheetham (+0:08).
Gajer with a good transition took the early lead with Cheetham and Lehtonen chasing to close the gap and Ryf not far off. An intense battle for the lead ensued between Gajer and Cheetham after the 43km mark with Lehtonen and Ryf still playing catch up. None seemed willing to give up the chase leaving the four leading the women’s pack for the majority of the race. After the first lap many thought Ryf would exert more dominance, but the World Champion took paced her charge expertly and took the lead after 133km and, after a fast last quarter, entered T2 with a 3:30 advantage.
With Ryf looking strong, Lehtonen was always going to be the biggest threat with her running ability. Gajer stopped allowing Cheetham to capitalise and move into third place. The both strong runners, Lehtonen and Cheetham were ultimately not able to close the gap allowing Ryf to take the victory in 8:47:02. Although she was unable to successfully defend her 2016 title Lehtonen secured a well-deserved second place and a sub-9 result finishing 5:23 after Ryf, while last year’s runner up, Cheetham (17:47) rounded out the women’s podium in third place. It might have seemed like a routine but Ryf described the win as “a bit of a miracle.”
Australia’s Josh Amberger dominated the swim from practically the get-go and effortlessly left the chasing group of Harry Wiltshire, Frederik Van Lierde, Kyle Buckingham, Nils Frommhold and Eneko Llanos behind as he barrelled onto the beach. Amberger’s push in the final stretch ensured that he was first out of the water with a swim split of 48:02. On his tail was the UK’s Harry Wiltshire (+0:03) followed by Csoke Balazs (+0:59), Frederik Van Lierde (+1:02) and Nils Frommhold (+1:03).
Once on the bike, Amberger and Wiltshire fought for the lead ahead of the chase group but were soon overtaken by Australia’s Cameron Wurf. Wurf set the pace at the front with Hoffman and Amberger trailing. Ben Hoffman, Josh Amberger and Nils Frommhold chased to close the gap and the race remained close for much of the duration of the ride. Hammering it out on the final stretch, Wurf managed to maintain his slender lead to secure the fastest bike split of the day with a time of 4:20:11. The former Olympian was followed closely by Frommhold (+2:00), Hoffman (+2:03) and Amberger (+5:52).
Hoffman and Frommhold wasted no time in overtaking Wurf, who did not appear comfortable, catching him after just 2.5km. The 2016 and 2014 IRONMAN African Champions were closely matched, leading for the majority of the run. Wurf maintained third position until shortly after the 8km mark before being overtaken by David McNamee and the South African duo of Kyle Buckingham and James Cunnama.
The gap between Hoffman and Frommhold made for a nail-biting race until the final few kilometres but once it was down to the wire Hoffman managed to successfully defend his 2016 title and break the IRONMAN African Championship record finishing in 7:58:39.
“I exceeded all my expectations. A sub 8-hour time was not on my radar – I’m just blown away,” said Hoffman.
Frommhold (+0:50) and McNamee (+8:51) rounded out the men’s podium in second and third, respectively.
Issued by: IRONMAN