Race Review | The Ironman World Championships 2019

Elite male race

Joe Skipper – 6th 8:07:46

Bart Aernouts – 9th 8:12:27

Josh Amberger – 33rd 8:44:29

One of the greatest ever professional male fields assembled for the 2019 edition of the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. Eyes would be on returning two-time Champion Jan Frodeno, reigning record holder Patrick Lange and Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee who was stepping up to the distance and keen to stamp his mark of authority on long-distance racing. Other names expected to shake things up would be uber-biker Cameron Wurf and Bart Aernouts who recorded the second-fastest time ever over the course in 2018.

Conditions were far from fast in Kailua Bay for the 3.8km swim to start the event, but the race carried a sense of urgency as soon as the cannon fired to signal the beginning of the race. Josh Amberger, the Australian super swimmer, took the lead from the very first stroke and continued to stamp his mark on the leg and push the pace. In his custom Zone3 Kona edition swimskin, he managed to whittle the lead group down to only 9 of the 55 starters in the choppy conditions. Exiting the water in 47:28, Amberger was less than a minute outside the swim record sat in the perfect conditions experienced in 2018, and led the field into T1.

The early pace on the bike was dictated by Jan Frodeno, Maurice Clavel and Ali Brownlee, leading to splits forming in an already small front group. By halfway on the bike, the lead 5 began to splinter further and Josh Amberger ended up being distanced by the efforts from Frodeno. The chasing pack of strong bikers included Cameron Wurf, Sebastien Kienle and Joe Skipper but they were still over 2 minutes in arrears. The day was eventually influenced by mechanicals, with both Brownlee and Skipper picking up punctures and needing the help of neutral service. By T2 Jan Frodeno was leading the race solo with a 2-minute lead over Tim O’Donnell in second, a further 90 seconds ahead of the chase pack of uber-bikers.

Out onto the run, early signs showed Ali Brownlee with the fastest footspeed and it looked as though he was going to contend for the podium. However, after just 10km he began to fade. This left the door open for Sebastien Kienle to run through into third behind Frodeno and O’Donnell. Joe Skipper recovered amazingly from his unfortunate puncture and ran strongly to bring himself inside the top 10 in the early stages of the run, and Bart Aernouts showed signs of a 2018 repeat where he ran himself into podium contention. By the finish line, there was no competition for Jan Frodeno who took a spectacular victory in a new course record time of 7:51:13, followed by O’Donnell over 8 minutes behind. Kienle rounded out the podium. Joe Skipper ran a 2:53 marathon to take 6th place, a step higher up the field than in 2018 and Bart Aernouts was to take 9th place.

Elite female race

Daniela Bleymehl – 9th 9:08:30

Sarah Piampiano – 14th 9:16:29

Nikki Bartlett – 23rd 9:34:04

Kimberley Morrison – 26th 9:44:19

Pre-race expectations were that Lucy Charles-Barclay was to lead the swim and much of the bike, with the duo of Daniela Ryf and Anne Haug likely to work their way through the field and catch her at some point. The bookies favourite was Ryf, but the deciding factor was likely to be when, rather than if, Charles-Barclay was caught and how long she could hold on for. The German bike superstars of Daniela Bleymehl and Laura Philipp were likely to feature heavily, especially if conditions were tough.

The race started as to be expected, with Charles-Barclay swimming together with Lauren Brandon to separate themselves into a leading duo early on. The gap continued to grow over the chase pack, and by T1 had ballooned out to 5 minutes. With a time of 49:02, Charles-Barclay had put herself almost 10 minutes ahead of some of her biggest rivals.

Onto the bike, Lucy Charles-Barclay quickly distanced her swim partner and set to take on the Queen K highway solo. She pushed incredibly hard over the first 50km of the bike leg and the gap increased out to 6 minutes, with even Daniela Ryf losing time. A group containing Anne Haug and Sarah Crowley was maintaining their 6 minute deficit, while the German duo of Daniela Bleymehl and Laura Philipp pushed hard to reduce their shortfalls from the swim leg. By T2, this German duo had set the fastest bike splits of the day to put themselves in contention, with Daniela Bleymehl entering transition in second place 8 minutes behind Charles-Barclay. Daniela Ryf was not looking her usual self out on the bike course, and the reigning World Champion found herself with a 12-minute gap to catch up over the marathon leg.

Straight out of T2, Anne Haug set out with the fastest run speed and looked to eat into her 8-minute gap to the solo leader. By the half-way point on the run, this gap was all but eliminated and Charles-Barclay began to show her first signs of weakness and found her pace dropping. Daniela Ryf had started out the marathon with positive signs, but the gap remained at 10 minutes at the halfway point and she was beginning to look beaten and broken. By 35km of the 42km run course, Sarah Crowley caught and passed Lucy Charles-Barclay for 2nd place, with Lucy looking as though she would need to focus hard just to maintain her place on the podium. However, in a twist of fate, Sarah Crowley was to lose momentum just at the point Lucy gained a second wind. With just 2km to go, Charles-Barclay completed the repass of Crowley to regain her 2nd place.

Anne Haug was the runaway winner in a time of 8:33:15, looking very convincing and strong throughout the entire race. Lucy Charles-Barclay finished 6 minutes in arrears to take 2nd, with Sarah Crowley a further 30 seconds behind to round out the podium. After an amazing bike leg, Daniela Bleymehl suffered on the marathon but ended in a respectable 9th position.