After Tim Don’s pre-race pull-out following a car crash, Brit hopes were pinned on Scot David McNamee and he finished in a stunning third to break Spencer Smith’s 20-year Brit men’s Kona record of fifth.
Gary Lineker once said that, “Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and, at the end, the Germans always win.” Much the same could be said for the men’s race Ironman World Championship race in Hawaii in recent times, with 55 pro men swim, biking and running for eight hours before the Germans win, with Sebastian Kienle (2014) and Jan Frodeno (2015 and 2016) taking the past three titles in emphatic style.
After his two consecutive wins, Jan Frodeno’s big target for the 2017 Ironman World Championships was Craig Alexander’s course record of 8:03:56 set in 2011 and, beyond that, a crack at becoming the first Ironman in history to go sub-8hrs in Hawaii.
Frodeno’s biggest rival was Kienle once again, with the bike powerhouse – and no slouch on the run – aiming to make up the expected arrears on the 3.8km swim to create enough daylight between himself and Frodeno onto the marathon run. Their compatriot Patrick Lange, third in 2016, would also be a contender after a record-breaking 2:39:45 marathon 12 months before.
For the Brits, David McNamee was the big hope to break Spencer Smith’s 20-year record of fifth, with the hugely sad news of Tim Don being hit by a bike in the build-up overshadowing the GB pre-race news.
INTO KAILUA BAY
The 3.8km swim in Kailua Bay was led out by the American Josh Amberger in 47:09. Frodeno was over a minute back in 48:27, with Brits Harry Wiltshire (48:32) and David McNamee (48:40) in the front group. Kienle was over 5mins behind.
At the 2:30hr mark of the race, Amberger had a 30sec gap to Frodeno, America’s Ben Hoffman, Nils Frommhold of Germany and Bermuda’s Tyler Butterfield. Yet the big movement was coming from behind, with Canada’s Lionel Sanders, Aussie Cameron Wurf and Kienle passing the main chase group and closing in on Frodeno at the front.
By 70km of the bike, Sanders had the overall lead and was delivering an average power output of 303 watts and average pace of 29mph, with Kienle and Wurf nestling behind. Normann Stadler’s bike course record of 4:18hr looked under threat.
With the wind picking up and temperatures rising over 80C by 10am Hawaii time, rumours were circulating – via the 1994 Ironman World Champion, Greg Welch – that Frodeno had an injury and had been having treatment in the week beforehand.
The battle on the famous Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway would continue throughout the bike, with Frodeno dropping 2:10mins back from the white hot trio of Kienle, Wurf and Sanders at the 100 mile (160km) point.
The close of the 180km bike saw Cameron Wurf enter T2 after 4:12:54, with Stadler’s record absolutely crushed. Sanders was 54secs back, Kienle 1:34, and Frodeno 2:16 in arrears. Lange and McNamee were close to 10mins behind. The run was on!
NEW BIKE COURSE RECORD: @CameronWurf established a bike course record in 4:12:54 – more than 5 minutes faster than Normann Stadler in 2006. pic.twitter.com/5mhGCA6YIU
— IRONMAN Triathlon (@IRONMANtri) October 14, 2017
On his third Kona attempt, Sanders took the lead early in the run but looked to be moving gingerly, as was Frodeno, who had been moved to walking pace after 5km on the run.
Hard to see our defending champ walking at mile 3. pic.twitter.com/x0pxNvQNbl
— IronmanLIVE.com (@IRONMANLive) October 14, 2017
America’s Ben Hoffman was moving to the front as the main contender for U.S. glory since 2002, but it was Lange who has surging through the field. His made his move over the Canadian late in the day at the 23 mile (37km) point to break the iconic Ali’i Drive tape in 8:01:40. Sanders held on for second 2:27mins back and McNamee took third from Kienle at the death with a 2:45:30 marathon to make Brit men’s history.
Colorful, cheerful Ali’i Drive. There’s nothing like it! pic.twitter.com/Neub7oGWTK
— IronmanLIVE.com (@IRONMANLive) October 15, 2017
“I always always since I was a child, dreamed of this. I really had to fight–I had to fight so hard. Crowie [Carig Alexander] believed in me when we raced Ironman 70.3 Subic Bay, and he said ‘you’re going to win it’ and I said ‘No, I don’t think so.’ Honestly, I can’t believe it,” said Lange at the finish.
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Pro Men – Finish
1 8:01:40 Patrick Lange
2 8:04:07 Lionel Sanders