The Swiss swim, bike and run powerhouse triumphs at the race that has captured her imagination.
Daniela Ryf’s 8:57:57 victory is the sixth fastest time in the history of the race, and makes her only the second woman in history to claim both the IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship crowns within the same year (joining Cave in 2012).
“I had almost the perfect race. In IRONMAN that doesn’t happen often,” Ryf, 28, remarked after the race.
The champion recorded a winning margin of 13:03 over Joyce, who placed second, and a 16 minute margin over Blatchford, who would go on to place third for the second time in three attempts (she was tenth last year).
From the blast of the cannon, Leanda Cave (GBR), Rachel Joyce (GBR) and Amanda Stevens (USA) forged their way to the front of the swim in Kailua Bay, while Meredith Kessler (USA) and Jodie Swallow (GBR) formed their own lead group to the side. Eventually, the packs would merge to include Ariane Monticelli (BRA), Liz Blatchford (AUS), Mary Beth Ellis (USA), and Angela Naeth (CAN).
Swallow broke away from the field and built a sizeable gap landing her on the swim exit ramp with a lead of more than a minute on Cave, Luxford, Michelle Vesterby (DEN), Joyce, Blatchford, Kessler, Ellis and Daniela Ryf (CHE).
Ryf pounced to a slim lead out of transition with Ellis, Caroline Steffen (CHE), Cave, Annabel Luxford (GBR), Blatchford, and Danes Camilla Pedersen and Michelle Vesterby lining up behind her. Ryf continued to show the way for the next 60 miles of the bike, putting increased pressure on at the Hawi turnaround.
Swallow was the only woman capable of matching Ryf’s pace as the remainder of the field started to fall off on the return trip from Hawi. Throughout the final 35 miles of the bike, Ryf started to do real damage. Last year’s runner-up and clear race-day favorite dismounted her bike carrying over a seven-minute advantage on Swallow, and almost nine minutes on Ellis, Pedersen and Vesterby. Defending champion Mirinda Carfrae suffered back pain on the bike after a crash this week.
Ryf hit the run hard and immediately started to pad her lead further as she ticked off the miles. At the Palani hill at 10 miles, her lead had ballooned to over 12 minutes to Joyce, who had managed to run her way into second, followed by Swallow as the women headed towards the Energy Lab.
The positions behind Joyce shuffled substantially during the second half of the run as top contenders Ellis and Swallow suffered setbacks along the Queen K, and Ryf continued to pull away.
Her 3:06 run brought Ryf into the finish line first, and 26th overall, topping off her solid day with the result she’s been dreaming of all season.
Vesterby was beaming as she crossed the finish line in fourth.
“I told my husband I’d give my left hand to get sixth. And look, I have both hands! The after party is going to be amazing,” an elated Vesterby said after the race.
Heather Jackson (USA) backed up a significant swim deficit with a steady bike and a quick run to claim fifth in her rookie pro start in Kona.
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