Bahrain Endurance 13 celebrated a triple triumph this weekend, with Ben Hoffman and Daniela Ryf taking top honours at the Ironman African Championship and Holly Lawrence in her first race on the team winning Ironman 70.3 Oceanside.
Hoffman’s successful title defence came with an unexpected bonus as the American logged a new course record and the first sub-8 hour finish on African soil.
Hoffman exited the 3.8-kilometre swim course a little more than a minute behind super swimmer Josh Amberger. Even as former professional cyclist Cameron Wurf blasted ahead through the 180-km cycle course leading by three minutes, Hoffman stayed controlled in the chase group along with Amberger and Nils Frommhold. Once on the marathon, the real race was on between Frommhold and Hoffman. Frommhold, a previous winner, always stayed within a 30-second gap spurring Hoffman to keep pushing towards a finish time of 7:58:39.
On the women’s side, Ryf was tipped to break Chrissie Wellington’s 2011 record of 8:33:56 on a slightly different course. The record still stands; however, Ryf’s finish time of 8:47:01 was good enough for the win, and relegated defending champion Kaisa Lehtonen to second place by seven minutes.
The Swiss accomplished all this despite tweaking her back in the lead-up to the race. Ryf exited the water in front, but sat in fourth on the bike until the 133rd kilometre when she made her move to the front. Once there she never looked back, gapping her chasers by three minutes leading into transition and continuing to build the lead from there until the finish line.
At Ironman 70.3 Oceanside, Lawrence similarly dominated the women’s field. The Ironman 70.3 world champion used this race to knock off the rust after an off-season and long build-up. “This is my first race this season and I haven’t raced for a long time – it’s been nearly six months. Even though training’s been going well, you never really know how it’s going to go. I haven’t gone that fast for that long for a very long time,” she said.
The California-based triathlete from Great Britain exited the 1.9-km swim on the shoulder of swim leader Jennifer Spieldenner, but took to the front on the 90-km bike ride and recorded the day’s fastest half-marathon to cross the finish line nine minutes ahead of second-placed Ellie Salthouse.
In China, Fredrik Croneborg struggled with the temperatures at Ironman 70.3 Liuzhou with temperatures at 15 degrees Celsius in the water and less than 10 degrees at the start of the bike leg. The Phuket-based Swede toughed through, finishing in 12th.
With the year’s racing season heating up, next weekend Javier Gomez will toe the starting line at WTS Gold Coast.