Craig Alexander and Chrissie Wellington put on an incredible show here at the Ford Ironman World Championship today. Alexander set a new course record, while Wellington claimed her fourth title despite a number of injuries she sustained in a bike crash less than two weeks ago. (Photos by Larry Rosa.)
For the first time in her Ironman career Wellington found herself coming off the bike behind other women after what was, for her, a relatively slow swim and then a screaming fast bike split by Julie Dibens. Dibens would lead off the bike here today, enjoying a lead of over 11 minutes on Caroline Steffen, over 16 minutes on Leanda Cave and Rachel Joyce, over 20 minutes on super-biker Karin Thuerig. Dibens ended up setting a new bike course record (4:44), a few seconds faster than Thuerig. All that left Wellington over 21 minutes behind. Last year’s defending champion, Mirinda Carfrae, found herself over 25 minutes behind the race lead as she started the run.
It didn’t take Wellington long, though, to work her way through the field. Dibens would eventually pull out at mile eight of the marathon, which left Steffen leading the way with the fast-running Wellington and Carfrae rapidly gaining time.
Wellington would move into the lead just at the turn into the famed Energy Lab – at that point, though, she found herself only four minutes ahead of Carfrae. The gap remained the same for the next few miles, but over the closing miles of the run Carfrae started to chip into the three-time champs lead.
Wellington remained strong, though, and held off Carfrae for her fourth win and the second-fastest women’s time ever here in Kona with her 8:55:08. Carfrae came across the line 2:49 later, making her the only woman to finish that close to Wellington in her Ironman career.
Cave hung tough for third, while Rachel Joyce also passed Steffen to take fourth.
Both Wellington and Carfrae were emotional at the finish – no-doubt a tribute to the intensity of the day’s race. Wellington, who had been in a bike accident just two weeks ago, managed to overcome the injuries that obviously hampered both her preparation for this year’s race and her performance today to claim yet another Ironman world championship, while Carfrae managed to do what no other woman has ever done – push Wellington to the finish line at an Ironman race.
Top 15 pro women:
1 08:55:08 102 Wellington, Chrissie Feltwell NOR GBR 1:01:03 4:56:53 2:52:41
2 08:57:57 101 Carfrae, Mirinda Boulder CO USA 57:17 5:04:17 2:52:09
3 09:03:29 107 Cave, Leanda Tucson AZ USA 53:54 4:58:41 3:06:36
4 09:06:57 112 Joyce, Rachel London GRE GBR 53:56 4:58:57 3:09:55
5 09:07:32 103 Steffen, Caroline Spiez BE SWI 57:15 4:50:26 3:15:17
6 09:15:00 105 Thuerig, Karin Retschwil LUC SWI 1:12:19 4:44:20 3:13:31
7 09:15:17 113 Tajsich, Sonja Sinzing GER 1:06:57 4:58:55 3:04:47
8 09:17:56 116 Wurtele, Heather Kelowna BC CAN 58:43 4:59:10 3:15:29
9 09:18:11 123 Snow, Caitlin Brockton MA USA 58:47 5:20:57 2:53:51
10 09:19:52 117 Berasategui, Virginia Bilbao BIZ ESP 58:44 5:03:31 3:12:50
11 09:22:07 114 Morrison, Catriona Broxburn WES GBR 1:01:02 5:01:45 3:13:18
12 09:28:21 118 Deckers, Tine Kessel-Lo VLA BEL 1:04:53 5:00:04 3:19:09
13 09:29:08 110 Williamson, Kelly Austin TX USA 55:49 5:24:29 3:03:33
14 09:31:21 133 Badmann, Natascha Oftringen AAR SWI 1:07:04 5:00:29 3:16:44
15 09:34:06 128 Ellis, Mary Beth Superior CO USA 55:54 5:19:15 3:13:48
A Course Record
For Alexander, today’s race was a terrific vindication to the tactics that saw him lose his title here in Kona last year. After seeing a group pull away on the bike in 2010, Alexander appeared more determined than ever to win the championship back today. While Andy Potts led out of the water, pretty much all of the contenders in today’s race managed to stay within contact and join the lead group out on the bike course by the time the race got a few miles down the famed Queen K.
It wasn’t until the descent down from Hawi that things started to split up and Chris Lieto was finally able to pull away from the group. His acceleration split up the chasers behind him, but even a near-record bike split (he was eight-seconds off Normann Stadler’s 2006 time) only got him off the bike just over five minutes ahead of Luke McKenzie, Dirk Bockel, Marino Vanhoenacker and Alexander. Another few minutes back were Andi Boecherer, Maik Twelsiek and Andreas Raelert.
Through the early stages of the run it became very clear that Alexander was destined to take the lead in a hurry. He made the pass and took the lead along Alii Drive and never looked back.
That doesn’t mean his win today was easy. Behind him Raelert blew through the field and quickly moved into second place. There was an even faster pursuer behind the German – Australian Pete Jacobs was flying through the run course. Jacobs would eventually run his way into second spot, but then he faltered and suddenly found himself running stride for stride with Raelert over the closing miles of the marathon.
That wasn’t the only drama in the race – with a little over a mile and a half to run, Alexander suddenly stopped dead on the road, the victim of some fierce cramps. He managed to get himself running, though, and got to the line in time to set a new course record by 12 seconds.
Jacobs got clear of Raelert to make it one-two for Australia. Raelert now continues his impressive string here in Kona – in three appearances he’s finished third, second and third.
Alexander, though, has an even more impressive record. He finished second in his first Ironman here in Kona in 2007. Then he won the race two years in a row, finished fourth last year and, today, joined some prestigious company by becoming the fourth man to win three titles – he joins a prestigious list that includes Dave Scott, Mark Allen and Peter Reid.
4 08:12:58 33 Bockel, Dirk Bereldange LUX LUX 51:44 4:24:17 2:53:04
5 08:20:12 9 Bracht, Timo Eberbach BAW GER 53:37 4:35:07 2:47:26
6 08:21:07 44 Aigroz, Mike Chateau d oe VD SWI 52:31 4:30:44 2:54:08
7 08:22:15 2 Tissink, Raynard Port Elizabe EC RSA 52:08 4:28:40 2:56:37
8 08:23:19 31 Boecherer, Andi Freiburg YES GER 51:49 4:25:46 3:01:44
14 08:35:53 27 Henning, Rasmus Tuineje ISL ESP 51:48 4:31:12 3:08:49
15 08:37:00 40 Viennot, Cyril BEAUVAIS PIC FRA 55:58 4:44:51 2:51:56
You can recap our entire day’s coverage at kona.ironmanlive.com
You can reach Kevin Mackinnon at email@example.com