Jan Frodeno has won today's Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. The German broke the course record in the process with a time of seven hours and 51 minutes, securing his third Kona title. After being near the head of the race on the swim and bike, Alistair Brownlee faded on the run to finish 21st on his Kona debut.
Kona 2019 once again had quite possibly the strongest men’s field in the 41-year-old history of the Ironman World Championships. The big name contenders were all present, including a two-time Olympic Champion by the name of Alistair Brownlee on his Kona (and full Ironman) debut.
The 3.8km swim in Kailua-Kona town began after the U.S. national anthem at 6:25am, and swim course record holder, Australia’s Josh Amberger, and Brownlee were straight to the front. The two-time Kona champ and another Olympic gold medallist, Jan Frodeno, was soon to join them in conditions described as the having the biggest swell in at least a decade of Kona races.
The big story was reigning champion Patrick Lange having the Kona swim of his life and positioned in the lead pack, but Brit David McNamee missed that lead group. The men would be led out of the swim by Amberger in 47:28mins, with Frodeno (47:31mins) and Brownlee (47:33mins) soon behind in second and third respectively.
Heavyweight contenders Lange (who had suffered from a fever the day before the race) and McNamee (neck injury) were soon to drop out as the bike leg pace was set by Frodeno, Brownlee (who seemed to have a replacement back wheel during the ride) and American Tim O’Donnell. The uber-bikers of Seb Kienle and Cameron Wurf only started gaining in time at the 90km point, and Brit Joe Skipper was with the bike train and in 10th position at 160km.
Into T2 and Frodeno had created a 3min gap on Brownlee and O’Donnell having upped the pace with 30km to go, entering transition after a 4:16:03 bike split. Brownlee’s 180km split was 4:19:59, with Sebi Kienle, Cameron Wurf and Boris Stein all in the mix.
Onto the run and, with the heat rising, the long, looping gait of Frodeno was holding firm. By the halfway stage of the run and on the approach to the infamous heat of the Energy Lab, the German’s advantage was 3:26mins over O’Donnell, 5:30mins over Kienle and 10mins over a fading Brownlee.
“All of the predictions come in during the week ahead of the race and people look at the data and race results, but the fascinating thing for us athletes is to then see how it unfolds on race day,” said Frodeno at the press conference ahead of the race, and unfold it would in Frodeno’s favour.
The German, having dropped out injured in 2017 and not made it to the start line in 2018 as his compatriot Lange took the glory (and the course record), held off the challengers to run a 2:42 marathon to cross the line in 7:51hrs and break Lange's course record of 7:52hrs. "Kona is the Wimbledon of our sport and it's a great feeling to run on this course after walking in 2017," was his post-race comment.
It was his third Kona title, to go along with his two 70.3 World titles and Olympic gold from 2008. And it means that the last time a German man didn’t win the Kona title was 2013, making it 10 for the European nation.
Second was America's Tim O'Donnell, with another German, Sebastian Kienle, in third. Joe Skipper was top Brit in sixth with an 8:07 finish, with Brownlee coming home in 21st after a 3:13 marathon (and 8:25hr finish time) and Will Clarke in 25th.