From Beijing in 2008 to London 2012, Jan Frodeno, Alistair Brownlee and Javier Gomez have been involved in some epic short-course battles throughout their careers. Where Frodeno took the Olympic title in 2008 and Brownlee in 2012, today in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, it was once again Frodeno’s turn to take the honours at the 2018 Ironman 70.3 World Championships a day after Swiss star Daniela Ryf produced a record fourth Ironman 70.3 world title.
After establishing a frenetic pace on the 1.9km swim and 90km bike, the German star took control with 7km of the 21.1km run to go to add the 2018 Ironman 70.3 world title to his glittering trophy collection after a time of 3:36, just shy of Michael Raelert's record finish of 3:34:04 at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Clearwater in 2009.
The 2018 edition of the men's 70.3 Worlds was the most star-studded in history, with (deep breath) two full Ironman world titles, seven ITU WTS Championship crowns, three Olympic Games titles, three 70.3 world titles and much more shared between Brownlee, Frodeno and Gomez alone.
The race would also be the first time Gomez and Brownlee have faced each other since the Yorkshireman took victory at the ITU WTS Leeds race in 2017 and the inaugural time they’ve shared an Ironman 70.3 platform.
Frodeno, meanwhile, hasn’t faced Brownlee and Gomez together since WTS Hamburg in 2013, but since then he’s added two Ironman world titles, the Iron-distance world record time and an Ironman 70.3 Worlds title after a victory over Gomez in Austria in 2015.
The 1.9km swim was held in Nelson Mandela Bay on South Africa’s southern coast, and marked the first time the continent has hosted a men’s Ironman 70.3 World Championship. America’s Ben Kanute lead the athletes out of the swim in 21:52, with Frodeno, Gomez, New Zealand’s Braden Currie and Brownlee all following within five seconds.
On wet roads, the single loop bike course took athletes west on the M9 before hugging the Indian Ocean coast on the return to Port Elizabeth. Aussie Sam Appleton would be the first to enter T2 in 2:28:04 with Frodeno, Brownlee and Gomez seconds behind.
Brownlee, who posted one of the fastest 70.3 times in history at St. George in 2017, was setting the pace straight away, completing the first 2.4km in 7:53mins. But Frodeno was also putting a shift in at the front of the field, and Gomez was never far behind.
At the three hour mark, Frodeno and Gomez would break free from Brownlee around 6km into the run and the Brit would soon be 27secs behind. With 7km to go, Frodeno made the decisive move to instantly open up a gap to Gomez. The long, loping strides of the German would prove too much for the Spaniard to handle and the German would cross the line in 3:36:30 to record his second Ironman 70.3 world title crown. And with it a major marker has been established before Kona next month, where Gomez will make his Ironman World Championship debut.
Brownlee's day wasn't done, however, and he'd make up the deficit to Gomez to finish second in a time of 3:37:41. Gomez would complete the podium 50secs later.
The previous day saw Daniela Ryf record a record fourth Ironman 70.3 World Championship title. The Swiss athlete and multiple Ironman world champion dominated the race, posting a 2:15 bike split and a 1:16:59 half-marathon run for a 4:01:12 total finish. Brit star Lucy Charles took second in 4:04:58, and Germany’s Anne Haug came third in 4:07:21 with the fastest run of the day (1:15:10).
“So happy to win the 2018 Ironman 70.3 World Championship,” Ryf said at the finish line. “With such a tough course and strong field, as well as a slight wardrobe malfunction, I was pushed to my very best today. Congrats to all the girls racing today, especially Lucy Charles who is setting the standard for swim/bike and still improving as well as the super-fast running Anne Haug. It’s such a pleasure to race in the women’s only field - it really feels special and is great racing.”
All eyes will now turn to Kona and the 2018 Ironman World Championships on Saturday 13 October, with Ryf and Charles, Gomez and Frodeno all set to resume battle.