The announcement from the triple Ironman Hawaii winner and 220 Triathlon columnist, Chrissie Wellington, that she would be unable to defend her World Championship title was the big news on the Saturday morning in Kona.
Wellington’s withdrawal due to flu-like symptoms ensured that the women’s field was now wide open. A foregone conclusion fast became a race that was deviously difficult to predict. Could Abu Dhabi winner Julie Dibens or Rachel Joyce (sixth here last year) continue Britain’s iron grip on the women’s Ironman title? Or would the likes of Yvonne Van Vlerken, Miranda Carfrae or Virginia Berasategui stand in their way?
The reigning 70.3 world champion Dibens set the pace through the early stages of the race. After trailing Joyce out of the water, Dibens quickly moved to the front of the race. Dibens was hoping to have a lead of about 15 minutes on Carfrae off the bike. Instead she found herself 11:45 up on the fast-running Aussie. In between the two were a surprising Caroline Steffen and Amy Marsh.
Carfrae would eventually catch and pass Dibens at 16 miles of the marathon after going through the first half-marathon in a blazing 1:23 and hold off all challengers to take the World Championship title. Her 8:58 winning time, complete with a 2:53 marathon, was the fourth fastest women’s Ironman time in history and one that should have challenged Chrissie all the way (Wellington won last year in 8:54).
Steffen would also put together an impressive run – a 3:05 marathon – that got her past Dibens and into the runner-up position behind Carfrae.
Virginia Berasategui, who didn’t even think she’d be able to compete thanks to an injured foot, surprised herself with a fourth place finish, while Joyce hung tough to round out the top five.
Head to www.ironman.com for more from the race.