The Men’s Pro race report from Friday’s Challenge Miami can probably be fully encapsulated by this quote. After crossing the line in second place, over two and half minutes back, second placed Lionel Sanders’ first comment to Jan Frodeno was:
“You’re the f&^%ing man!”
Objectively, it’s really hard to argue.
Jan had not raced since his record-breaking win at the IRONMAN World Championship in 2019. As far as I can recall, I don’t think (?) he’s been beaten since Kona 2017. There was never, ever, a moment during Friday’s race where that looked like changing.
Is Frodeno the absolute best swimmer in the sport? No.
Clearly the best biker? No.
The best pure runner? No.
But as a triathlete, he’s probably the closest to perfection that we’ve ever seen in men’s triathlon. Whether he’s the GOAT is for triathlon geeks to discuss over a beer or a protein shake, but this was a masterclass in weakness-free racing. He turns 40 in August, but there’s nothing to suggest his best can’t still be ahead of him.
The PTO Rankings have him as the world #1. It’s up to the likes of Alistair Brownlee and Gustav Iden to challenge that status. They will relish that opportunity. For triathlon fans, that should provide some incredible battles before Frodeno decides to put his feet up and enjoy a second cup of Frodisimo, rather than head out for more training. He’s more than earned the right to choose when that day comes.
For the sake of completeness, I guess I should mention the actual race?
It was a quartet exiting the water together – Ben Kanute (USA), Nick Kastelein (AUS), Tim O’Donnell and, of course, Jan Frodeno.
If Lucy Charles messed up her dismount in the women’s event, Kanute did similar at the mount line, riding into a cone and send his nutrition over the floor. He recovered though, and soon it was Kanute and Frodeno from those four that pulled clear, chased from behind from Andrew Starykowicz (USA), Rudy Von Berg (USA) and Magnus Ditlev (DEN).
While Starykowicz and Ditlev managed to pass the German, it was never by more than 30 seconds and control of the race never looked in danger. “How much time could he afford to lose?” asked the commentator, “30, 40 seconds?”. The reply – which proved spot on – from Belinda Granger, “…honestly? He could give those guys five minutes on the run and still win.”
A little further back Lionel Sanders had lost around two minutes in the swim (a solid performance, in relative terms), but while he moved up significantly through the field in terms of positions, his final bike split was almost a minute slower than his target. As Frodeno slipped into his Hoka shoes in T2, there was never any issue where the win was going.
Matt Hanson, second in Daytona, clocked the fastest run of the day (52:58), but even that only placed him 13th at the finish. Sanders ran well (53:24), but still only gained back 23 seconds on Frodeno, despite giving his usual 100%+. Jan’s only fault on the day seemed to be dropping a gel mid run – but even then he stopped, turned back, picked it up and eased back into his stride in swift style. His margin of victory more than two and a half minutes, but you were left feeling there was another gear available, had it been needed.
The battle for third was a great one. Kanute and Chris Leiferman (USA) had been close all through the run, but Ben managed to pull clear in the late stages and complete the podium.
While this was Jan’s day, it feels appropriate to end as we started – with a post-race quote from Lionel:
“Of course I’m a competitor and I want to beat the guy, I literally lose sleep every night thinking about it. I’ve been racing this guy now for seven years and he hands me my ass. Every. Single. Damn. Time.”
Challenge Miami, Friday 12th March 2021
1.6km / 62km / 16.9km
1st – Jan Frodeno (GER) – 2:37:57
2nd – Lionel Sanders (CAN) – 2:40:28
3rd – Ben Kanute (USA) – 2:41:35
4th – Chris Leiferman (USA) – 2:41:46
5th – Rudy Von Berg (USA) – 2:42:11
DNF – Reece Barclay (GBR)