In an incredible race, German Rico Bogen took the win at the 2023 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships as he led a German sweep of the podium, with countrymen Frederic Funk and Jan Stratmann securing second and third place.
Unfortunately, the men’s 2023 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships was a hard day out for the favourites. Jason West, the American who has taken the middle distance world by storm this year, withdrew due to illness prior to the start, with a number of other athletes, including last year’s winner Kristian Blummenfelt, also struggling with a bug that seemingly originated at the PTO Tour Asian Open in Singapore.
However, whilst some of the more established guard struggled, the young generation of middle distance racers made their presence known, with an incredibly strong contingent of European athletes making the most of a chance to race closer to home, as a dominant German presence in particular at the front of the race garnered a huge amount of support from the Finnish crowd.
Swim – Nieschlag leads the charge
Out of the water, Justus Nieschlag, who earlier in the year won IRONMAN 70.3 Lanzarote in a dramatic sprint finish, led a large front group of quality swimmers, as the German Olympian set the pace with a lightning quick 22:43. Following closely behind, there were 18 men within +0:30, including Americans Ben Kanute and Marc Dubrick.
Further back, there were another eight athletes within a minute of the front, meaning over 20 entered transition together and headed out on to the bike side-by-side. Australians Steve McKenna and Charlie Quin were on the periphery of the lead group, as were Britain’s James Teagle and pre-race favourite Blummenfelt.
Finally, Canadian Lionel Sanders and American Sam Long, known for their prowess on the bike and run, exited just over two minutes off the front, a deficit that both athletes would surely have been happy with before the race.
Bike – Funk and Margirier blow the field apart
Out on the bike, an initial group of ten started to push the pace at the front to gain some separation to the rest of the field, with Frenchman Mathis Margirier and Funk driving forces at the head of the race. By the 27km mark, this group had been whittled down to just seven men, which consisted of Bogen, Nieschlag, Funk, Margirier, Britain’s Joshua Lewis and Germans Maximilian Sperl and Stratmann.
As the ride progressed, one of the pre-race favourites Kanute struggled with the pace and found himself in no man’s land. By halfway, a substantial chase group had formed at around a two minute deficit, with Long and Sanders leading the charge with Blummenfelt, Dubrick, Teagle and others alongside them.
After dropping Sperl, the front pack continued to build up a substantial lead over the chase pack. Amongst the second group, last year’s champion and runner-up Blummenfelt and Kanute were struggling and going backwards, with Long, Sanders and Thor Bendix Madsen doing the lion’s share of the work but slipping to a gap of +2:50.
With less than a quarter of the bike course to go, disaster struck as crowd favourite Sanders who was given a centre line violation penalty for crossing on to the wrong side of the road, significantly reducing the firepower of the chase pack. With 10 kilometres to go, Long was still chasing hard at +3:15 back along with ten other athletes.
Intro transition, Funk and Margirier both put together a 1:55 bike split to open up a small gap on the rest of the front pack, as the pair started the run with +0:15 to Bogen, +0:21 to Nieschlag, +0:25 to Stratmann and +0:27 to Lewis. Next into transition, Sperl was +3:31 down after falling off the pace and Long, leading the chasers, was +3:37 back after a late surge to get some daylight on the rest of the chase pack.
Run – Bogen delivers on the big stage
Out on to the run, after opening up an initial lead, Bogen reeled back in Funk and Margirier to make it a group of three at the front of the race, as Margirier seemed the most comfortable of the trio early on. However, after settling on the shoulder of Funk and Margirier for a couple of minutes, Bogen broke away and made a bid to break the pair at the front.
By the 4km mark, Bogen, who is only ranked at PTO World #69, had +0:15 over Margirier, who in turn had opened up a gap to Funk back in third. Further back, Stratmann, Lewis and Nieschlag seemed to be struggling after a hard run, with Long accompanied by Britain’s James Teagle reeling the trio back in.
At the halfway mark, Bogen was continuing to open up his lead, with Margirier slipping to +0:42, as Funk and Stratmann began to close on the Frenchman, with the pair within striking distance as the leaders entered the final lap. Lewis, in fifth place, was quickly losing ground to fellow countryman Teagle and Long behind.
At the 14km mark, Funk made the pass to move back into second, as Margirier looked to be struggling, with Stratmann moving into position to secure a German sweep of the podium. In fifth, Lewis, despite losing a little time, was holding off Teagle and Long, as the pair continued to work together.
In the final few stages of the run, Stratmann finally made the move on Margirier, as Bogen and Funk continued to push through the fatigue at the front to solidify their positions in first and second. Whilst the Frenchman fought bravely, Stratmann gapped the early leader as Germany looked increasingly likely of taking the top three spots.
Taking the tape after a remarkable performance, Bogen celebrated with an emotional finish down the chute, as Funk was also all smiles after taking a brilliant second. Finally, rounding off the podium and sealing the sweep, Stratmann seemed to be in a state of disbelief as he took third place.
IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship 2023 Results
Sunday August 27, 2023 – Lahti, Finland
- 1. Rico Bogen (GER) – 3:32:33
- 2. Frederic Funk (GER) – 3:33:26
- 3. Jan Stratmann (GER) – 3:34:11
- 4. Mathis Margirier (FRA) – 3:35:05
- 5. Joshua Lewis (GBR) – 3:36:45
- 6. Youri Keulen (NED) – 3:37:57
- 7. James Teagle (GBR) – 3:38:08
- 8. Marc Dubrick (USA) – 3:38:28
- 9. Thor Bendix Madsen (DEN) – 3:38:29
- 10. Menno Koolhaas (NED) – 3:38:43