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Katrina Matthews, Chris Leiferman take IRONMAN Florida wins

Great Britain's Katrina Matthews was a hugely impressive winner of IRONMAN Florida, on what was a great day for the BMC-Vifit Pro Triathlon Team

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A BMC-Vifit Pro Triathlon Team double in Florida

Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Despite a year which has seen minimal racing, that just about sums up the season (so far…) for Great Britain’s Katrina Matthews.

A first full distance victory (in only her second start) on Saturday at IRONMAN Florida, just added to previous success at the National 100-mile TT Champs, IRONMAN 70.3 Estonia and the Outlaw X.

It’s been quite a (fast) journey. Just 18 months ago, under her maiden name of Kat Rye, Matthews all but catapulted herself to our attention with an eye-catching performance at Challenge Gran Canaria. Racing as an Age-Group athlete at the time, she was the fastest female amateur by 15 minutes, in a time quicker than all of the female Pro athletes, except race winner Emma Pallant.

Of course, such results guarantee nothing, and plenty of ‘Age-Group to Pro’ transitioning athletes will confirm that the racing dynamics are very different, and time comparison are interesting, but only give part of the story. In this instance, subsequent performances have proven that Katrina Matthews is the real deal. And she’s barely started.

Saturday’s win came via leading out the swim, the third fastest bike split (leading into T2) and then finishing up with a hugely impressive Sub-3 hour marathon (2:58:29). The result was a course record winning time of 8:40:50 – and that was on a day that stats-guru Thorsten Radde described the swim and run conditions as slower than normal, on the typically quick Panama City Course. While, again, times only give you part of the story… from a British perspective, only Chrissie Wellington and Lucy Charles-Barclay have gone quicker over the iron-distance. Cut the performance and the the stats any way you want – you’ll only end up with ‘very impressive’ as your output.

A good day too for Ruth Astle. While more experienced over the distance, like Matthews, this was still only her second Pro start over the long course. While 9:04:03 and fourth place may have left a little ‘Sub-9’ frustration (it was still a personal best, beating her 9:12 at Challenge Roth in 2019) – and of course everyone wants to get that podium slot – a $5,000 cheque and a Kona slot for 2021 will have made this two very happy British athletes with their Florida adventures. They will both get to test themselves again, in just a few weeks time now, at Challenge Daytona.

Ruth also joined the record-breaking club, with her 4:32:13 besting the previous best time split of the course, of Yvonne Van Vlerken.

In early 2020, Katrina Matthews joined the BMC-Vifit Pro Triathlon Team – and IRONMAN Florida would prove a memorable day for the squad, as the USA’s Chris Leiferman made it a win-double for the team, on a day where the top five athletes all broke the eight hour mark.

IRONMAN Florida, Panama City Beach – Saturday 7th November 2020
3.8km / 180km / 42.2km

PRO WOMEN

1st – Katrina Matthews (GBR) – 8:40:50
2nd – Skye Moench (GER) – 8:46:35
3rd – Meredith Kessler (USA) – 8:59:01
4th – Ruth Astle (GBR) – 9:04:03
5th – Fiona Moriarty (IRL) – 9:21:51

PRO MEN

1st – Chris Leiferman (USA) – 7:52:44
2nd – Matt Hanson (USA) – 7:55:02
3rd – Sam Long (USA) – 7:55:33
4th – Andreas Dreitz (GER) – 7:56:51
5th – Cody Beals (CAN) – 7:59:55

John Levison
Written by
John Levison
TRI247's Chief Correspondent, John has been involved in triathlon for well over 30 years, 15 of those writing on these pages, whilst he can also be found commentating for events across the UK.
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