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IRONMAN South Africa: Disappointment for Daniela Ryf as Svenningsson and Sanchez win

Upsetting the favourites, Spaniard Marta Sanchez and Swede Rasmus Svenningsson took memorable wins at IRONMAN South Africa.

Staff Reporter
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In the first major full distance race of the season, underdogs Rasmus Svenningsson and Marta Sanchez pulled off incredible performances to take the wins at IRONMAN South Africa.

Toppling pre-race favourites Cam Wurf and Daniela Ryf, the winning pair secured slots for their respective IRONMAN World Championship races in Kona and Nice later this year.

Wurf, who in the week prior to race day had competed in the Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallone for Team Ineos Grenadiers, held on for third and a spot at his seventh successive IRONMAN World Championship.

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Svenningsson takes first professional win since 2021

There is a high chance that Svenningsson, who currently sits at PTO World #527, will be the lowest ranked athlete to win a professional race this season, but the Swede was a worthy winner on Sunday.

With a sole previous professional win at IRONMAN Lake Placid three years ago, followers of Svenningsson on Strava will know he is an exceptional trainer, and it was only going to be a matter of time until things came together again on race day.

Exiting the water just outside the Top 10, Svenningsson was five minutes down on Josh Amberger, who was doubling back from the Singapore T100, with a group including Wurf equidistance between the Swede and the front heading into T1.

At the first checkpoint (16.8km), Amberger had a dwindling lead over Wurf and Mathias Petersen in second and third place, with Wurf making the pass soon after as Svenningsson started to reel in the rest of the field and move up to fifth by the 38.5km mark.

Over the next 20km, Svenningsson made his way up to the Australian and the pair rode together for the next 90 minutes, before a big push by the Swede finally shook Wurf and opened up a gap that stretched out to two minutes after 150km.

Starting the run, Wurf was +2:32 in arrears with the real danger man, Petersen, back in fourth and +10:58 down on Svenningsson, with the leader setting out at a conservative pace.

Rasmus Sveningsson wins 2024 IRONMAN African Championship / IRONMAN South Africa
Photo Credit: Richard Pearce for IRONMAN

Wurf, who wasn’t giving up, regained the lead at the 27km mark, by which point Petersen had reduced his deficit down to two minutes. Under pressure, Svenningsson rallied and was back at the front with 10km to go and from there never looked back, as he pushed on to take a well earned victory.

Paying for his late efforts on the run, Wurf was caught by Petersen with less than five kilometres remaining, with the Dane securing second place ahead of the tiring Australian, who just held on to the podium with half a minute to spare over German Leonard Arnold.

Sanchez takes maiden full distance win

In the women’s race, Sanchez was dominant for large parts of the race and took her first full distance win in style, as the Spaniard led almost from start to finish, just relinquishing her lead momentarily in a battle with Diede Diederiks on the run.

Out of the water, she was over four minutes ahead of second place Susie Cheetham, who had Daniela Ryf and Dutch pro Marlene de Boer on her heels into T1, with Diederiks a further three minutes behind finishing the swim.

Normally, Ryf would have been expected to take control of the race from here and ride up to Sanchez over the opening stages, but instead, it was Cheetham who led the early work, with Ryf falling back and slipping down to fifth through the halfway point.

Up front, as the ten-time IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion struggled five minutes down, Sanchez continued to push the pace, and with 50km to go still had a comfortable buffer of over four minutes ahead of Diederiks, who had now moved into second.

Into T2, however, it was a different story, after Diederiks managed to reduce the gap down to less than a minute in the closing stages of the bike. Just 7.3km into the run, the Dutch pro had pulled level with Sanchez and started to put the Spaniard under pressure.

At the halfway mark, Diederiks had opened up +0:41 over Sanchez, who was fighting to stay in contention for the win as de Boer moved into third +2:19 down off the front, with Ryf now long gone having run through the first half almost six minutes slower than the leaders.

Marta Sanchez wins 2024 IRONMAN African Championship / IRONMAN South Africa
Photo Credit: Richard Pearce for IRONMAN

Pacing her way back up to regain the lead over the back half of the race, Sanchez made the decisive move with 10km to go, as Diederiks and de Boer started to struggle. Taking the tape, Sanchez won her second race of the season and is now qualified for both Taupo and Nice in 2024.

Finishing in second, Diederiks also got her Nice spot in just her second IRONMAN race, with German Laura Zimmermann just outlasting de Boer to take third place and the final ticket for the IRONMAN World Championship.

Down in eighth, almost half an hour behind Sanchez, Ryf now faces a tough decision as to whether she continues to chase a spot for the IRONMAN World Championship in Nice or focuses on the T100 Tour, which she is contracted to in 2024.

IRONMAN South Africa – Sunday April 21 2024
3.8km / 180km / 42.2km

PRO MEN

  • 1. Rasmus Svenningsson (SWE) – 8:03:11
  • 2. Mathias Petersen (DEN) – 8:06:50
  • 3. Cameron Wurf (AUS) – 8:07:37
  • 4. Leonard Arnold (GER) – 8:08:17
  • 5. Bart Aernouts (BEL) – 8:10:33

PRO WOMEN

  • 1. Marta Sánchez (ESP) – 9:15:36
  • 2. Diede Diederiks (NED) – 9:17:52
  • 3. Laura Zimmermann (GER) – 9:19:12
  • 4. Marlene de Boer (NED) – 9:21:18
  • 5. Susie Cheetham (GBR) – 9:25:14
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Written by
Tomos Land
Tomos Land is a triathlon & running journalist whose expertise lies in the professional world of short course & long distance triathlon, though he also boasts an extensive knowledge of ultra-running.

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