Ben Hoffman got the better of a thrilling battle with Magnus Ditlev to win an epic race at IRONMAN Texas 2022 on Saturday.
The 38-year-old American finally made the decisive break in the final 200m to claim a famous victory, just two weeks before he will be on the start line at the IRONMAN World Championship in St George.
Ditlev meanwhile put in a terrific debut over the full distance, recovering brilliantly after a mechanical cost him around nine minutes late in the bike leg.
The pair were locked together for the final six miles of a thrilling marathon before Hoffman finally shook off the giant Dane to take top spot on the podium.
Swim – Varga blasts off
Probably the least surprising development of the day was Slovakia’s Richard Varga posting the fastest swim time, and he exited the water with a lead of a couple of seconds over Sweden’s Alexander Berggren. Sam Laidlow was third, 32 seconds off the pace.
After that the field was pretty well strung out with another Swede Jesper Svensson just over two-and-a-half minutes back in fifth and home favourite Hoffman 4:46 away. At this stage Ditlev was 4:52 off the pace in 15th.
Bike – Ditlev rises, then falls flat
Talk about a rollercoaster ride, that’s exactly what Ditlev experienced during the bike leg.
The Danish uber biker once again showed his formidable prowess on two wheels by hacking away at that near-five minute deficit in terrific style.
Ditlev’s relentless progress saw him turn that deficit into a small lead over Laidlow and Varga just before they reached the 80-mile mark. By the time they reached 104 miles, Ditlev had pulled 1:38 clear of Laidlow, but soon after disaster struck.
Just when he needed it least, Ditlev’s hopes were dealt a huge blow when he suffered a mechanical during the dying stages of the bike leg. His frustration, not surprisingly, was evident for all to see. It came just as he was really putting the hammer down.
By the time the field reached T2 Laidlow and Varga were virtually together at the front, but Ditlev was now 7:25 down with Hoffman right behind him. It was now a very different race heading onto the run.
Run – One epic battle
If Ditlev and Hoffman thought they were out of it heading into the run, they were soon thinking again as the heat started to take a toll.
Laidlow built a comfortable lead over Varga early on the run, but the Frenchman then started to throw out distress signals as the final leg progressed. He was clearly cramping badly and it was Hoffman who emerged as the chaser, cutting huge chunks out of the lead.
As they reached the halfway point of the marathon Hoffman had moved into striking distance in a short space of time, and he made the pass, followed soon after by Ditlev.
Now, with Laidlow falling away the big question was whether Ditlev could run down Hoffman in his first attempt at the full distance. The gap at 15 miles was just over 30 seconds, and by 20 miles Ditlev was right behind the leader, stalking him.
Twice as the pair went into the final five miles Ditlev tried to inject pace to break Hoffman, but both times Ben covered it comfortably. And on the went, ever closer to the finish and still locked together.
Hoffman and Ditlev were still side by side as we entered the very last mile of an enthralling battle. Then inside the 400m Ditlev tried again to make a decisive break – and for a third time Hoffman covered it.
Ben clearly just had a little left in the tank while Ditlev had finally burned all his matches, and Hoffman it was who put in a final sprint inside the closing 200m to come home in front. Svensson claimed the final spot on the podium, just under 11 minutes back.
Now Hoffman will head for St George, while Ditlev will leave Texas with the consolation of having wrapped up a place for the second IRONMAN World Championship of 2022 – in Kona in October. Both men posted 2:40 marathons to close out a terrific race.
IRONMAN Texas 2022 Results
Saturday April 23, 2022
- 1. Ben Hoffman (USA) 7:57:58
- 2. Magnus Ditlev (DEN) 7:58:12
- 3. Jesper Svensson (SWE) 8:08:54
- 4. Cody Beals (CAN) 8:09:55
- 5. Tomasz Szala (POL) 8:15:38