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Patrick Lange, Daniela Ryf top the Tulsa podium at IRONMAN North American Champs

Sunday's IRONMAN Tulsa hosted the North American Championship - and the winners were more than familiar with top-level (World) Championship success

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Katrina Matthews run to second place in Oklahoma

‘Cream rises to the top’, right?

That might well be the takeaway from Sunday’s IRONMAN North American Championship, Tulsa, where Daniela Ryf (4x Kona champion) and Patrick Lange (2x Kona champion), topped the podiums and collected the $25,000 winners cheques.

That situation was certainly not a given, pre-race however.

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PRO WOMEN

For the Pro women, Daniela Ryf taking the win (well, ever…) is far from a surprise in middle and long distance racing. Nine World Championship titles, fast times, world ranked #1 and only one defeat (Kona 2019) since 2017, will do that for you.

However, this will not go down as one of her float days. A great swim (52:21), second only to Pamella Oliveira’s 51:01 put her in prime position, and it didn’t take long until she was alone at the front, and displaying the bike power which surely makes her the strongest female cyclist we’ve ever seen in the sport. A 4:39:00 bike was significantly quicker than anyone else, giving her a 15 minute buffer at T2 – however, she would be very grateful of that work done on the bike. The marathon would prove hard work.

Behind, Skye Moench (USA), Kimberley Morrison and (with a penalty to serve) Katrina Matthews were set to chase, with twice Kona podium finisher, Sarah Crowley (AUS), a further four minutes back.

Ryf was not at her best on the run, visually suffering in the later stages. Meanwhile, Matthews was seemingly flying. A 2:49:49 marathon is right up there with some of the best runs we’ve seen, which allowed her to both overcome that penalty time and fly through the field to take second, 5:01 behind the all-time legend that is Daniela.

Matthews has now completed three IRONMAN races in 8:47:27 (4th, Western Australia 2019), 8:44:58 (1st, Florida 2020) and now 8:45:34. Her marathons have gone, 3:11, 2:58, 2:49… and she has still not reached the second anniversary of her first Pro start. She’s the real deal.

With every race that passes, Skye Moench (rhymes with ‘launch’…) cements her position as one of the most consistent athletes out there, to take third on the podium, also running impressively too (2:56:57).

While Kim Morrison’s run didn’t meet her pre-race expectations (and the quality of her swim and bike in Tulsa), eighth place will have been enough to claim a Kona slot from the three available, as will be the case for another Brit, Tara Grosvenor, who finished ninth. A 3:15 marathon is hopefully a sign that the early season running injuries I know Tara has been struggling with are progressing well, and earning a Kona Pro start will be a huge boost to her confidence.

Making it four Brits in the top nine, seventh place was earned by Ruth Astle. Typically a weapon on the bike – with one of the most aero positions around – it was a 3:03:52 marathon that she will walk away most pleased with, easily her best to date. If she can combine that with her cycling ability on one day, she will be mixing in Pro podium contention very soon.

PRO MEN

You can never be surprised that a twice IRONMAN World Champion takes a victory, but the harsh reality of sport is that Patrick Lange’s record-breaking (second) Kona victory was in 2018 – and memories can fade quickly.

Still, if I can call on another saying, – ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’ – then Lange sent a strong reminder to the rest of the men’s long distance triathlon world that he really is top class. And that’s great news for all of us.

We’ve seen Lange dominant in the heat and humidity of Kona, but he proved he can do similar in the rain of Tulsa, Oklahoma too.

Just 30 seconds behind swim leader Daniel Baekkegard after the opening 3.8km, a leading group formed early, which also included Florian Angert (GER), Antony Costes (FRA) and Mattia Ceccarelli (ITA).

Logic tells you that you can’t win Kona – twice – by being a weak cyclist, but some have still considered the bike leg to be a significant weakness for Lange. Well, he wasn’t showing that on Sunday. 4:17:XX for the leading riders, gave up almost nothing (Joe Skipper’s 4:15:57 was the best of the day – though crashing and going over the handlebars, didn’t help!), and when you tack on a 2:36:46 run, you don’t leave much scope for anyone else to make an impact.

Denis Chevrot (FRA) ran even quicker than Lange (2:36:03) to take fourth, behind Daniel Baekkegard, with the top eight all going under the eight hour mark, including Joe Skipper in sixth and the now 44 year old Andy Potts in eighth.

IRONMAN North American Championship, Tulsa – Sunday 23rd May 2021
3.8km / 180km / 42.2km

PRO MEN

1st – Patrick Lange (GER) – 7:45:22
2nd – Jan Van Berkel (SUI) – 7:50:58
3rd – Daniel Baekkegard (DEN) – 7:52:59
4th – Denis Chevrot (FRA) – 7:54:27
5th – Bart Aernouts (BEL) – 7:55:13
6th – Joe Skipper (GBR) – 7:57:40
7th – Florian Angert (GER) – 7:58:17
8th – Andy Potts (USA) – 7:59:55
9th – Samuel Herzeler (SUI) – 8:02:52
10th – Mauricio Mendez Cruz (MEX) – 8:04:09

16th – Adam Bowden (GBR) – 8:18:08
35th – Colin Norris (GBR) – 9:59:09

PRO WOMEN

1st – Daniela Ryf (SUI) – 8:40:34
2nd – Katrina Matthews (GBR) – 8:45:35
3rd – Skye Moench (USA) – 8:47:45
4th – Heather Jackson (USA) – 8:57:58
5th – Gurutze Frades Larralde (ESP) – 9:02:19
6th – Sarah Crowley (AUS) – 9:06:30
7th – Ruth Astle (GBR) – 9:12:36
8th – Kimberley Morrison (GBR) – 9:17:47
9th – Tara Grosvenor (GBR) – 9:35:47
10th – Meredith Kessler (USA) – 9:48:51

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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