Patrick Lange defends Kona title on record-setting day in Hawaii

KAILUA KONA, HI - OCTOBER 13: Patrick Lange of Germany celebrates after setting a course record of 7:52:39 to win the IRONMAN World Championships brought to you by Amazon on October 13, 2018 in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Top three men all beat previous IRONMAN World Championship course record

David McNamee is third for a second consecutive year

The most perfect weather conditions in the history of the IRONMAN World Championship? I’ll leave that for others to decide – but when a 7:56 finish in Kona ‘only’ gets you second place, there is little doubt that today was a truly fast day. The greatest iron-distance athletes in the world were also going to take advantage of it.

He may not have won a race all year – but when the one podium you do top is in Kona, I’m pretty certain that the now twice IRONMAN World Champion, Patrick Lange, doesn’t care what happened in Gran Canaria, Kraichgau or Frankfurt. A multiple champion now, he set an overall course record for the second consecutive season and becomes the first athlete to complete the race under eight hours.

KAILUA KONA, HI - OCTOBER 13: Patrick Lange of Germany celebrates before he crosses the finish line and sets a course record of 7:52:39 to win the IRONMAN World Championships brought to you by Amazon on October 13, 2018 in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images for IRONMAN)
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images for IRONMAN

Four minutes later, Belgium’s Bart Aernouts was the second man to achieve that. Great Britain’s David McNamee – third again – did say pre-race, that “if similar conditions to last year, to win, you’ll have to go under eight hours.” He was right on that front…

KAILUA KONA, HI - OCTOBER 13: Bart Aernouts of Belgium (2nd place), Patrick Lange of Germany (1st place) and David McNamee of Great Britain (3rd place) celebrate after the IRONMAN World Championships brought to you by Amazon on October 13, 2018 in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images for IRONMAN)
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images for IRONMAN

Swim – 3.8km

Australia’s Josh Amberger lead out the swim 12 months ago, and he would do the same again today. However, his tactics were very different this year; a deliberate attempt not to break away solo, but to split the field up and get away with a smaller group of athletes and not leave himself isolated at the start of the bike section.

KAILUA KONA, HI - OCTOBER 13: Athletes compete during the swimming course of the IRONMAN World Championships brought to you by Amazon on October 13, 2018 in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. (Photo by Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images for IRONMAN)
Photo by Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images for IRONMAN

Measured against that template, Amberger’s tactics worked. 47:39 was his time this year (versus 47:09 in 2017), and he would have another eight athletes for company all within 19 seconds as they ascended the steps on Dig Me Beach to the pier and in to T1: Denis Chevrot (FRA), Maurice Clavel (GER), Tim O’Donnell (USA), Javier Gomez (ESP), Anthony Costes (FRA), Giulio Molinari (ITA), Igor Amorelli (BRA) and Matt Chrabot (USA).

The four Pro Brits racing were David McNamee (49:31), Tim Don (50:34), Will Clarke (50:39) and Joe Skipper (50:53). For the later, a brilliant position to be in relative to his ex-ITU compatriots, and right in the mix with the powerhouse bikers of Cameron Wurf (AUS), Sebastian Kienle (GER) and Andreas Dreitz (GER).

6:20 down on the leader out of the water was Lionel Sanders (53:59), a frankly terrible start given his swim progress over recent years and putting him on the back foot from the start. He would certainly have expected to start the bike close to his long-time rival, Sebastian Kienle. It would prove not be his day.

The Bike – 180km

Record breakers. That pretty much sums up the day. (And it was the same in the Women’s Pro race too).

Unfortunately for Sebastian Kienle – after perhaps a career-best swim – his great T1 position and time advantage over Sanders would be lost almost immediately, with a flat tyre and wheel change in the first couple of miles of the ride.

That would eventually bring the German back into contact with the Canadian – but a lot further down the field than anyone expected. There are few races that this duo compete in that you almost never see them featured on screen because they are so far back. Today was one of them – and this was one of the few times we actually saw them…

Once the early miles had worked themselves out and the shape of the race built, by 30-miles a leading group of four had pulled away; Wurf, Andrew Starykowicz (USA), Amberger and Anthony Costes (FRA). Just over two minutes back a large group of quality athletes included pre-race favourites such as defending champion Patrick Lange (GER), Andreas Dreitz (GER), Braden Currie (NZL), Tim O’Donnell (USA) and the Spanish legend, Javier Gomez.

On the climb to the turnaround at Hawi, the leading four had reduced to three with Costes now in the chase group, four minutes in arrears. At this stage the Brits were headed by Joe Skipper (17th, +6:56), with Tim Don, Will Clarke and David McNamee all just a few seconds back – and all still in contention for a strong finish.

The pace would eventually tell at the front, with Amberger the first to drop and then Starykowicz finally feeling the pressure, as bike course record holder Cameron Wurf pushed on. 4:12:54 was his record setting bike split last year, and that was blitzed again with a 4:09:06 this time around. Andrew Starykowicz also broke the old record (4:12:18) – as did Michael Weiss (4:11:28), Bart Aernouts (4:12:26) and David Plese (4:12:28) further down the field. I did say that it was a fast day!

Wurf lead the way starting the run, a broken looking Starykowicz slow through T2 in second (+3:39) with the next 15 athletes separated by just 90 seconds, from 6:30 to eight minutes down.

KAILUA KONA, HI - OCTOBER 13: Cameron Wurf competes on the bicycle portion during the IRONMAN World Championships brought to you by Amazon on October 13, 2018 in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images for IRONMAN)
Cameron Wurf (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Lange, Currie, Gomez and O’Donnell were all in there, as was Joe Skipper. David McNamee started the run in 19th, but still in contention (+10:52), just 15 seconds ahead of Tim Don, with Will Clarke a further two and a half minutes back. Will may have been 28th in position terms, but the bulk of the field were separated by just seven minutes. A standout run performance from anyone would be rewarded.

The Run – 42.2km

With Andrew Starykowicz quickly fading out of contention from second place off the bike, a group of four athletes – Currie, Lange, Aernouts and O’Donnell – set about chasing down the leader, Cameron Wurf. The defending champion was showing the steady pacing he has displayed in recent years, keeping calm while Currie and O’Donnell pushed the pace and tried to pull away from him in the early miles. They didn’t gain too much on the run course record holder – and around the 13km mark it was the German now turning the screw and making his group hurt.

Puling clear into second place for Lange coincided nicely him with bridging the gap to Wurf at the front of the race, and around the 10-mile marker the pass was made – with a fist pump between the pair, Wurf acknowledging that he couldn’t stay with the speed of Lange today.

Having started the run in 19th place, by 10-miles David McNamee was up to eighth and running faster than everyone except Lange, and that included Javier Gomez, who he would soon pass.Joe Skipper was still in great position (10th, +5:20) with Will Clarke 23rd (+12:49) and Tim Don 27th (+14:39).

As he has for the past two years on the run, Lange continued to look simply brilliant. Bart Aernouts was running strongly in second while David McNamee was continuing his charge, and by the 30km mark he was up to third.

Lange closed out a fine day with a 2:41:32 marathon to smash through the eight hour mark, while Aernouts (2:45:42) and McNamee (2:46:03) held strong to the finish to complete the podium. The Belgian also went Sub-8, while McNamee – despite taking his time and savouring the finish straight – was also quicker than last years course record time from Lange.

KAILUA KONA, HI - OCTOBER 13: Bart Aernouts of Belgium celebrates after finishing second with a time of 7:56:41 during the IRONMAN World Championships brought to you by Amazon on October 13, 2018 in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. (Photo by Nils Nilsen/Getty Images for IRONMAN)
Bart Aernouts (Photo by Nils Nilsen/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Joe Skipper made it two Brits in the top ten with a 2:54:16 marathon, finishing one place behind the remarkable Matt Russell, who almost lost his life during last years race after an awful crash with a vehicle.

KAILUA KONA, HI - OCTOBER 13: Matt Russell of the United States celebrates after crossing the finish line during the IRONMAN World Championships brought to you by Amazon on October 13, 2018 in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images for IRONMAN)
Matt Russell (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Russell more than justified the wildcard spot that he was offered – his return and result is truly remarkable.

On his first race in Hawaii, five-time ITU World Champion Javier Gomez finished 11th (8:11:41). Having been as high as sixth at the midpoint on the run and in contention for a podium result on debut, he faded in the second half to finish 11th, ending with a 2:59:25 marathon. I suspect he’ll be back – and expect to see him finish further up the standings in the future.

IRONMAN World Championship, Kona, Hawaii – Saturday 13th October 2018
3.8km / 180km / 42.2km – PRO MEN

1st – Patrick Lange (GER) – 7:52:39 – Course Record
2nd – Bart Aernouts (BEL) – 7:56:41
3rd – David McNamee (GBR) – 8:01:09
4th – Tim O’Donnell (USA) – 8:03:17
5th – Braden Currie (NZL) – 8:04:41
6th – Matt Russell (USA) – 8:04:45
7th – Joe Skipper (GBR) – 8:05:54
8th – Andy Potts (USA) – 8:09:34
9th – Cameron Wurf (AUS) – 8:10:32
10th – Michael Weiss (AUT) – 8:11:04

36th – Tim Don (GBR) – 8:45:17
42nd – Will Clarke (GBR) – 8:53:03

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