Tears of joy: Kaisa Lehtonen of Finland celebrates her first IRONMAN win at the Standard Bank IRONMAN African Championship (Craig Muller/IRONMAN via Getty Images)
HOFFMAN AND LEHTONEN LIGHT UP THE RUN
Kaisa Lehtonen (FIN) timed her race to perfection and played to her strength by putting in a strong run while Ben Hoffman ran himself into the lead and held off strong challenges to win at the Standard Bank IRONMAN African Championship.
Jodie Swallow (GBR) took the early initiative in the race with an expected strong swim in some choppy water. Annabel Luxford (AUS) entered T1 four minutes back with Dede Griesbauer (GER) in third.
Swallow used the early lead to push ahead but Luxford gradually closed the gap and after 120km narrowed the gap to 90 seconds. Swallow then suffered a fall which allowed Luxford the opportunity to take the lead which she held until T2. Swallow carried on and remained in second position until T2 with the gap between first and second over five minutes. Kaisa Lehtonen stayed as close as possible to the leading pair on the bike, entering T2 in third with Lucy Gossage (GBR) and Susie Cheetham (GBR) following.
Luxford headed out onto the run with a valuable time cushion considering the running talent in the chasers. After receiving treatment, Swallow started the run but eventually withdrew before 2km in. Luxford then increased her lead to 8 minutes with strong runners, Lehtonen, Gossage and Cheetham in tow. Lehtonen, Cheetham and Gossage made inroads into Luxford’s lead and eventually all passed her after 13km. Lehtonen held off Cheetham’s charge to win her first IRONMAN. Gossage finished third.
Estonian, Marko Albert was the fastest athlete in the water and was first into T1 followed by Eric Watson (BAH) and Bas Diederen (HOL) in the lead group. A second group of Ben Hoffman (USA), Mark Oude Bennik (HOL), Christian Kramer (GER) Tim Van Berkel (AUS) and Kyle Buckingham (RSA) followed all within seconds of each other.
Albert worked hard to open up a two-minute gap together with Bas Diederen (NED) and American Benjamin Collins on the first 45 kilometers. Those guys knew that they had dropped some strong cyclists and runners in the water like the local heroes James Cunnama (51:54) and Matt Trautmann (54:17), Hoffman (52:58), Germany’s Boris Stein (54:23) and 2013 champ Ronnie Schildknecht from Switzerland (55:10). While Collins lost contact to the lead on the second half of the beautiful and flat, but as well windy course, Diederen got off the bike in first place. Albert was only 1:02 behind, Van Berkel reached T2 together with Hoffman and Stein 3:03 down. Kyle Buckingham (RSA) was in a good position, too. He was 3:36 down ahead of Germany’s Christian Kramer (+4:11) and Trautmann (+6:19).
Diederen then led the race on the first of four run laps, but he hit the wall after 13 kilometers and started loosing time. Albert took over again from the Dutch while a fast running couple was already in sight: Hoffman and Van Berkel. Those two ran shoulder by shoulder for the first half of the marathon, gaining second by second.
Through 18 kilometers, Hofmann and Van Berkel passed Albert for the lead, and right at the half-way mark the American started to break away from his Australian shadow. “The crowd boomed me away,” said Hoffman talking about a marathon of 2:45:50 and a demonstration of consistency. Van Berkel never gave up in second place, but he couldn’t touch the American leader anyway. “I settled in, and I really felt like being at home,” said Hoffman after the race, “I’m definitely coming back next year.” Hoffman earned the result of “a hard winter’s work” ahead of Van Berkel and a strong Estonian. Although Trautmann looked like the one to cross the finish line in third place, Albert outsprinted the local hero on the final kilometer.
RESULTS – WOMEN
1. LEHTONEN, Kaisa FIN 00:58:21 04:59:41 03:02:34 09:06:50
2. CHEETHAM, Susie GBR 00:58:21 05:04:26 03:02:43 09:09:49
3. GOSSAGE, Lucy GBR 01:03:20 04:56:10 03:07:36 09:11:43
4. LUNDSTRÖM, Åsa SWE 01:03:30 04:58:18 03:08:33 09:15:34
5. LUXFORD, Annabel AUS 00:56:07 04:49:17 03:37:50 09:28:32
RESULTS – MEN
1. HOFFMAN, Ben USA 00:52:58 04:29:36 02:45:50 08:12:37
2. VAN BERKEL, Tim AUS 00:50:00 04:32:33 02:48:15 08:14:51
3. ALBERT, Marko EST 00:49:37 04:30:53 02:54:19 08:18:52
4. TRAUTMAN, Matt RSA 00:54:18 04:31:28 02:49:39 08:19:25
5. STEIN, Boris GER 00:54:24 04:28:17 02:52:52 08:19:51
One tough day at the office: Tim van Berkel (left) of Australia and American Ben Hoffmann running side by
side at the Standard Bank IRONMAN African Championship (Craig Muller/IRONMAN via Getty Images)