Bahrain Endurance 13 added to the trophy case again this weekend as Daniela Ryf claimed a historic fifth consecutive Ironman 70.3 world championship in Nice, France. Teammates Holly Lawrence and Alistair Brownlee also took twin silvers, pushed to their limits in highly competitive fields.
Vincent Luis and Lauren Parker backed up from winning the ITU world titles in triathlon and paratriathlon in Lausanne last week with golden finishes at the Banyoles World Cup.
Glittering gold and silver in Nice
With the female athletes racing separately on Saturday, all eyes were on Ryf to defend her title. But it was Lawrence who got on the feet of lead swimmer Lucy Charles-Barclay early in the 1.9 kilometres through choppy waters and emerged in the first chase pack onto the bike. Ryf found herself in a group of 10 other athletes coming out of the water but quickly went to work moving up several spots early in the 91-kilometre bike leg through the relatively flat city section.
Once the athletes hit the climbs heading up the Col de Vence, the lead changed several times with athletes attempting to stamp their authority on the race. Ryf seemed content to stay in the mix, but that all changed once they hit the technical descents. Here she wrested control with a vise grip, putting her many years of training in the Swiss mountains to good use while the other athletes approached the bends more gingerly. It was good enough to enter transition with a comfortable 2:26 lead going into the half marathon.
Lawrence followed hot on Ryf’s heels alongside Imogen Simmonds. Soon, Lawrence left Simmonds in the dust. Could she claw back enough time to take the lead? For a time it seemed so, but Ryf picked up the pace again to finish in 4:23:04, four minutes ahead of Lawrence.
At the finish line, His Majesty King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa draped the finisher medal around Ryf’s neck, while His Highness Shaikh Nasser awarded Lawrence hers.
“I don’t think it matters how many titles you have. Races like today matter,” stated Ryf.
“The girls were pushing really hard. I think the dynamic was amazing. In the end, I was happy to make a little gap on the downhill.
“Holly was pushing really hard and I knew I had to show a really good run today to be able to win. I got pushed to my absolute maximum and best. That’s what world championships are about and I’m really, really happy I could come home with the win today.”
Lawrence’s silver medal was a fitting reward for the hard work she had put in to come back from a career-threatening injury. She said, “If you’d have told me this time last year that in a year’s time this would happen when I was in the absolute worst state of my life with a broken foot and in the boot and it really looked so grim… I’m just so happy.
“Daniela was an absolute class out there… Yes, I lost time to Daniela but it was so much better than I thought.”
“It was so hard those last 3 miles on the run I just closed my eyes trying to relax.”
As last year’s vice-champion, Brownlee was one of the favourites going into the men’s race on Sunday. On the swim, he put himself into a good position behind leader Josh Amberger and followed his wake into the swim exit. Teammates Ben Kanute and Javier Gomez were also in that lead pack. It was Kanute who leapt onto the bike first with Brownlee just behind.
Showing the pedigree of his legs honed in the Yorkshire hills, Brownlee took the lead until Rudolphe von Berg overtook him on the descent. Gustav Iden brought up the rear of this group to all come into transition together.
On the run, Brownlee led the opening kilometres, but Iden switched on the afterburners to beat him to the finish line by 2:44.
Brownlee revealed, “I felt quite good for the first three or four kilometres and then by 5km that was it, I was ready to finish. I don’t know what happened maybe pushed a bit hard on the bike or the heat whatever.
“I’ve been training great and I wanted a bit more than that today, so I was a bit disappointed but hung on for dear life to hold my place. I was in shape to run a really quick half but just didn’t have the legs to do it.
“I’ve trained hard for this but I’ll try and put all that into Kona now.”
Gomez finished in 7th, while Kanute rounded out the Bahrain Endurance 13 contingent in 10th place.
Backing up world titles in Banyoles
Banyoles Triathlon World Cup in Spain attracted a stacked field, with athletes making the short trip from Lausanne after last week’s Grand Final.
With the elite triathlon raced on a tight and technical course, there was not much separation in the 750-meter swim and the 20-kilometre bike. Out on the 5-kilometre run, Luis and training partner Mario Mola charged ahead to separate from the rest of the competitors. The two ran neck-and-neck until Luis put on a final sprint 100 meters to the tape.
Bahrain Endurance 13 teammate Vicky Holland finished 7th in the female field.
Parker also picked up another piece of gold hardware at the Paratriathlon World Cup to wrap up what has been a stellar season.