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McMahon Gets Top 10 in Kona

It was a challenging day for the five Canadian pros in the field at the Ironman World Championship.

Photos and story by Kevin Mackinnon

McMahon hangs in for ninth

After years of trying, Jan Frodeno now has two world championship titles to his name to go along with his Olympic gold medal from 2008, not to mention the European championship he took in flying colours earlier this year. (All this success totally makes sense, of course, since we featured Frodeno in our September issue.)

After coming out of the water alongside super-swimmers Dylan McNiece and Andy Potts, the German blasted to the front of the race, keeping the pace brisk through the first 11 miles of the bike and even managing to open a gap of about a minute on Potts. Defending men’s champion Sebastian Kienle trailed by about 2:30 after the swim, but by 31 miles into the ride he was at the front, having towed a huge group of 16 up with him to join his countryman and rival at the front of the race.

It was then left to Tim O’Donnell to make a move, which he did on the long descent down from the turnaround at Hawi. Taking advantage of a huge tailwind, the American reached speeds of 110 km/ hour at times as he flew back towards T2, but was unable to hold off Kienle and Frodeno, who joined him again along the Queen K. Frodeno would make a charge over the final 10 or 12 miles, getting him to T2 about 30 seconds ahead of O’Donnell, and 55 seconds ahead of Kienle. Just minutes behind them was a “who’s who” of Ironman racing that included Eneko Llanos, Frederik Van Lierde, Brent McMahon, Ben Hoffman, Andi Boecherer, Tyler Butterfield, Maik Twelsiek, Andreas Raelert, Andy Potts, Romain Guillaume and Marino Vanhoenacker.

Jan Frodeno suffered to get to the line for his second world title.

Once out on the run, Frodeno kept the pace fast enough in the stiflingly hot conditions to turn the marathon into a game of attrition. It was Raelert who made the biggest move, eventually running his way past all but one member of that “who’s who” to take his third runner-up finish in Kona, while O’Donnell faded to third.

McMahon was close to the leaders out of the swim

McMahon, it turns out, was coming off a bit of a “set back” to his training – a couple of weeks out he got a fever and missed nine days of workouts – which no-doubt contributed to his challenges on the run.

“It was pretty ugly out there,” he said after the race. “I really struggled the first half of the run. I hung tough and the second half of the run came around. I went to a dark place coming out of the lab and just got to the finish and kept the legs turning over.”
Despite those issues, McMahon’s top-10 finish bodes extremely well for the two-time Olympian who, heading into Kona, had never finished an Ironman in over eight hours.

The always positive Jeff Symonds kept smiling even after some mechanical issues on the bike forced him to pedal with one leg for 30 km.

The Canadian bad luck, though, continued for Jeff Symonds, who started to have issues with his left crank at the turnaround in Hawi. With 30 km to go the crank just fell off completely, forcing the likeable Penticton native to ride with one leg all the way back to T2. He managed to run one of the day’s fastest marathon splits (his 2:50 was third fastest on the day) to finish a respectable 23rd, which is nothing short of amazing considering the difficulties he’d had.

Lionel Sanders on the run.
Lionel Sanders on the run.

Another Canadian making his debut in Kona was Lionel Sanders, who was over 11-minutes  behind after the swim, but ran his way to 14th to take the overall winner’s trophy.

TOP 10 Pro Men:
1 8:14:40 Jan Frodeno
2 8:17:43 Andreas Raelert
3 8:18:50 Timothy O’Donnell
4 8:21:25 Andy Potts
5 8:23:09 Tyler Butterfield
6 8:25:05 Cyril Viennot
7 8:28:10 Eneko Llanos
8 8:29:43 Sebastian Kienle
9 8:30:13 Brent McMahon
10 8:31:43 Boris Stein
Other Canadians:
14 8:36:26 Lionel Sanders
23 8:52:18 Jeffrey Symonds

As she has been all year, Daniela Ryf was simply unstoppable.

Ryf reigns supreme
Coming into Saturday’s Ironman World Championship there wasn’t a person on this island who wasn’t predicting an epic battle between Mirinda Carfrae and Daniela Ryf for the women’s title. Ryf, like Frodeno, was coming off a win in Frankfurt (European Championship) and a world 70.3 title (she was the defending champ), and seemed poised to move up a step on the podium here in Kona after her runner-up finish last year.


Rachel Joyce tries to keep cool on a hot Kona race day.

After leading out of the water and then hanging tough with a large lead group that included Ryf, Jodie Swallow was the only woman who could stay close to the Swiss star up to Hawi – she was 12 seconds behind – while a group of big name Ironman athletes including Mary-Beth Ellis, Camilla Pedersen, Annabel Luxford and Michelle Vesterby were just under two minutes back.

Coming down from Hawi, though, everything changed. (Well, for everyone except Ryf.) Swallow remained in second and would eventually come off the bike 7:20 down. The rest of the group including Pedersen, Vesterby, Angela Naeth, Rachel Joyce, Liz Blatchford, Annabel Luxford, Caroline Steffen and Lucy Gossage were up to 20:48 down.

Last year Ryf came off the bike over 14 minutes ahead of Carfrae, who then ran a 2:50 marathon to take the title. This year it was Ryf’s turn to run away with the championship. By the time she was done she won by almost 13 minutes over Joyce, Blatchford and Vesterby.

After a solid swim, Mirinda Carfrae had to pull out on the bike due to back issues after being hit by a car on Wednesday.

Carfrae was forced to pull out of the race on the way to Hawi thanks to injuries sustained on Wednesday when she was hit by a car.

The two Canadian pro women in the field had bad luck, too. Angela Naeth, who had ridden herself to a solid sixth place position, was forced to drop out after the bike thanks to a foot injury that forced her to limp through T1 earlier in the day. Heather Wurtele found herself dealing with issues to her rear derailleur, which meant she had to climb the steepest hill on the course (up Palani Road) in her hardest gear and was also forced to drop out.

Ryf probably was untouchable on this day, anyway, as she cruised through the marathon to take her second world title by a wide margin over Joyce (a second runner up finish), who was followed by Blatchford (who claimed her second third place finish here, too).

Top 10 Pro Women – Finish
1 8:57:57 Daniela Ryf
2 9:10:59 Rachel Joyce
3 9:14:52 Liz Blatchford
4 9:18:50 Michelle Vesterby
5 9:21:45 Heather Jackson
6 9:23:50 Susie Cheetham
7 9:24:32 Sarah Piampiano
8 9:25:41 Camilla Pedersen
9 9:27:54 Caroline Steffen
10 9:28:36 Lucy Gossage