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Taylor Knibb wins Ironman 70.3 World Championship in dominant fashion

Knibb cruised to the win in 4:03:20, with Canada's Paula Findlay finishing in second place

Photo by: Kevin Mackinnon

Seeing as American Taylor Knibb is an Olympic medallist, it should go without saying that she is good at short-course racing. Over the past year, though, it’s become clear that she is phenomenal at longer distances, too, and on Friday she carved her name into the triathlon history books with a thrilling and dominant win in St. George, Utah, at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. Knibb was in the mix right out of the water, and after only a few kilometres on the bike, she pulled away from the rest of the field and stayed in front for the rest of the race. She took the win in 4:03:20, finishing more than five minutes ahead of Canadian Paula Findlay. Great Britain’s Emma Pallant-BrowneĀ rounded out the podium in third.

The swim

When Great Britain’sĀ Lucy Charles-Barclay is racing, it’s safe to assume she’ll be first out of the water, and that’s exactly how the swim went today. However, Friday’s swim ended differently than Charles-Barclay is used to, and her lead was basically nonexistent with Lotte Wilms of the Netherlands and Knibb exiting the water right behind her. Charles-Barclay posted a split of 23:50, and the trio entered transition side by side.

Temperatures hovered around 0 C in St. George on Friday morning, which made T1 times longer than usual, as many of the women took their time putting on some layers ahead of the ride. This gave Great Britain’sĀ Holly Lawrence the chance to catch up with the swim leaders, and although she had exited the water 30 seconds behind the leaders, she left transition in second after Charles-Barclay. By the start of the bike, Charles-Barclay led Lawrence by 11 seconds and both Flora Duffy and Knibb by half a minute. Pallant-Browne was 40 seconds behind and Findlay was just over a minute back as she left T1.

Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

The bikeĀ 

It took no time at all for Knibb to erase the 27-second deficit she faced after transition. In a matter of minutes, she caught and blew by Charles-Barclay, not giving her a chance to hang with her. After 30K on the bike, Knibb was more than two minutes ahead of the chase pack, which included Findlay, Duffy and Charles-Barclay. Knibb’s lead only continued to grow as she hammered out mile after mile, and by 60K, she was more than four and a half minutes ahead of the chasers.

Findlay, Duffy and Charles-Barclay pretty much stayed together for the rest of the ride, and while there were some small breakaways at times, they all entered T2 side by side. When they got off their bikes, they were nearly seven minutes behind Knibb, who rode a stellar split of 2:14:41. Findlay had the second-fastest bike split on the day at 2:20:49, a full six minutes behind Knibb’s time.

Taylor Knibb on the bike course. Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

The run

With a seven-minute lead, the race was very much Knibb’s to lose. She did lose a bit of time on the run, but nowhere near enough to make things interesting. She used a 1:21 half-marathon to carry her to the finish line in a tremendous time of 4:03:20, earning her first world title. It was likely clear to the chase pack that, unless Knibb collapsed on the course ahead of them, they were battling for second place, and this made for an exciting 21K of running.

Findlay, Duffy and Charles-Barclay ran side by side for the first 8K of the half-marathon. After the 8K checkpoint, Duffy and Findlay pulled away from Charles-Barclay, the defending 70.3 world champion, and although there was still a lot of race left to run, it looked like that could be the podium. After 10K or so into the run, Findlay made the move to pull away from Duffy, and from that point on, second place was hers. After 14K, Findlay was close to a minute ahead of Duffy, who in turn was 30 seconds ahead of Charles-Barclay. All the while, Pallant-Browne was doing her best to chase the podium positions down, although at the 14K checkpoint, she was close to two minutes behind Charles-Barclay.

Taylor Knibb on the run. Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

Seemingly out of nowhere, Charles-Barclay found another gear, and she managed to claw her way back into podium position, passing Duffy after 16K. Once again, it looked like the podium was likely set at this point. After all, Charles-Barclay was cruising, and with just over 4K to go, her lead over Pallant-Browne was 51 seconds. Two kilometres later, however, that gap was down to 20 seconds, and with just over 1K left in the race, Pallant-Browne managed to catch and pass her compatriot.

After Knibb crossed the finish line, Findlay stopped the clock five minutes later, posting a time of 4:08:57 for second place. Pallant-Browne was two minutes behind her in 4:10:45. Her half-marathon split of 1:17:45 was the second-fastest run of the day, behind only Canadian Tamara Jewett‘s split of 1:16:23. (This phenomenal run catapulted Jewett into the ninth, and she finished with an overall time of 4:15:57.) Charles-Barclay finished in fourth, and Duffy was just behind her in fifth.