Sebastian Kienle’s two-year retirement tour almost started in winning style today, but his countryman Maurice Clavel was too strong during the final stages of the marathon, running his way to the Ironman African Championship. After a year plagued with Achilles tendon issues, though, Kienle proved that things are back on track with his runner-up performance and 2:47 marathon, though.
Organizers were forced to shorten the swim to 1.9 km due to tough water conditions, which meant there wasn’t much separation for the lead men out of the water – Sweden’s Jesper Svensson led a big group of 12 that were only 25 seconds apart. Great Britain’s Sam Laidlow would power clear of the rest of the field early on in the bike, but eventually a group that included Swede Rasmus Svenningsson, South African Kyle Buckingham and Germans Kienle, Clavel and Marcus Herbst would form to start moving up on the Brit. Over the last third of the bike Svenningsson, Clavel and Kienle would break clear and hit T2 in that order, with 21 seconds between the Swede and the 2014 Ironman world champion.
Out on the run course it was Clavel who took the early lead, but Kienle was never far behind. Kienle would take the lead by the 10 km point of the marathon, and seemed on track to make his retirement tour start with a bang as he opened up a gap of 1:29 through the 22.7 km timing point.
Clavel found another gear, though, and just over 5 km later had closed the gap to just 36 seconds. You don’t win two 70.3 world titles and take a Kona win if you’re not able to dig deep, though, and Kienle managed to remain clear over the next 5 km, maintaining a 16-second lead through 33.4 km. From there, though, Clavel managed to pick up the pace again, taking the lead with about 7 km of running to go and staying clear for the win.
Clavel would run a 2:45:16 marathon to cross the line in 7:30:30, claiming his first full-distance title and moving up two spots from the third-place finish he had in South Africa in 2018. After all the Achilles problems Kienle put together an impressive 2:47:02 marathon, not enough for the win, but certainly a sign that things are going in the right direction as he took second in 7:32:32. Svenningsson would round out the podium in 7:34:35.
You can find full results here.
Astle hangs on for second win in five weeks
After finishing as the top age-grouper in Kona, Great Britain’s Ruth Astle decided to turn pro in 2020, and the decision seems to be paying off as she took her second Ironman title in five weeks in Port Elizabeth.
Switzerland’s Imogen Simmonds, who had a tough run in Florida a few weeks ago where she went from first to sixth, was back to full-distance racing again, leading the women out of the shortened swim in 23:24, over three minutes ahead of Astle and South Africa’s Magda Nieuwoudt. Astle would power her way to the front of the bike, though, and by 60 km had joined Simmonds at the front as the two remained well clear of the rest of the field. Simmonds would hang on to the Brit’s wheel through 90 km, but from there on Astle was able to pull clear, hitting T2 with a lead of 4:35 on Simmonds and 12:28 on Niewoudt.
Through the first 10 km of the run Simmonds appeared to be ready to challenge for the lead, but after gaining a bit of time she started to fade. As Astle maintained a steady pace at the front it was South Africa’s Annah Watkinson who was making the big move, making up ground after coming off the bike in fifth spot over 14 minutes behind the lead. With about 10 km to go the South African had moved to within six minutes of the lead, but was running out of ground.
Astle would hang tough to take the win in 8:38:52, her 3:11:55 marathon enough to net her the Ironman African title and a second Ironman win in five weeks to go along with her Ironman Mallorca title. Watkinson would run a 2:59:26 marathon to take second in 8:40:44, with her countrywoman Jade Nicole rounding out the podium in 8:47:31. Natia van Heerden (8:53:34) would take fourth with Simmonds rounding out the top five (8:58:33).
You can see full results here.