In the end the stats played out – going into the one-on-one race between Jan Frodeno and Lionel Sanders at the Zwift Tri Battle Royale. On paper there was no way Sanders was going to best the German Olympic gold medalist and three-time Ironman world champion and, in the end, the tale of the tape (see below) played out.
Frodeno powers through the swim and bike
Lionel Sanders set a personal best swim split, going 50:58 for the 3.8 km opening leg of the race, but that was exactly five minutes behind Frodeno, who went 45:58 as he ran up to get his bike. Frodeno bobbled his helmet in transition, losing a few seconds, but quickly got things together and was quickly driving the pace on the bike.
Sanders would close the gap a bit through the first 40 km of the bike despite scaring his fans as he took the first of the banked turnaround corners a bit hot, but by 60 km Frodeno was starting to pull clear. By the end of the bike Frodeno’s blazing 3:55:22 was 5:04 faster than Sanders (4:00:26), both amazing rides considering the rainy conditions that made the roads extremely slick and made things a bit cool for the fast-riding athletes.
Out on the run Frodeno quickly got into a steady-paced stride and appeared to be well on his way towards shattering the course record – through 14 km he was running at a pace that would see him hit the finish line in 7:21. Sanders was keeping pace, though, still well back, but also on track for a super-fast, sub-7:30 finish.
As he rounded the corner at the end of the first lap of the run, though, Frodeno slipped on the wet carpet at the finish area, landing hard on his hip. He got up, but was obviously in a lot of pain. He managed to get back to pace, though, and resumed his quest for a new record.
Sanders continued to look strong through the first half of the run, but for both the last half of the marathon was a struggle. Frodeno appeared to be favouring his hip, but the sheer pain of the effort was becoming clear. While he slowed, Frodeno was able to hold things together enough to improve on the world best time (7:35:39) he set in Roth in 2016, going an amazing 7:27:53.
“That was so hard,” Frodeno said after the race. “You haven’t done an Ironman in a few years and you run it like a 70.3 in the beginning. I’m speechless, but I’m a broken man right now. It got quite cold on the bike. It was just amazing to do this kind of thing.
Sanders would really slow over the last 10 km, but still managed to hang on for a personal-best time himself – 7:43:32. He was able to put Frodeno’s amazing performance in perspective after the race:
“Jan is an amazing athlete,” Sanders said. “It wasn’t that fast conditions today, that’s the impressive part. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime to go against the world’s best and your hero.”