What we learned from the top five women at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship
Women's day in St. George served up some spectacular racing. Thoughts from the women at the front of today's race.
It was ladies day at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship today and, just as we saw at the Ironman World Championship a few weeks ago, the women took full advantage of the opportunity to put on quite a show here today. While it wasn’t a close race for the win as American Taylor Knibb (pictured above leading the women by almost six minutes as she climbed the iconic Snow Canyon) quickly moved to the front on the bike and never looked back, the race for the rest of the top five positions was a close one. Here’s what we learned from those five athletes at today’s post-race press conference:
Flora Duffy – Bermuda – 5th – 4:13:33
The reigning Olympic gold medalist had only completed one Ironman 70.3 event in her incredible career, a close win over Emma Pallant-Browne at Ironman 70.3 South Africa in January, 2020. After getting COVID and being forced to pull out of Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga, then having Air Canada leave her bike in Denver, Colorado and having to pull out of Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant, the Bermudan star got an invitation to compete here in St. George today.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to race here today,” Duffy said. “It’s been a big learning curve – strange to be entering long course at this point in my career. It’s an environment that I’m not totally comfortable with and continue to learn. The biggest adjustment has been riding my time trial bike. There’s also been slightly bigger running volume, and the paces are a bit different, which I found was refreshing.”
“I’ve learned through these long course races that anything can happen,” she said. “I had sciatic issues in South Africa about 45 km in to the bike. Towards the end the end of the run [today] I literally felt like I was going to fold in half. It’s been humbling, but nice to do something different.”
Lucy Charles-Barclay – 4th – 23:50 swim (fastest of the day); 4:11:24
The defending women’s champion is coming off a brilliant runner-up finish in Kona three weeks ago. After spending much of the year injured, this was just her fourth race of 2022.
“It was a fight all day,” she said. “To come away with fourth, I can’t complain about that.”
First out of the water, Charles-Barclay utilized an interesting strategy to stay warm on the cold bike. The air temperature this morning was about 5 degrees when the women started the race.
“I started the day with a lot of layers under the tri suit, including a bin (garbage) bag,” she said. “I had Thermal toe caps on the shoes. Even with all that it was a shock.”
We also learned that Charles-Barclay didn’t track her watts through today’s race.
“I didn’t have watts on display today, I was just looking at the heart rate, and that was pretty much at the max all day,” she said. “That’s the way racing is going – if you want to be in the race you just have to go for it.”
After the challenging Kona/ St. George double, Charles-Barclay now has a chance to head home and properly celebrate her big day on the Big Island.
“I haven’t yet celebrated the second in Kona,” she said. “Mentally, I felt quite fresh coming here, but I could feel Kona in the legs at the end of the run.”
Emma Pallant-Browne – 3rd – 1:17:45 (day’s second-fastest run – Canada’s Tamara Jewett would run 1:16:23 to take ninth); 4:10:45
The third-place finisher at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2017, Emma Pallant-Browne has enjoyed a stellar season in 2022 that has included four 70.3 victories and one Challenge win. She also took second to Charles-Barclay at the World Triathlon Long Distance World Championship in August.
“I had no expections, I just wanted to run fast,” she said, when asked about her run split. “If I caught people, great. I knew that it wouldn’t be easy to overtake.”
“I knew that I would probably use more calories,” she said when asked about dealing with the cold weather. “I probably didn’t get in anywhere near as much as I should have on the bike. “
While she was disappointed with her ride today, she was very happy with her run and the third-place finish.
“It was very emotional,” she said. “Chattanooga seems like forever ago. I’ve scraped top 10s and top 5s [at the world championship events]. To be on the podium meant a lot.”
Paula Findlay – 2nd – 4:08:57
Edmonton’s Paula Findlay has always made it known that a podium finish at these championships is one of her big goals. The smile on her face coming down the finishing straight pretty much said it all.
“It came down to consistency across all three disciplines,” she said. “It was very cold, but I think that played to my advantage. I felt great on the run – it doesn’t happen often when my run feels fluid, and that happened today.”
Findlay chose to wear a jacket through the bike, but regretted not pulling on a pair of socks.
“It means so much [to take second here] – I’ve been racing 70.3s for a while, but never had a breakthrough day.”
Another key for Findlay’s success was a long stretch of consistent training.
“It’s been 12 months since I’ve been injured last, so that gave me some confidence as well.”
Taylor Knibb – 1st – 2:14:41 (day’s fastest bike); 4:03:20
After spending much of the year injured, American Taylor Knibb blasted to a big lead at the PTO US Open in Dallas, only to lose that lead on the run. Turns out she’d only been running for a few weeks at that point. Today’s race showed just how dominant the Mixed Relay silver medalist can be when she’s healthy and fit.
“I’m very grateful,” she said, when asked what she was feeling about the win. “I am in shock.”
Knibb knew today was going to be different from last year, where Charles-Barclay blasted away from the field early on and kept pulling away. After losing the Brit’s feet early in the swim, she said that another strong World Triathlon competitor, Lotte Wilms, moved ahead of her to help her keep up the pace.
“Out of the water, I toweled off, put socks on, a jacket on and gloves on,” she said. “Everything was a little bit numb. Then I rode to my plan – I tried to stick to my plan as much as possible.”
The plan obviously worked to perfection. Today Knibb became only the second American woman to win this title. And showed the world that she remains a powerful force in triathlon – regardless of the distance.