It’s rare for the 70.3 distance to come down to a sprint finish. That kind of drama is typically confined to ITU races. In half-Ironmans, winning margins are usually determined by minutes, not seconds. But today, in the idyllic Pacific Northwest, Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens delivered an abnormal amount of thrilling excitement as the professional men battled neck and neck to the line. On the women’s side, first and second also pulled away from the rest of the field, but with second trying to close the gap from behind.
Terenzo Bozzone (NZL) and Ben Hoffman (USA) faced off almost the entire day, matching strides and strokes. They swam, biked and ran nearly identical splits—except for one small one second difference.
Bozzone showed off his swimming skills, coming out of the water second in 23:44, trailing swim leader Clayton Fettell (AUS) by 30 seconds. Bozzone was followed closely by Matt Reed (USA) in 23:47, Paul Ambrose (GBR) in 23:49, Alex Reithmeier (AUS) in 23:51, James Cotter (NZL) in 24:02, and Hoffman in 24:05. But that was the farthest back Hoffman was all day.
On the bike, the group settled into a loose pack, with the leaders separating themselves from the others. By halfway, Hoffman was leading Bozzone, Fettell, Ambrose and Reed. Hoffman held onto that small lead with his race best 2:15:21 bike leg and came into T2 with the other four just seconds behind him. Reed biked a 2:15:29, Ambrose a 2:15:38, and Bozzone a 2:15:45—while Fettell fell just a fraction back after biking a 2:16:12. But, in the close battle that raged across the course, any small fraction of time was enough for the others to get ahead.
Reed, Hoffman and Bozzone pulled ahead in the first three miles of the run, matching each other stride for stride. By five miles, though, Reed had fallen 20 seconds back. He quickly lost time to the two leaders, while Hoffman and Bozzone continued to test each other over the 13 miles. First one pulled a step ahead and then the other. Neither broke until the two were forced to sprint for the finish line in downtown Lake Stevens. After running 1:13:51 Bozzone came out just one second ahead in 3:55:17, with Hoffman’s 1:13:52 earning him second in 3:55:18. Reed faded to five minutes back, taking third in 4:00:58 with a 1:19:35 run. Ambrose held onto fourth with a 1:22:03 half-marathon, crossing the line in 4:03:34. And Fettell rounded out the podium, running 1:26:19 for a 4:07:56 finish.
The women’s race was a sharp contrast to the men’s with Melanie McQuaid (CAN) pulling ahead on the swim and never looking back.
McQuaid was first out of the water in 26:47, with Jessica Smith (USA) close on her heels in 26:50. Liz Lyles (USA) followed one minute back in 28:01, with Michelle Mighdoll (USA) and Jenni Plane (USA) another two minutes behind in 30:28 and 30:29, respectively.
On the bike, McQuaid’s cycling dominance helped her establish a huge lead. By halfway, she had a nearly three-minute lead over Lyles and a five-minute lead over Smith—a lead she stretched out even more before coming into T2. McQuaid biked a race-best 2:33:12 to enter T2 in first, five minutes up on Lyles, who rode a 2:36:30. Smith was next after riding a 2:43:35, followed by Liz Noey (USA), who biked a 2:44:54, and Mighdoll (2:48:29). Erin Spitler (USA) worked her way up from a slower swim with her 2:46:11 ride and hit the run behind the leaders.
On the run, McQuaid and Lyles were in a class of their own, over 15 minutes ahead of third place. Lyles slowly worked her way up, bringing the gap down to just over three minutes with three miles left. She was catching up, but not fast enough. McQuaid held on for the win with a 1:25:04 run, crossing the line in 4:27:08. Though her timing chip failed, Lyles appeared to run the fastest half-marathon of the day in 1:22:45, finishing in 4:29:42. Far back from the front two, Spitler ran her way through the rest of the field with a 1:23:08, taking third in 4:43:50. Noey’s 1:28:00 earned her fourth in 4:46:37, while Smith held on to the last podium spot with a 1:35:53 for 4:49:14 finish.
2014 Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens
Lake Stevens, Wash. – Aug. 17, 2014
1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run
1. Terenzo Bozzone (NZL) 3:55:17
2. Ben Hoffman (USA) 3:55:18
3. Matt Reed (USA) 4:00:58
4. Paul Ambrose (GBR) 4:03:34
5. Clayton Fettell (AUS) 4:07:56
1. Melanie McQuaid (CAN) 4:27:08
2. Liz Lyles (USA) 4:29:42
3. Erin Spitler (USA) 4:43:50
4. Liz Noey (USA) 4:46:37
5. Jessica Smith (USA) 4:49:14