Saturday’s Ironman 70.3 Oceanside, a race known for being the unofficial kick-off to the triathlon season, saw two professionals further establish themselves as the ones to beat over the 70.3 distance in 2017. On the men’s side, Canada’s Lionel Sanders defended his Oceanside title in dominant fashion—catching the leaders early on in the bike and extending his lead with every pedal stroke before turning in a solid run. On the women’s side, reigning Ironman 70.3 world champion Holly Lawrence was brilliant, leading from nearly start to finish to earn her first Oceanside title.
This year in Oceanside, race organizers made the decision to have age-group athletes do a “rolling start” into the swim. Although it didn’t directly affect the professionals, the change in layout of the course and some miscommunication left several pro men scrambling to swim toward the starting line as the gun went off. Despite the confusion, the swim leaders were the two names we expected to see first up the ramp. Two-time Ironman world champion Jan Frodeno, the 2015 Oceanside winner, was first out of the 1.2-mile swim with a time of 22:45. American Andy Potts, a five-time winner at this race, was second into T2 thanks to a swim time of 23:40. The attention then turned to when the defending champion, Sanders, would exit the water. Sanders, who says he’s focused his entire season on becoming a better swimmer, was 17th out of the water in 25:20—keeping the deficit to the front to about two-and-a-half minutes.
Once on the bike, Sanders made quick work of those 16 spots ahead of him. He caught Frodeno to take over the top spot and it looked like the battle everyone anticipated was coming to fruition, but Frodeno suffered a flat tire and was forced to spend several minutes on the side of the road. He eventually got back on the road, but it was too late to be part of the race for the podium and he decided to drop out. Sanders continued to excel out front, posting a race-best bike split of 2:05:42. That put him 5:02 ahead of Germany’s Andreas Deitz, 5:07 ahead of both the United States’ Chris Leiferman and Brazil’s Igor Amorelli, and just under eight minutes ahead of a group that included Potts, Canada’s Trevor Wurtele, Australia’s Joe Gambles and a few others.
Sanders carried his strength onto the twisty half-marathon course, posting a 1:14:06 run split to take the victory in 3:50:04. Leiferman was the fastest runner on course, turning in a 1:12:12 half-marathon to claim the runner-up spot at 3:53:15. Switzerland’s Ronnie Schildknecht was the big mover on the run, going from 11th off of the bike to third at the finish line in 3:57:49.
The only moment of the race that Lawrence did not lead came in the first few seconds as super swimmer Jennifer Spieldenner led out of the 1.2-mile swim with a split of 24:59. Lawrence was not far behind, though, exiting the water in second at 25:01. The world champion quickly found the front of the race and rode through the 56-mile hilly course in a punishing pace of just under 24 mph, putting her into T2 with a bike split of 2:21:40—by far the fastest of the pro women.
Canada’s Heather Wurtele and Australia’s Ellie Salthouse were second and third, respectively, into transition at just about six minutes back. Spieldenner was fourth at nine minutes back.
Lawrence added a 1:22:16 half-marathon split to her day, crossing the finish line for the victory at 4:14:18. Nine minutes later the finish chute welcomed second-place finisher, Salthouse. Wurtele, the defending champion, was running strong through the first 10 miles when she strained her calf muscle. She hobbled through the last few miles, narrowly holding off another former champion, Heather Jackson (USA), for the final podium spot in 4:25:22.
Check back for more from Oceanside, including photo galleries and podium interviews.
2017 Ironman 70.3 Oceanside
Oceanside, Calif. – April 1, 2017
1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run
1. Lionel Sanders (CAN) 3:50:04
2. Chris Leiferman (USA) 3:53:15
3. Ronnie Schildknecht (SUI) 3:57:49
4. Andreas Dreitz (GER) 3:58:09
5. Andy Potts (USA) 3:58:25
1. Holly Lawrence (GBR) 4:14:18
2. Ellie Salthouse (AUS) 4:23:21
3. Heather Wurtele (CAN) 4:25:22
4. Heather Jackson (USA) 4:25:52
5. Jennifer Spieldenner (USA) 4:28:07