On a dramatic day at the 2019 Ironman World Championship, Germany's Jan Frodeno returned to the top of the podium in course-record style. He becomes the fifth male to win three Kona titles.
As he did in 2018, Australia’s Josh Amberger led a front group of nine out of Kailua Bay, this time with a split of 47:28. That pack included a few expected names (Jan Frodeno, Alistair Brownlee, Tim O’Donnell), and one name that was surprising—two-time defending champion Patrick Lange. As the front pack made their way onto the early miles of the bike course, the attention turned to when super cyclists Cameron Wurf (AUS), Sebastian Kienle (GER), and Lionel Sanders (CAN) would exit the water. Thankfully for them, they finished the swim within close proximity of each other with Kienle posting a time of 52:17 (31st), Sanders posting a time of 52:22 (in 38th), and Wurf posting a time of 52:25 (in 41st).
Once out on the Queen K, the lead group pushed the pace quickly—likely with the goal of not only distancing themselves from the chasers but also dropping Lange and creating as big of a deficit over the Kona run course holder as possible. Over the first stretch of the bike, that front group dwindled to five and left Lange in no man’s land trying to minimize the damage. Further back, the stronger cyclists worked to carefully make their way through the field and find the front group. As the athletes started to make their way toward the turn at Kawaihae, Lange—later citing a bug that had him feeling off—pulled off the side of the road and ultimately dropped out. Two-time podium finisher David McNamee of Great Britain also struggled on the bike and pulled the plug before the halfway point.
At the turnaround point at Hawi, O’Donnell led the now small group of three that also included Brownlee and Frodeno. Clavel and Amberger had fallen off and each sat in no man’s land at 21 seconds and 1:13 back, respectively. Next around the turn at about two-and-a-half minutes back was a group of eight that included Wurf, Boris Stein (GER), Kienle, Joe Skipper (GBR), Philipp Koutny (SUI), Sanders, and Matt Russell (USA). In the final stretch of the 112-mile ride, Frodeno pulled away with 11 miles to go on the bike to give himself a little cushion for the marathon. He came into T2 after a 4:16:03 bike effort, putting him at 1:26 over O’Donnell, 3:08 over Wurf, and about 3:30 over Brownlee, Kienle, Sanders, and Stein.
The marathon is traditionally where things blow apart at the Hawaii Ironman, and that’s exactly what happened. The unforgiving heat and humidity quickly showed how well each athlete would handle the 26.2 miles. Frodeno and O’Donnell continued to look stoic out front from start to finish, while things behind them shuffled significantly. Wurf, Brownlee, Sanders, and Stein all suffered, while Kienle was the strongest mover from that main pack. Frodeno came into the race week looking as confident as ever, and he carried that all the way back to town. His 2:42:43 marathon propelled him across the line at 7:51:13 for the course record and the third Kona win of his career. The prior course record of 7:52:39 was just established last year by Lange. Despite struggling with a foot injury for almost all of 2019, O’Donnell rounded out his stellar performance with a 2:49:33 marathon to cross the finish line in second at 7:59:40. 2014 champion Kienle rounded out the podium, finishing at 8:02:04. Hoffman was fourth (thanks to a stellar 2:43:08 marathon). Wurf finished out the top five, crossing in 8:06:41.
After hobbling through 2017 and then completely missing the race in 2018, Frodeno was ecstatic to be back on top of the podium. “It’s the best feeling to be back here in great shape, and to be able to actually somehow for a minute or two appreciate it,” he told Mike Reilly at the finish line.
With the victory, Frodeno becomes the fifth male to win three world titles. Only Dave Scott (six), Mark Allen (six), Peter Reid (three), Craig Alexander (three), and now Frodeno have met the mark.
2019 Ironman World Championship
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii – Oct. 12, 2019
2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
1. Jan Frodeno (GER) 7:51:13
2. Timothy O’Donnell (USA) 7:59:40
3. Sebastian Kienle (GER) 8:02:04
4. Ben Hoffman (USA) 8:02:52
5. Cameron Wurf (AUS) 8:06:41
6. Joe Skipper (GBR) 8:07:46
7. Braden Currie (NZL) 8:08:48
8. Phillip Koutny (SUI) 8:10:29
9. Bart Aernouts (BEL) 8:12:27
10. Chris Leiferman (USA) 8:13:37