Last Weekend Now: Triumph in Tempe and a Scorcher in Cozumel
Sarah True and Joe Skipper burned down the course at Ironman Arizona, while the heat proved to be a formidable foe at Ironman Cozumel. Brad Culp recaps the weekend of racing.
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Just north of the border, Sarah True came back from a Kona DNF with a triumph in Tempe, while Joe Skipper reminds us that he is a jack of one trade, and that trade is the 140.6-mile distance. Way south of the border, Magnus Ditlev torched one of the fastest races on earth and Gurutze Frades captured her second Ironman win at 41 years young.
True Scorches Marathon to Win in Tempe
Sarah True may be having the best season of a professional triathlon career that stretches back to 2003. There are hopefully people reading this who weren’t alive in 2003. She’s one of the most consistent athletes in the history of the sport, but trips to the top of the podium have been few and far between, so this one had to feel pretty good.
It’s True’s second full Ironman win of the season after taking Lake Placid in July. She also won 70.3 Eagleman, in what was her first race back after having a baby last year. Her win in Lake Placid came off a 3:04 marathon, but this time around she was nine minutes faster on the run, clocking 2:55.
Part of that was thanks to a push from countrywoman Skye Moench, who accompanied True for the latter half of the bike and the first 18 miles of the run. Moench was also seeking her second Ironman win of the season after winning in June in less-boring-than-you-would-think Des Moines. Moench is currently tenth in the PTO World Rankings, and I’m honestly not sure if this result will boost her at all. She can only score three races, so it’s a matter of whether her very fast time from Arizona will score higher than either a ninth-place in Kona or fourth in St. George. Only the algorithm knows, and apparently it doesn’t work weekends. It’d never last at Twitter.
The three wins on the season are the most ever for True, who was perhaps the most consistent World Triathlon (neé ITU) athlete in the world for nearly a decade, finishing in the top 10 27 times between 2007 and 2017. She had just two wins in that stretch (both in Stockholm) and has now won as many Ironman races in a single season. She’s currently 15th in the world and should get a nice boost with a third victory to score.
Competing in just her second 140.6-mile race, Danelle Lewis made it an American sweep of the podium. She entered the weekend #44 in the world and should also get a solid bump. Her 9:03 finish on Sunday was nearly an hour faster than her 10:01 Ironman debut in Texas in April.
RELATED: Sarah True Chose Joy Over Winning. She Got Both.
Skipper Rides to Another Win
Racing in his fifth full-Ironman of the season, popular Brit Joe Skipper took his second win. Unlike in Wales in September, he wasn’t forced to side of the road with a mechanical for half an hour, which meant no one else really ever had a chance. Even a ridiculous 2:35 marathon from runner-up Matt Hanson couldn’t bring him into contention.
Along with Denmark’s Kritisan Hogenhaug, Skipper easily rode away from the field, which included recent 70.3 world championship runner-up Ben Kanute making his Ironman debut. Skipper’s 4:05 split was eight minutes faster than Kanute and nearly 14 minutes better than Hanson, and it gave neither a chance on the marathon.
Skipper’s 7:45 winning time will surely help his current #14 world rankings, but it’s doubtful to be enough to get him into the top 10, which would mean a big increase in year-end bonus. Unfortunately for Hanson (currently #17), the mighty algorithm doesn’t reward racing frequency. He’s competed 10 times this season, including a win at Ironman Des Moines. This will be another scoring race for him, however, and should move him into the top 15. The same can be said for Kanute, who entered the week #16 after moving up like 300 spots for his runner-up finish at 70.3 worlds.
Ditlev Caps Incredible Year in Cozumel
No matter what Denmark’s Magnus Ditlev did in Cozumel this weekend, he couldn’t improve on his place as the #3 ranked triathlete in the world. He can end the year saying he’s the best non-Norwegian on earth, but still only the third-best Scandinavian. Competing for the eighth time this season, Ditlev notched his second win to go with his nearly flawless performance at Challenge Roth in July.
There were no world records in Cozumel this time around, with the normal down-current swim being less down-currenty, and wet and humid conditions slowing things on the bike and run. Ditlev was the only one who didn’t slow down on the bike, clocking a 4:04 split to basically put the race out of reach. Even a rather pedestrian 2:59 marathon was enough to break the tape nearly three minutes ahead of Switzerland’s Jan van Berkel. Brazil’s Fernando Toldi finished third for his second Ironman podium of the season.
RELATED: How Magnus Ditlev Shocked Europe by Winning Challenge Roth
Frades Runs Down Norden in Cozumel Heat
The women’s race also appeared to be completely out of reach after the bike—thanks to Lisa Norden incredible 4:32 split—but the legendary Cozumel humidity got the best of the Swede, forcing her to a walk for a sizeable chunk of the marathon. Norden’s 14-minute lead at mile-13 of the marathon had completely disappeared by mile 21, with Spanish veteran Gurutze Frades taking advantage of Norden’s misfortune.
Frades 2:54 marathon was five minutes faster than Ditlev’s and 29 minutes faster than Norden, putting her at the finish nearly six minutes ahead. Aussie Kylie Simpson rounded out the podium, just one minute behind Norden. Norden entered the week #13 in the world and probably won’t get enough from this race to crack the top 10.
Chances to move up the rankings are getting slim, with Ironman Israel, 70.3 Indian Wells, 70.3 Bahrain, Ironman Western Australia and Ironman New Zealand lurking as the final scoring races of the season.