Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
25 year-old Taylor Knibb has accomplished more in August 2023 than many triathletes do in a lifetime: First, by winning the PTO U.S. Open in Milwaukee, then qualifying to represent Team USA in triathlon at the Paris Olympics. To close out the month, a dominant win at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships (for the second year in a row). The young American’s 3:53:02 in Lahti, Finland was a meticulous execution of race strategy to take down one of the best women’s 70.3 fields in history.
Missed the action in Finland? Replays of the women’ Ironman 70.3 World Championships are available on demand via Outside Watch.
Ironman 70.3 World Championship Women’s Pro Results: The Swim
As athletes trickled into transition on race morning, dense fog on Lake Vesijärvi foreshadowed the drama ahead. Thick, soupy conditions delayed the start of the swim by 30 minutes, giving athletes more time to strategize for the day ahead: a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1-mile run. Aside from the fog, which lifted with the rising sun, conditions for racing were ideal: air temperatures at 55 degrees Fahrenheit and slightly overcast, and water temperatures at 67 degrees F.
The start horn blared, and Knibb immediately muscled her way to the front, setting a blistering pace to the first turn buoy in an attempt to create breaks in the pack. Once at the buoy, as a front pack began to break away, we saw Knibb’s first strategic move: falling back to second place and into the adept Lucy Buckingham’s slipstream. The two surged ahead, dropping all but Pamella Oliveira (BRA), Imogen Simmonds (CHE) and Caroline Pohle (GER) en route to the swim exit. Buckingham exited the water first with a time of 24:43; Knibb and Oliveira crossed the timing mat simultaneously two seconds later.
A strong second pack followed almost 90 seconds behind, containing Ellie Salthouse (AUS), Kat Matthews (GBR), Emma Pallant-Browne (GBR), Daniela Ryf (CHE), and Paula Findlay (CAN).
Further back, Germany’s Laura Philipp struggled, exiting almost 2:44 down from the front pack, joined by Americans Jackie Hering and Amy Cymerman. With the likes of superbikers Knibb, Findlay, Ryf, and Matthews up ahead, Philipp knew she would need to work hard to minimize the gap that was surely building outside of T1.
Ironman 70.3 World Championship Women’s Pro Results: The Bike
On the bike course, Knibb wasted no time employing her next bit of strategy: dropping the hammer on Buckingham, daring her to hang on. The Brit showed she was game, but was too aggressive in her pursuit, earning a five-minute minute penalty for drafting.
Simmonds made the most of the opportunity, moving to second place and within striking distance of Knibb. Delighted to have a second target take the bait, Knibb upped the pace once again. Less than ten miles into the 56-mile bike course, Knibb had extended her lead over the chase pack of Ryf, Findlay, Matthews, Salthouse and Pallant-Browne by an additional 30 seconds. Philipp had fallen back even further, now facing a gap of over five minutes to the front.
Knowing full well Knibb’s bike strength only grows as the miles stack up, members of the chase pack were faced with a decision: make a big move to bridge the gap to the front, or sit back and watch things unfold? The pace Knibb had set, after all, was bold. Was it also unsustainable?
Ryf wasn’t waiting around to find out. She put her head down and powered ahead, determined to make up time. Findlay, Matthews, and Pallant-Browne lined up behind her, working together with turns at the front to draw closer to Knibb and Simmonds.
Not wanting to give up a single place standing, but still wanting the advantage of working together, the tightly-packed chase groups began to make mistakes. Soon, the penalty tent was crowded, with Holly Lawrence (GBR), Salthouse, Oliveira, and Tamara Jewett (CAN) serving time for rule infractions.
Matthews, Findlay, Ryf, and Pallant-Browne escaped the fray, continuing their rotation at the front of the foursome. Behind them, new names appeared on the leaderboard as penalties shook up the field. Philipp moved up to seventh place, reeling herself ever closer to the chase pack and a prime spot to make moves on the run.
All the while, Knibb continued on, seemingly unaware of what was playing out behind her. She only had one focus: defending her title as 70.3 world champion. And with a bike split of 2:07:52 and a lead of more than two and a half minutes on Simmonds and five and a half minutes on the rest of the field out of T2, the run leg seemed like a mere formality – a victory lap on her way to the finish line.
Ironman 70.3 World Championship Women’s Pro Results: The Run
Knibb’s aggressive strategy continued on the run, where she set out at a blistering 5:35 minute-per-mile pace – only slightly off the pace she had run in Paris a week prior, where her 33:12 10K run leg was the third-best of the day. Would she be able to hold that pace for the full 13.1 mile run, or was she merely banking as much time as she could, knowing the fleet-footed Pallant-Browne and ever-determined Matthews were behind?
On some level, Knibb must have accounted for this in her race strategy, as the three clocked identical splits through the initial mile markers. Clearly, the plan was working – Knibb comfortably maintained her lead, her stride opening up with confidence as she got closer to the finish line. Knibb finished with a 1:18:05 run split and 3:53:02 overall time, taking home a $50,000 prize and the crown of Ironman 70.3 World Champion for a second year in a row.
Meanwhile, an epic run battle played out for second place. Though Simmonds was clocking consistent splits, it wasn’t enough to hold off a hard-charging Matthews, who showed off her perfectly-timed fitness in her comeback from a gruesome car-bike collision one year ago. Matthews’ stunning 1:16:38 run split pushed her into second place and a finishing time of 3:57:05. Simmonds was rewarded for her hard work with a third-place in 3:57:56, a vast improvement from her 14th place finish at 70.3 Worlds in 2022.
Results: 2023 Ironman 70.3 World Championship WPRO
For full results, visit ironman.com.
|1. Taylor Knibb||USA||24:45||2:07:52||1:18:05||3:53:02|
|2. Kat Matthews||GBR||26:06||2:11:42||1:16:38||3:57:05|
|3. Imogen Simmonds||CHE||24:53||2:10:00||1:20:29||3:57:56|
|4. Emma Pallant-Browne||GBR||26:17||2:11:47||1:17:52||3:58:35|
|5. Paula Findlay||CAN||26:12||2:11:45||1:19:58||4:00:32|
|6. Laura Philipp||GER||27:27||2:11:59||1:20:20||4:02:27|
|7. Marjolaine Pierre||FRA||26:42||2:14:19||1:19:24||4:03:12|
|8. Amelia Watkinson||AUS||27:41||2:11:54||1:21:19||4:03:29|
|9. Daniela Ryf||CHE||26:09||2:11:47||1:23:15||4:03:57|
|10. Anne Reischmann||GER||28:29||2:14:32||1:20:45||4:06:18|