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The United States’ Andy Potts edged out a tough men’s field, while Great Britain’s Holly Lawrence continued her 70.3 dominance at Sunday’s Ironman 70.3 Vineman in Sonoma County, Calif.
American Barrett Brandon led the men out of the 1.2-mile swim at Johnson’s Beach with a split of 24:14, with eight men all following within 20 seconds. That main lead group consisted of Jake Montgomery (AUS), Cameron Good (AUS), Sam Appleton (AUS), Tim Reed (AUS), Terenzo Bozzone (NZL), Craig Alexander (AUS), Potts and Ben Hoffman (USA).
With all of the main contenders—including four world champions at this distance—out on the bike together, the pace was fiery from the start. One of those former world champions, Bozzone, took charge. The Kiwi turned in the fastest bike split of the day (2:07:12) to earn a 1:25 lead to start the half-marathon.
Trailing Bozzone onto the run course were Montgomery, Appleton, Alexander, Potts, Hoffman and Reed. Bozzone was strong through the first few miles, but Potts, Reed, Alexander and Appleton were running a faster pace behind him. All four of those athletes passed Bozzone at the eight-mile mark, with Potts taking the very narrow lead in the top spot. Potts ultimately used a 1:12:13 half-marathon to shake the rest of the group and take the win, his first here since 2011. Reed was second at 3:48:46, with three-time Ironman world champion Alexander rounding out the top three at 3:49:17. Last year’s winner, Appleton, narrowly missed the podium, finishing in fourth at 3:50:13. Bozzone faded at the end, but held on for a fifth-place finish at 3:51:47.
A big story in the days leading up to the race for the pro women was that four-time 70.3 Vineman winner (and defending champion) Meredith Kessler (USA) would not be on the start line, opening an opportunity for a new champion.
Superstar swimmer Lauren Brandon (USA) led the women into T1 with a 24:11 swim split, with Lawrence as the closest pursuer at 24 seconds back. Next out of the water were the United States’ Jennifer Spieldenner (1:17 back) and Switzerland’s Caroline Steffen (2:30 back). Lawrence made quick work of the gap up to Brandon, but the American didn’t let her go easily. Lawrence rode out front, with Brandon trailing not too far back for the majority of the ride.
Lawrence eventually built up a bit of a gap, coming off of the bike with the fastest split of the women (2:20:07) and a 1:44 lead over Brandon, a 6:25 lead over Steffen and a 9:01 lead over Canada’s Rachel McBride. The run is where Lawrence truly put her stamp on this race, building on her lead with every stride. The 1:21:56 half-marathon was the exclamation point on another amazing 70.3 performance by Lawrence, who earned the victory in 4:09:40. Steffen was second at 4:17:48, with Brandon rounding out the top three in 4:22:57. Spieldenner and American Emily Cocks were fourth and fifth, respectively.
2016 Ironman 70.3 Vineman
Sonoma County, Calif. – July 10, 2016
1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run
1. Andy Potts (USA) 3:48:09
2. Tim Reed (AUS) 3:48:46
3. Craig Alexander (AUS) 3:49:17
4. Sam Appleton (AUS) 3:50:13
5. Terenzo Bozzone (NZL) 3:51:47
1. Holly Lawrence (GBR) 4:09:40
2. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 4:17:48
3. Lauren Brandon (USA) 4:22:57
4. Jennifer Spieldenner (USA) 4:22:59
5. Emily Cocks (USA) 4:26:28