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Australia’s Pete Jacobs and Great Britain’s Leanda Cave improved on their 2011 podium finishes by taking the 2012 Ironman World Championship titles. This is the first Ironman World Championship win for both.
PHOTOS: 2012 Ironman World Championship
The men kicked off the action in Kailua Bay at 6:30 a.m. under fairly breezy conditions, which was a sign of things to come. As he does in almost any race he enters, American Andy Potts led the men out of the water. His 2.4-mile swim time of 50:32 was 15 seconds faster than Marko Albert (EST) and nearly a minute faster than the main group, which included top contenders Pete Jacobs (AUS), Luke McKenzie (AUS) and Craig Alexander (AUS). 2010 Ironman world champ Chris McCormack (AUS) had a disappointing start to his day, coming into T1 a minute down from the main pack. Pre-race favorite Andreas Raelert (GER) also had a rough swim and was left to make up the gap on the bike. One athlete several of the competitors had their eyes on was 2012 70.3 world champion Sebastian Kienle (GER). The super cyclist came out of the water four minutes back of the main group.
Once onto the bike, McKenzie pushed the pace for the main group and Potts was quickly swallowed up. Eventually, McKenzie and France’s Romain Guillaume were able to build a lead of 25 seconds over the main group, but that was short-lived. Kienle and Belgium’s Marino Vanhoenacker hammered the early miles of the bike and decided to make a break on the way back from Hawi. At around the same time the race lost McCormack as he decided to drop out.
The pair of Kienle and Vanhoenacker originally looked like they would work together, but Kienle got a flat tire and Vanhoenacker was left to build a lead on his own. This was the point when the men’s race broke apart. A group of men that sat within a minute of each other was suddenly spread out across four minutes due to gusty conditions at Kawaihae. One of the casualties of the tough winds was defending champion Alexander. By the time the men reached 100 miles, Jacobs, Bockel, Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) and Faris Al-Sultan (GER) trailed Vanhoenacker by nearly eight minutes. At the same point, Alexander was more than 15 minutes back.
By the time bike turned to run Vanhoenacker’s lead stood at eight and a half minutes. Jacobs, the fastest runner from the 2011 Kona race, was second off of the bike. He was followed by Dirk Bockel (who was racing with a broken hand) and Van Lierde. The big question of the marathon was: Did Vanhoenacker push the pace too hard on the bike to have a successful run? It appears the answer is yes. The Belgian held his lead up and down Ali’i Drive and onto the Queen K, but it didn’t last—Vanhoenacker ended up walking. Jacobs took the lead as the men approached the Energy Lab and never looked back.
His 2:48:05 marathon propelled him to the 8:18:37 victory, making it the sixth-straight year an Australian takes the men’s title. Raelert overcame a tough start to the day to run the fastest marathon in 2:47:23 and earn his fourth-straight podium finish in Kona. Van Lierde backed a strong bike with a solid marathon to earn a third-place finish. Kona rookie Kienle turned in an impressive run to finish fourth. 2006 Ironman world champion Al-Sultan finished fifth.
Potts was the first American across the line in seventh, with fellow American Tim O’Donnell finishing eighth.
The women’s race featured a unique aspect from the very beginning, with the women starting five minutes after the pro men instead of at the same time. The impact was felt immediately. Stevens led the women out of the water in both 2011 and 2012, but her swim time was more than for minutes slower, a sign that the women benefited from the pacing help of the men in the past.
Stevens made her way onto the pier at 55:09 and was followed by the United States’ Meredith Kessler (55:56), New Zealand’s Gina Crawford (55:59), Great Britain’s Leanda Cave (56:03) and the United States’ Mary Beth Ellis (56:06). Top contender Caroline Steffen of Switzerland came out of T1 two and a half minutes back.
Being in the front of the swim paid off for several athletes as a strong group, which is something usually reserved for the men’s race, developed. Cave led the charge and was joined by Kessler, Ellis, Stevens and Steffen, who had worked her way up from the slower swim. It was Cave, Ellis and Steffen who had the strongest legs on the bike and the three bridged a small gap on the rest of the field. Steffen was then given a four-minute penalty, leaving Cave and Ellis to lead the race. Steffen quickly worked her way back up to the duo and took control of the top spot. Next it was Cave who received a penalty and it Steffen and Ellis were left to race out front. Steffen and Ellis exchanged the lead a few times, but it was Steffen who did most of the pace making.
Ellis was first into T2, but she was forced to take a four-minute penalty before starting her run. Steffen was next into transition and inherited a four-minute lead over both Cave and Ellis to start the marathon. Fourth off of the bike and eight minutes back of Steffen was 2010 Ironman world champ Mirinda Carfrae, who struggled early in the race but hammered the final miles of the bike.
The race quickly turned into a question of if Carfrae, the fastest female runner in the sport, could catch the three women ahead of her. In front of Carfrae, Ellis and Cave ran shoulder-to-shoulder all the way to the Queen K portion of the marathon. Eventually Cave broke away and ran in second. Carfrae reached Cave and looked like she was going to pass her for second, but Cave held strong and eventually dropped Carfrae. That move seemed to be the momentum and confidence she needed and she next took the lead from Steffen with about three miles to go.
Cave held the strong pace all the way to the finish line, earning the 9:15:54 win thanks to a 56:03 swim, 5:12:06 bike and a 3:03:13 run. She also becomes the first-ever female to win both the 70.3 World Championship and Ironman World Championship in the same year (Alexander did it on the men’s side in 2011).
Steffen held on to finish second in 9:15:54. Carfrae struggled on the back half of the marathon, but earned her fourth-straight Kona podium with a time of 9:21:41. Germany’s Sonja Tajsich overcame a slow swim to earn fourth, with Ellis posting the top-American time to finish fifth.
Ironman World Championship
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii – Oct. 13, 2012
2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
1. Pete Jacobs (AUS) 8:18:37
2. Andreas Raelert (GER) 8:23:40
3. Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) 8:24:09
4. Sebastian Kienle (GER) 8:27:08
5. Faris Al-Sultan (GER) 8:28:33
1. Leanda Cave (GBR) 9:15:54
2. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 9:16:58
3. Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) 9:21:41
4. Sonja Tajsich (GER) 9:22:45
5. Mary Beth Ellis (USA) 9:22:57
Leanda Cave On The Double: “Not In My Wildest Dreams”
Race Gallery: 2012 Ironman World Championship
VIDEO: Leanda Cave Crossing The Kona Finish Line
VIDEO: Pre-Race Interview With Pete Jacobs
Taper Secrets Of Pete Jacobs
Dispatch: Pete Jacobs Ready For A Fast Marathon
Leanda Cave: “I Know What I Need To Do”