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A field of nearly 100 professionals showed up for today’s Ironman 70.3 U.S. Championships in St. George to vie for their share of the $75,000 prize purse and coveted Kona qualifying points. Though the forecasted high for the day was 95 degrees F, the temperature remained in the 60s and 70s for the entirety of the pro race with very little wind, making for ideal conditions. In both the men’s and women’s races, the front group of fast swimmers got away on the bike and then battled it out on the run. Ultimately it was 2008 Olympic gold medalist Jan Frodeno (GER) outpacing defending champion Brent McMahon (CAN) for the men, while Meredith Kessler (USA) retained her title.
American Andy Potts had a blazing 21:49 swim, with even top swimmers like Frodeno, Patrick Lange (GER), McMahon and several others exiting a minute back. Strong cyclists like Sebastian Kienle (GER), Michael Weiss (AUT) and Jordan Rapp (USA) started the bike with several minutes to make up on a fast-moving front pack.
The boldest mover was American Andrew Yoder. He passed the more experienced athletes and took on the tough 56-mile bike course up front on his own. Yoder came into T2 with a one-minute advantage over Marino Vanhoenacker (BEL) and a huge group full of fast runners, including reigning champ McMahon.
Yoder faded quickly, making for a running race featuring several former ITU stars. Tim Don (GBR) jumped out to the early lead on the tough run course, with McMahon right on his heels. Don enjoyed the top spot through the first half of the run, but McMahon used his experience on the course to pass Don and find the front of the race for the second year in a row. Frodeno, who has been the strongest 70.3 athlete to this point of the year, made a late surge to catch Don and then went in pursuit of McMahon. He carried his momentum past McMahon and to the finish line. He ultimately turned in a 1:09:12 half-marathon to earn the 3:45:21 victory, which was nearly six minutes faster than McMahon’s winning time in 2013. McMahon cruised in for second 22 seconds later. Don made it a podium full of ITU stars, finishing third. Joe Gambles (AUS) was fourth, with Potts earning the 70.3 U.S. Championship as the top finishing American in fifth.
Kessler, Jodie Swallow (GBR), Julie Dibens (GBR) and Mary Beth Ellis (USA) established an early advantage by coming out of the water more than two minutes ahead of chasers like Amy Marsh (USA) and Heather Wurtele (CAN), and more than three minutes on top athletes like Linsey Corbin (USA) and Angela Naeth (CAN).
With such a strong group out front, it left little chance for the slower swimmers to make up too much ground before the start of the run. Through 22.5 miles Kessler, Swallow, Dibens and Ellis – all among the strongest pros in the sport- continued to pull away from the rest of the women’s field.
Swallow and Dibens came into T2 with a 40-second lead over Kessler and Ellis. Kessler was forced to serve a stand-down penalty in transition, putting her further back. Kessler caught Swallow, with Dibens and Ellis fading back. Thye remained neck-and-neck through the front half of the run, with Kessler ultimately able to build a small gap. She cruised in for the victory at 4:11:53. Swallow easily held onto second, with Wurtele running her way into third place. Ellis claimed fourth, with Dibens taking the fifth spot.
2014 Ironman 70.3 St. George
St. George, Utah – May 3, 2014
1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run
1. Jan Frodeno (GER) 3:45:21
2. Brent McMahon (CAN) 3:45:43
3. Tim Don (GBR) 3:45:50
4. Joe Gambles (AUS) 3:47:10
5. Andy Potts (USA) 3:47:33
1. Meredith Kessler (USA) 4:11:53
2. Jodie Swallow (GBR) 4:12:29
3. Heather Wurtele (CAN) 4:14:31
4. Mary Beth Ellis (USA) 4:16:10
5. Julie Dibens (GBR) 4:23:21