It was an all-Canadian celebration at today’s Ironman 70.3 California in Oceanside, Calif., with Lionel Sanders claiming his first victory at this race and Heather Wurtele earning her second.
A front pack of around 10 men exited the swim together in just over 23 minutes, including swim leader Chris Braden (USA), Andy Potts (USA), Andreas Dreitz (DEU) and Tim Reed (AUS).
“I had a great swim, at the end of the front pack,” Dreitz says. “It took a few minutes out of transition and then I took the lead [on the bike]. That’s how I like to race—right behind the lead car. But I knew there were many fast guys back behind me.”
One of those fast threats was Australian Tim Reed. “I tried to stay with [Andreas] for quite a while, but he’s such a great bike rider, so it was just hanging in there and hoping I would be in the mix when it got to the run,” Reed says.
Also charging through the field was Lionel Sanders (CAN), who was working to overcome his three-minute deficit out of the swim. Sanders finished third last year after an aggressive bike split that he admits contained his all-time best one hour of power, which led to a painful run (he talks about his day here). This year, after a minor mechanical made him nervous to switch into the small ring, he rode most of the course—including all of the steep, long climbs—in his big ring.
Dreitz held his lead into T2 and for most of the run, trailed by Potts and Sanders just under three minutes behind. At a fast run pace (which resulted in a 1:11:42 half marathon), Sanders made his way up to Dreitz for a pass around mile 9. Reed, who regularly churns out one of the best run splits (1:12:57 today), passed and held off Potts, but says the two leaders were just too hard to catch. “You never know when you fly over from Australia how the legs will be, but a few nights sleep without my kids waking me up did wonders, so I felt pretty good,” Reed says.
Sanders took the win in 3:51:17, followed by Dreitz in 3:51:56 and Reed at 3:52:40.
The usual Oceanside podium toppers Heather Jackson and Wurtele were back for another go at the race they have traded titles on in the last few years (Wurtele won in 2014, Jackson in 2015), but this time with a few more threats in the mix. Switzerland’s Caroline Steffen, who said she wanted the opportunity to race some of the women on their “home turf,” flew from her current training grounds in Australia to race Ironman 70.3 California for the first time.
Exiting the swim first in 25:01 was 2015 unknown and surprise swim-bike leader Holly Lawrence (GBR), who finished third last year. This year, Lawrence led from swim and through the entire bike, with Alicia Kaye (CAN) sticking with her during the entire 56-mile ride. Behind them, the Heathers and Steffen were steadily trying to make sure the gap did not increase.
“[Holly and Alicia] were up the road for a long time and I just kept thinking ‘put the pressure on, put the pressure on,’ and it took a long time,” Wurtele says. There were eight women that remained within five minutes of each other during the bike ride, including Wurtele, Steffen, Heather Jackson, Ellie Salthouse and Mary Beth Ellis. Ultimately, Wurtele inched closer to the leaders, and she officially led the bike coming into T2.
Wurtele kept her lead during the entire run to regain her crown in 4:16:17. “There are just so many strong athletes here that it was just pushing all day, and I was really happy that my body cooperated and let me push that hard,” she says. Steffen held off Jackson to come in second in 4:17:39, followed by Jackson in 4:18:32. (Side fun fact: All three women ran a 1:21-something half marathon.)
2016 Ironman 70.3 California
Oceanside, Calif. – April 2, 2016
1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run
1. Lionel Sanders (CAN) 3:51:17
2. Andreas Dretiz (GER) 3:51:56
3. Tim Reed (AUS) 3:52:40
4. Andy Potts (USA) 3:54:44
5. Eneko Llanos (ESP) 3:56:18
1. Heather Wurtele (CAN) 4:16:17
2. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 4:17:39
3. Heather Jackson (USA) 4:18:32
4. Holly Lawrence (GBR) 4:21:41
5. Camilla Pedersen* (DNK) 4:23:25
*Originally Ellie Salthouse (AUS) earned fifth position, but it appears she received a disqualification due to descending a hill on the course above the mandatory speed limit.