After a night of pouring rain in Kailua-Kona, the clouds broke for a clear and calm start to the 2018 Ironman World Championship. As he did last year, Australia’s Josh Amberger led the men out of the water (47:39)—but there was plenty of company right on his heels. Denis Chevrot (FRA), Maurice Clavel (FRA), Tim O’Donnell (USA), Javier Gomez (ESP), Antony Costes (FRA), Giulio Molinari (ITA), Igor Amorelli (BRA), and Matt Chrabot (USA) all made up the front group onto the pier and into T1.
Then attention turned to when the pre-race favorites would emerge from Kailua Bay. Great Britain’s David McNamee (13th at 1:51 back), the United States’ Andrew Starkyowicz (15th at 1:55 back), Germany’s Patrick Lange (21st at 2:58 back), and Germany’s Sebastian Kienle (28th at 3:03 back) all turned in solid swims to stay in close contention. Last year’s runner-up Lionel Sanders (Canada) didn’t have the swim he had hoped for, exiting the water in 42nd place at 6:20 back.
As the men took to Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway, the strong cyclists quickly made their presence known. At mile 31 at Waikoloa, former pro cyclist Cameron Wurf (AUS) led the men, with Starkyowicz, Amberger, and Costes riding close behind. Behind them, a solid chase group was being formed.
At the turnaround in Hawi (mile 59), Wurf, Starkyowicz, and Amberger continued to lead the race, with Andreas Dreitz, Clavel, O’Donnell, Amorelli, Braden Currie, Costes, Gomez, Lange, and Molinari making up the large pack chasing at just over four minutes. When it was time to start heading back toward town, the front of the race started to break apart.
Wurf was able to first drop Amberger and then Starykowicz. He took advantage of the unusually calm conditions and powered through the final miles of the bike course to establish a new bike record of 4:09:06. Starykowicz followed Wurf into T2 at 2:10 back, with several athletes getting off of the bike at just under seven minutes back.
Being a part of that lead chase group turned out to be a key for success in this race. Aernouts (5th off of the bike, O’Donnell (9th off the bike), Lange (10th off the bike), and Currie (11th off of the bike) quickly went to work and ran their way toward the front of the race. Sanders and Kienle—each expected to be big factors in this race—struggled through the bike and ultimately finished the ride in 24th and 25th, respectively.
Wurf was solid out front—but his pace was no match for the amazing runners behind him. Lange ran by the new bike course record holder at around the 12-mile mark and never looked back. It was evident the defending champion was on a mission and it became a race against the clock to see if he could be the first athlete in history to go under eight hours in the Ironman World Championship.
Behind Lange, the race was on for the other two podium spots. A big mover in the marathon was last year’s third-place finisher David McNamee (GBR). He came off of the bike in 20th place at nearly 11 minutes back, but by mile 18 had run back onto the podium in third place. Currie and O’Donnell, who had run together for the entire marathon, didn’t let McNamee go without a fight—setting up for an exciting battle for third.
Up the road, Lange continued to hammer through the marathon. He concluded his day with a 2:41:31 marathon to break his own course record (an 8:01:40 in 2017) and become the first athlete to break eight hours at the Ironman World Championship. Immediately after crossing the finish line, Lange proposed to his girlfriend Julia (she said yes).
Aernouts also broke the eight-hour barrier, concluding his day with a 2:45:42 marathon to finish second in 7:56:41. McNamee finished third for the second year in a row, crossing the finish line at 8:01:09. O’Donnell was the first American finisher at 8:03:17, with Currie rounding out the top five at 8:04:41.
Russell, who was involved in a serious bike crash last year and narrowly made to the start list, finished in an emotional sixth place.
2018 Ironman World Championship
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii – Oct. 13, 2018
2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
1. Patrick Lange (GER) 7:52:39
2. Bart Aernouts (BEL) 7:56:41
3. David McNamee (GBR) 8:01:09
4. Tim O’Donnell (USA) 8:03:17
5. Braden Currie (NZL) 8:04:41
6. Matt Russell (USA) 8:04:41
7. Joe Skipper (GBR) 8:05:54
8. Andy Potts (USA) 8:09:34
9. Cameron Wurf (AUS) 8:10:32
10. Michael Weiss (AUT) 8:11:04