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As Sebastian Kienle put it before the Ironman World Championship 70.3, “It’s better to be in the after-race report than the pre-race report.” After a jaw-dropping cycling leg that left top athletes in his wake and unable to catch up, Kienle’s winning performance is not just in the after-race report, it’s the highlight of post-race coverage.
Although he exited the water three minutes behind the leaders, Kienle quickly moved through the field and caught up to the front bike pack that included top contenders such as Craig Alexander, Paul Matthews, Andy Potts and Tim O’Donnell. Knowing he would need a significant gap on the fast runners in the field, Kienle attacked, hammering his way to the front about 30 miles in. Second-place finisher Craig Alexander said, “When he went past it was like a motor bike. I haven’t been passed like that since [Chris] Lieto did it [at last year’s 70.3 championship].” (Speaking of which, Kienle rode a 2:07:54, almost three minutes faster than Lieto did in 2011.)
His decision to go for it ended up being a wise one. He rolled into T2 with three minutes on the chase pack and held his lead for the entire run. “On the one hand, it’s a big risk, but on the other hand I didn’t have any other chance,” Kienle said after the race. “Sitting in the group and waiting for guys to kill you on the run—I mean, it’s better to kill yourself on the bike and maybe you could defeat them on the run. I know when I wanted a shot at the win I have to go for it on the bike. I didn’t think I could ride three minutes into them. That was maybe a little bit of an advantage being underrated a bit.”
Heading into Vegas, the 28-year-old German wasn’t as well known as other athletes who race often in the States, but he’s a fan favorite at many European races. In 2010, he finished second at Challenge Roth with a 7:59:06. He followed it up with a 7:57:06 in 2011, finishing second only to Andreas Raelert. He also won (a no-swim) Ironman 70.3 New Orleans and Ironman 70.3 Miami in 2011, and this year, he took second at both Ironman Frankfurt European Championship and Ironman 70.3 Texas U.S. Pro Championship. His fastest-bike split in Texas, a 2:03:43, beat even Lance Armstrong’s time of 2:05:10.
Kienle seems well aware that his result yesterday may have changed his underrated status. “I know next year at this event, it will be way more difficult. They won’t let me ride away anymore,” he says. He’ll no doubt be on lists of “athletes to watch” going into the Ironman World Championship in October. He flies to Hawaii tomorrow to start his Kona preparation.
At the finish, Kienle summed up yesterday’s world title: “The suicide mission was a success and now I’m in heaven.”
– Kienle, Cave Earn First 70.3 World Championships
– Sebastian Kienle: Being Underrated Was An Advantage
– Video: Pre-70.3 Worlds With Sebastian Kienle
– Transition Like A Pro: Sebastian Kienle
– Sebastian Kienle From Texas 70.3