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As the pre-race favorite coming into today’s Ironman World Championship, the pressure was on for Daniela Ryf (SUI) to improve on her second-place finish from 2014. She did just that, turning in strong performances across swim, bike and run to dominate the race in 8:57:57 and take her first Ironman world title. With the victory, she becomes the second woman to earn the 70.3 and Ironman world titles in the same year (Leanda Cave also did it in 2012). Great Britain’s Rachel Joyce finished in second and Australia’s Liz Blatchford claimed third—both of them matching their career top Kona performances. Read the men’s race report here.
Great Britain’s Jodie Swallow emerged from the swim all alone at 55:04. Over a minute later came the main chase group that included 2012 Ironman world champion Leanda Cave (GBR), Annabel Luxford (AUS), Joyce, Michelle Vesterby (DEN), Mary Beth Ellis (USA), Liz Blatchford (AUS), Meredith Kessler (USA), Camilla Pedersen (DEN), Ryf, Caroline Steffen (SUI), Gina Crawford (NZL) and Haley Chura (USA). As others trickled out of the water the attention turned to when defending champion Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) would emerge. She exited at 1:00:58, about six minutes back of Swallow and five minutes behind the front group.
Instead of doing the work out front on her own, Swallow was absorbed by the front pack. Once the athletes settled onto the Queen K, a lead group of nine athletes—including pre-race favorite Ryf—was formed. Both Joyce and Kessler, who were expected to be big factors on the bike, couldn’t keep pace and fell back early on the ride. Canadian Heather Wurtele had issues with her derailleur, making for a devastating start of the bike. The mechanical troubles were too much to overcome for Wurtele and she was forced to drop out.
As the women made the climb up to Hawi, Ryf and Swallow started to break away and the group fell apart. At the Hawi turnaround, Ryf’s advantage stood at 12 seconds over Swallow, 1:27 over Ellis, 1:38 over Pedersen, 1:45 over Luxford and 1:56 over Vesterby.
As the top women rode away, Carfrae reached the midway point of the bike and decided to drop out of the race with a sore back, later posting on Facebook, “Gutted to pull the plug, but back seizing up after minor crash last week and had to make the hard call.”
With the defending champion out of the race, the attention turned to if Ryf could follow through on the race week hype. As she made her way back into town, the two-time Ironman 70.3 world champion started to ride away from Swallow and the rest of the field. Ultimately Ryf used a 4:50:46 bike split to earn a 7:25 advantage over Swallow, an 8:38 advantage over Ellis, an 8:59 advantage over Pedersen, a 10:17 advantage over Vesterby and a 10:57 advantage over Joyce to start the run.
With Carfrae on the sidelines and the other faster runners way back in the field, Ryf simply needed to turn in a solid marathon to earn her first Ironman World Championship title. The Swiss star was flawless out front, with her lead swelling to more than 12 minutes by the 10-mile mark. With Ryf dominant in first, it became a battle for the final two podium spots. Swallow started to struggle, with Joyce running up to second and Ellis following in third out on the Queen K. Joyce stayed consistent in that silver spot, but the heat was getting the best of Ellis and she slowed significantly. Taking over third was Vesterby, who looked strong as she approached the Energy Lab. The podium shuffle wasn’t over, as Blatchford was impressive on the marathon to overtake Vesterby for the final podium spot.
Once back on the Queen K, Ryf cruised through the remainder of the marathon and had time to celebrate as she made her way down Ali’i and to the finish line. She capped off her day with a 3:06:37 marathon to take the victory in 8:57:57. Joyce was smooth through the run, posting a 3:08:42 marathon on her way to finishing second at 9:10:59. Blatchford’s 3:06:25 marathon was enough to put her back on the podium after a disappointing 2014 race. The breakthrough performance of the day went to Vesterby, who crossed the finish line in fourth. The United States’ Heather Jackson ran her way from 14th off of the bike to fifth at the finish line, making her the top American female in her pro Kona debut.
2015 Ironman World Championship presented by GoPro
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii – Oct. 10, 2015
2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
1. Daniela Ryf (SUI) 8:57:57
2. Rachel Joyce (GBR) 9:10:59
3. Liz Blatchford (AUS) 9:14:52
4. Michelle Vesterby (DEN) 9:18:50
5. Heather Jackson (USA) 9:21:45
6. Susie Cheetham (GBR) 9:23:50
7. Sarah Piampiano (USA) 9:24:32
8. Camilla Pedersen (DEN) 9:25:41
9. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 9:27:54
10. Lucy Gossage (GBR) 9:28:36