In a stunning day on the French Riviera, 40 of the fastest men in Ironman triathlon toed the start line with one goal: to earn the title of Ironman World Champion at the first-ever men’s-only race (the women’s professional field will have their own race in Hawaii on October 14). With an all-new course in Nice, France, it was anyone’s guess who would come out on top.
But after a dramatic day of racing, we had our answer: Sam Laidlow, who wrote a storybook tale of swim, bike, and run to break the tape in 8:06:22, took the win to become the first French Ironman World Champion at the first French Ironman World Championship. At 24 years old, Laidlow also became the youngest-ever men’s athlete to wear the IMWC crown. He was joined on the podium by two-time Ironman World Champion Patrick Lange of Germany and Denmark’s Magnus Ditlev. For a full play-by-play of the race, read our recap here.
Triathlete staff photographer Brad Kaminski was on the ground, capturing the action from start to finish. Scroll down to check out the amazing images from the 2023 Ironman World Championship in Nice.
The pro men await the swim start. Much of the pre-race buzz centered around triathlon legend Jan Frodeno’s (R), final pro race. Prior to the event, Frodeno said he was looking forward to getting “out of my comfort zone and attack one more time, to try and get to the pinnacle of the sport one more time.”
As the sun rose over the Côte d’Azur, athletes warmed up for a non-wetsuit swim in the 76.6 F waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
Prior to the swim start, volunteers lit red flares on the beach, making for a dramatic send-off for the pros.
An M-shaped swim course meant two different conditions in the swim – close to the shore, the water was smooth and fast; as athletes reached the turn buoys 875 meters out, conditions gradually got choppier. The ever-changing water conditions required athletes to adapt – and, if they were smart, draft.
Much of the 40-strong pro field stayed together for the first third of the swim, until surges from Braden Currie (NZL), Laidlow, and Frodeno helped to create some separation. Each of the three took turns at the front of the swim, pulling a pack of 12 into T2 with a lead of over 75 seconds.
Though Currie and Frodeno were the first to touch ground at the swim exit, it was Matthew Marquardt (USA) who crossed the timing mat first. A Kona age-group world champion, Marquardt stayed on the feet of the race leaders, then sprinted ahead at the swim exit, edging out the pack with a 47:46 swim split and .62-second lead.
With swimmers coming out in packs instead of a trickle, it’s no surprise there were multiple lead changes in the early miles of the bike. One of the initial race leaders was Clement Mignon (FRA), who won Ironman France 2023 on a course that covered much of the same ground as the world championship race.
Mignon and Laidlow swapped the lead multiple times in the first half of the race, building a lead of more than two minutes on the rest of the field. A decisive move by Laidlow at mile 48 saw him pulling away – in the 10 miles of twists and turns that followed, Laidlow opened a two-minute gap to Mignon and almost four minutes to the main chase group that now only included Ditlev, Rudy Von Berg (USA), and Currie.
Von Berg, an American who grew up in Nice and won Ironman France in 2022, used his intimate knowledge of the bike course to execute a perfectly-paced bike strategy, capturing Mignon and building time on Ditlev in the latter half of the coures.
As predicted by pundits and athletes alike, the steep and tight descents of the Nice Ironman World Championship bike course were a major character in the race-day narrative. Time was gained or lost in the critical switchbacks, depending on how bold – or cautious – one was.
Though the race was certainly a battle of the superbikers, Lange knew he could still get within striking distance of a win if he positioned himself strategically. Between miles 70 and 80, Lange moved up seven places in the field, entering T2 in seventh place.
Also a force on the bike: Cameron Wurf, who clawed his way from 28th out of the water to fourth place entering T2.
Once Laidlow hit the run course, there was little doubt of his victory. The Frenchman was buoyed by the crowd, and as the miles ticked on, fans could see the Frenchman experience a full range of emotion, from delight to amusement to gratitude. (The emotions continued in his post-race interview with Triathlete, where Laidlow spoke from the heart about his experience on the course.)
Ditlev backed his strong bike leg with a 2:41:07 marathon for 8:11:43 overall finishing time and third place, a vast improvement on his eighth-place finish at last year’s championship race.
Rudy Von Berg’s fourth place, the result of a solid bike-run combo, gave him the distinction of top American finisher at the men’s 2023 Ironman World Championship.
Patrick Lange unleashed a beastly 2:32 marathon, passing Ditlev for second place with eight miles to go.
An overjoyed Sam Laidlow celebrates his win at the 2023 Ironman World Championship. It was his first-ever Ironman win, having previously raced (and placed) second at the 2022 Ironman World Championship in Kona and 2021 Ironman UK.
Overcome with emotion, Laidlow takes a moment to collect himself before speaking to the crowd after his win.