It took three years and a move from Kona to St. George, but there was finally an Ironman World Championship race. Good things do indeed come to those who wait, as the men’s and women’s pro fields delivered one blockbuster performance after another on a hot, hard, and hilly course. Olympic gold medalist Kristian Blummenfelt won his first Ironman World Championship in only his second-ever attempt at the distance, clocking an astonishing 7:49:16 on a hilly course, while Daniela Ryf reclaimed her spot on the top step of the podium with her fifth Ironman world title in an emotional 8:34:59.
Braden Currie (NZL) focuses on the swim course before the start cannon fires.
The men’s pro field rushes into Sand Hollow reservoir to begin the 2.4-mile swim.
The women’s pro field awaits the start cannon. All 22 starters in the women’s field also finished.
Andy Potts (USA) exits the water in 7th place, chasing the front pack of athletes that exited the water almost a minute ahead, led by Sam Laidlow (FRA), Daniel Baekkegard (DNK), Kyle Smith (NZL), Braden Currie (NZL) and Florian Angert (GER).
Skye Moench (USA) had a strong showing all day, starting with a 54:44 swim that had her exiting the water in 5th and ultimately locking down a 4th place finish and top American overall.
In the men’s pro race, the front group out of the swim stayed together all the way through the bike and into the start of the run.
In a move that surprised many, Blummenfelt did immediately not surge to the front of the pack. Instead, he showed restraint by holding back for much of the bike leg—riding by himself until he was caught by Cam Wurf and the two formed a chase group with Lionel Sanders.
Meanwhile, Ryf blazed a trail to the front of the women’s race early in the bike leg, moving from fifth place out of T1 into first by mile 38. She never looked back, and entered T2 with more than seven minutes over the next athlete.
Kat Matthews (GBR) employed a similar strategy, riding with Ryf and pushing her way from ninth to second on the bike leg. The two stretched out the women’s field, before Matthews ultimately fell off Ryf’s wheel.
Lisa Norden (SWE) had a strong showing early on, exiting the water third and holding that standing through the bike leg. She would later slip back on the run and finish 6th overall.
As expected, the final climb on the 7,400-foot elevation gain bike course, located in Snow Canyon State Park, proved to be a pivotal point in both the men’s and women’s races. With temperatures exceeding 90 degrees and wind speeds upward of 20 miles per hour later in the day, the climb up Snow Canyon seemed to be where many athletes were forced to make critical decisions about pacing, hydration, and nutrition.
Currie led the race for much of the day, pushing the pace on the bike. This strategy would prove to be beneficial later in the race. Smith, who entered T2 in the same lead group, faded early in the run, and Currie took the lead at mile 4.
Behind Currie was a major reshuffling as athletes who pushed too hard on the bike paid the price on the run. Sam Long (USA), a pre-race podium favorite, struggled on the hot, dry, and windy day, eventually finishing 15th overall.
It was on the run where Blummenfelt’s patience paid off. In a carefully controlled marathon, Blummenfelt averaged a 6:02 min/mile pace to reel in the frontrunner spot at mile 19, passing Currie and building a gap of more than four-and-a-half minutes on his way to the win.
Blummenfelt was overjoyed at the finish, but collapsed shortly after and was carted off to the medical tent, where he was treated and released to return to the finish line to continue the celebration.
With previous victories, Ryf has always kept her composure—but after a hard-fought win, there was no hiding how elated she was.
Another athlete who benefitted from playing the long game was Lionel Sanders (CAN), who held back on the bike, then ran a smartly-paced marathon to to catch and pass Currie in a gritty sprint just as the two entered the finisher’s chute. Sanders took second overall with a time of 7:54:03, with Currie third in 7:54:19. “That was the most insane race I think I ever participated in,” Sanders said after the race.
Matthews said she was “delighted” with a 8:43:49 finish for second place at her first-ever Ironman World Championship. “I can’t ask for any more than this,” she said at the finish line.
The fastest marathon of the women’s pro race went to 2019 Ironman World Champion Anne Haug, who clocked a 2:56:00 en route to third place with an overall tie of 8:47:03.