Smack talk. Start time rants. Newton-lug-melting predicted temperatures. Reigning and former world champions. 61 male and female professionals collectively toeing the start line. 4000 KPR points and a $150,000 prize purse.
It’s Ironman Frankfurt time.
The European championship race promised all this and more. Sebastian Kienle showed up to race in his home country, in his first full Ironman since Kona last year. Fredrik Van Lierde and Jan Frodeno promised a strong challenge. Also on the start list? Andreas Raelert, Marko Albert, Tyler Butterfield, Eneko Llanos, and 40 other male pros. Chatter buzzed all week around a Daniela Ryf vs. Caroline Steffen showdown, but Ryf and Steffen likely knew they’d need to keep their eyes on the likes of Michelle Vesterby, Julia Gajer, Tine Deckers, Kristin Moeller, and Sonja Tajsich. Meanwhile, the women were already throwing down on Twitter a week ago:
— Caroline Steffen (@Caroline_Xena) July 1, 2015
While Sebastian Kienle was busy crowd-sourcing a date:
— Sebastian Kienle (@SebastianKienle) July 2, 2015
The course promised a rolling bike course complete with cobblestones, following a non-wetsuit swim for the pros. Start-line dynamics would come into play for the women, with age group men jumping into the water only 8 minutes behind the pro women creating the potential for drafting issues on the swim and bike courses. With temps predicted to get up near 97 degrees F on race day, heat could also turn the 140.6 miles into a war of attrition.
Caroline Steffen stepped to the front as the women hit the water, but Vesterby, Ryf, and Gajer stayed on her tail from the start, all following within 5 seconds after the first lap. The 4 held position through the swim exit, with Steffen leading in 52:42, Vesterby +:03, Ryf +:04, and Gajer +:05. T1 wasn’t without hiccups, as Ryf appeared to have a minor crash getting on the bike, emerging onto
the course with a bloody knee.
Soon into the bike, Steffen was held up by a mechanical, allowing Vesterby, Gajer, and Ryf to fly by. Vesterby and Gajer opened up a 50 second gap, perhaps strategically hoping to get away from Ryf early. Steffen, back on the bike, was riding with Ryf.
— Brett Sutton (@trisutto) July 5, 2015
While Gajer made a move to pass Vesterby up at the front, Ryf started her march forward, moving first into 2nd place and then slowly gaining on Gajer until taking control around 45km. As they approached the town of Karben at the 45km mark, Ryf, Gajer, and Steffen remained in shouting distance of each other. Ryf, averaging just over 200 watts, wasn’t able to get away quite yet, as the predicted Ryf-Steffen showdown appeared to be playing out – Steffen again temporarily took over the lead past the 80km mark. As the heat of the day began to creep in, Ryf was spotted dousing herself with water – and surged at 118km to open up a 45 second gap. As Ryf rode away, Steffen found herself challenged by Julia Gajer at 128km. Ryf extended her lead, heading into T2 after 4:47:51, a new bike course record. 7:38 back was Gajer, winning her bike course battle with Steffen, who followed another 3 minutes back. Vesterby exited T2 14 minutes behind Ryf. Tine Deckers followed in 5th place.
Daniela Ryf held a strong lead as the previously-tight top 4 women continued to spread out. 17km into the increasingly hot run, Gajer was 7:19 back on Ryf, with Steffen 14:00 back. Ryf hit the half marathon mark in 1:29:06 as the temp hit 98 degrees. Julia Gajer held a slightly faster pace, going through the half in 1:28:15, but Ryf’s lead looked to be quite safe. Behind the top 3, positions were shifting more dramatically, as Vesterby dropped further and further back, while Ruth Brennan-Morrey and Sonja Tajsich were on the move up. Still feeling good in the hot conditions, Ryf crossed the line in a course record 8:51:00 – the previous fastest time was set in 2008 by the one and only Chrissie Wellington. Julia Gajer did her home country proud, finishing second in 9:01:58. The surprise of the day was Brennan-Morrey, who ran her way up to 5th place and secured her Kona slot. After her strong swim-bike start, Michelle Vesterby had a disappointing DNF.
Jan Frodeno showed his short-course speed early, leading the swim out in the first lap. Past the first buoy, Frodeno and 2 others swam together, shortly creating a 60 meter gap to the chase pack of of 8 that included Llanos and Van Lierde. Frodeno exploded out of the water and into T1 in 46:02. Coming into T1, Kienle was over 4 minutes back.
As Frodeno cruised ahead at a steady 300 watts, holding a 2:23 lead after 13km, Boecherer, Van Lierde, Llanos, Butterfield, and Dellow were bunched together in the first chase pack. Kienle, meanwhile, had managed to move himself up to within 30 seconds of the chase pack by 13km, and had biked into 2nd position by 25k. At 60km, just over a minute separated Frodeno and Kienle, with Frodeno reportedly averaging 43.41km/hr to Kienle’s 44.48 km/hr. Boecherer, Butterfield Van Lierde and Diederen remained towards the front as well, within 2 minutes of the leaders.
At 80km, Van Lierde passed Kienle to take over 2nd place, while Kienle had reportedly lost his bike nutrition. With a long race still ahead, the chase back 7:30 back was not out of contention – led by Martijin Dekker, with Raelert, Albert, and Lopez following closely. Frodeno powered forward over the cobblestones, still maintaining his nearly 3 minute lead, zooming down Frankfurt’s Chicken Hill at nearly 60mph while Kienle and Boecherer continued to try and put a dent into his lead. The remainder of the bike saw this pattern continue – by T2, Frodeno had extended his lead to 5 minutes, coming in with a 4:08:44 bike split – a new bike course record. Kienle followed him in 6 minutes back, Boecher +7 minutes, Butterfield +9, and Van Lierde +10.
As the run began, Kienle was clearly still looking to move up on Frodeno, holding a quick pace. The top 8 men had already started to shift position, as Boecherer dropped back looking less-than-great, and Butterfield catching Llanos 6km in. 18km in, it was Frodeno, Kienle +6:20, Boecherer +14:20, and Van Lierde + 16. With Frodeno, Kienle, Van Lierde and Raelert reportedly running similar paces, Raelert was closing in on Llanos and Butterfield, who appeared to be slowed down by stomach cramps. 24km in, Frodeno and Kienle were the clear 1-2, followed 6 minutes later by Boecherer, Van Lierde, Diederen, Raelert, and Llanos in order.
Frodeno’s comfortable lead gave him some room to protect his health in the tough conditions – walking the aid stations and choosing to run on the dirt over the roads. Kienle still followed in second as the end neared, while Boecherer, Van Lierde, and Diederen had finally settled into a consistent 3rd-5th place. Jan Frodeno crossed the finish line in a new IM Frankfurt course record time of 7:49:48. It was a German sweep of the podium, with Kienle and Boecherer holding on for 2nd and 3rd place respectively.
|Frederik Van Lierde||48:11||4:17:42||2:57:30||8:07:09||$5,000||2090|