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Race Preview: Ironman South Africa



In just two weeks, a huge field of men and women will head to the picturesque yet gruelling Ironman Africa Championship to try and either cross the line, win, or qualify for one of 75 Kona slots up for grabs. This year Daniela Ryf is in the mix and we think she may be able to break the course record that has stood since 2011.

Here’s a break down of the course, and some handy info to help you prepare for the race.

Ironman South Africa Swim

Nelson Mandela Bay is truly picturesque, but the African waters are certainly wild. Tim van Berkel, who placed second last year said:

…conditions for the swim could only be described as tough. The water was really choppy and one of the first things that happened when I got into the swim was I was stung by a jellyfish.

On the plus side, if conditions are tough, everyone suffers so you won’t be the only one battling the waves. Tim Berkel described last years swim:
“The good thing about bad conditions is everyone suffers. Even some of the well known strong swimmers, lost minutes on the swim.”
The swim course is also very straight forward, with a single lap 3.8km swim. If you can, try to prepare with a few open ocean swims before the race, so the waves don’t feel too challenging for you. The water temperature fluctuates year to year, but wet suits will be compulsory if the ocean is below 16 degrees celsius, so have your ready in case.

Ironman South Africa Bike

Strava distance: 179.7km
KOM: Tim Van Berkel, 4:32.15
QOM: Mary Sage, 4:55.48

Two laps of a 90km loop, the bike course starts with athlete taking a sharp left turn after the first transition. A steep climb in the first 10km will help separate the athletes from one another. The first half of the first lap is mostly uphill, and the course is notoriously tough. Matt Trautam, who placed fourth last year said: “You head out with the wind and it’s mostly uphill on the way out inland and then on the way back you’re coming back along the coast into the wind and you’re a lot more exposed, so we never really got much rest. It was work all the way round the course.” Temperatures fluctuate drastically, and last year a heat wave made the ride incredibly tough.

Ben Collins said

The pavement was hot and the air stagnant and as the day wore on the African sun was unrelenting against my Chicago-white skin.

So, check the weather forecast and make sure to manage your hydration. Those who have just raced in Ironman NZ, you’ll be used to the bumpy/poor road conditions. This course is very similar, which can take it out of your legs.

Ironman South Africa Run

The course is made up of 4 x 10.55 km laps. The repetition of laps ensures every athlete has the chance to see where their ranking in relation to the field. At each turn around, you can see exactly how far ahead the rest of the field is. Ironman describes the run as a “very fast and fairly flat route,” with the elevation fluctuations of around 140 metres.
Due to the heat wave conditions last year, many athletes didn’t attain the results they wanted, or ended with a DNF. Ben Collins said:

I maintain that an Ironman hurts less than a short course event, but the duration and the need to push through mental doubt and physical fatigue is a challenge unlike the pain that I’ve trained so hard to tolerate at the shorter distances.

Strava distance: 41.9km
KOM: Ben Hoffman, 2:43.56
QOM: Claudia Harcus, 3:28.06

Who’s tipped to win

Two favourites are tipped almost equally to win this year: Belgium’s Frederik Van Lierde and American Ben Hoffman. Hoffman, who won last year, had a very strong 2016 and is in fighting form as the 2017 season progresses. German Nils Frommold is in with a strong chance after his 2016 season was cut short by a stress fracture; so he’s eager to regain his competitive edge.

  • Frederik Van Lierde: 33% (2-1)
  • Ben Hoffman: 32% (2-1)
  • Nils Frommhold: 21% (4-1)
  • Boris Stein: 9% (10-1)

Remember how Daniela Ryf set the new course record for Kona last year, and absolutely smashed through the women’s field? Well she’s racing at the Ironman African Championship in South Africa and is set to win, by a lot. Jodie Cunnama is in with a shot too, and as a previous winner in 2015, she knows the course and conditions well. Plus Cunnama is a fierce swimmer, so we’re expecting her to be first out of the water, which could be a key determinant in the rest of the race. Siri Lindley, who also coaches Australian Ironman pro Mirinda Carfrae, has been working with Finnish athlete Kaisa Lehtonen (also Ironman SA’s 2016 winner) and we think this, plus her knowledge of the course from last year, may put her in the running for second or third. Laura Siddall and Mareen Hufe have pulled out of the race, but Susie Cheetham of Great Britain and Germans Astrid Stienen and Julia Gajer may also finish in the top five.

  • Daniela Ryf: 69% (1-1)
  • Kaisa Lehtonen: 15% (6-1)
  • Jodie Cunnama: 7% (14-1)

Who won last year- Men?

Ben Hoffman won last year in 08:12:37 thanks to a flawlessly consistent race. He managed to be in the lead pack of the bike, and run consistently without surging for the marathon. Australian Tim van Berkel placed second last year in 8:14:51 with an impressive race that showcased his biking and running skills.
Estonian Marko Albert who raced impressively at Ironman New Zealand 2017 just a few weeks ago placed third last year at Ironman South Africa, finishing in 8:18:52.

Who won last year- Women?

Finnish Kaisa Lehtonen won last year’s race in 9:06:50, three minutes ahead of Susie Cheetham, who ran to the finish with a time of 9:09:49. Two minutes behind her was friend and constant rival Great Britain’s Lucy Gossage who finished with 9:11:43.

Who holds the records?

No one has broken the overall course records set in 2011 by both Raynard Tissink in the men’s race, and Chrissie Wellington in the women’s race. Despite course records being blown out of the water at most other Ironman races, South Africa remains the one to break. We’re confident Daniela Ryf can beat Wellington’s ferocious record of 8:33:56. We’re also betting Jodie Cunnama can beat Lucie Reed’s swim record from 2009; a lightning time of 00:47:40.

Event Info

Ironman South Africa Weather

Nelson Mandela Bay is known as one of the most breathtaking spots on South Africa’s rugged coast, and this event has been ranked by athletes as one of their favourite among Ironman events. That said, both the ocean and outdoor temperatures vary dramatically year to year, so it’s imperative you check what wet suit you need on the day.

You’ll also want to double check the weather as last year’s heat wave took many athletes by surprise and they struggled because of it.

Kona Qualification

Standard Bank IRONMAN African Championship 2017 offers 75 qualifying slots for the 2017 IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, HI.

– Data sourced with permission from

A cyclist and tech geek at heart with a passion for new shiny things and a huge appetite for triathlon. I spend most of my time between managing two of Australia's best triathletes and a traditional corporate life.


News & Racing

Major League Triathlon Adds 3rd International Team



Major League Triathlon, the first and only professional triathlon league in North America, has announced a 9th team (3rd International franchise) for the 2018 season. For the first time in the league’s history, a National team from Mexico will participate in MLT.

The new franchise, dubbed, Guardianes de Guadalajara (Guadalajara Guardians), will consist of many of the top Mexican National Team athletes. The team will include:

Pro Men

  • Crisanto Grajales
  • Irving Perez
  • Abraham Rodriguez
  • Aram Peñaflor
  • Leonardo Saucedo

Pro Women

  • Cecilia Perez
  • Vanesa de La Torre
  • Adriana Carreño
  • Andrea Gutierrez
  • Lizeth Rueda

“We are thrilled to welcome this team to Major League Triathlon.” Said Daniel Cassidy, CEO of Major League Triathlon. “Triathlon Mexico and their athletes have established themselves as one of the world’s top federations leading up to Tokyo 2020. We are extremely excited to continue to increase the level of competition and give our athletes the opportunity to race Mixed Team Relay at the highest level possible. “

Major League Triathlon will host nine professional teams and will host many of the World’s best elite triathletes including international teams from Australia, Canada, and Mexico. MLT will host four events, making stops in: Atlantic City, Vail Valley, Tempe and Charlotte. The third year league specializes in the Mixed Team Relay format of racing, which will make its debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. At every event, each athlete will swim 300 meters, bike four miles and run one mile, one at a time, before tagging their next teammate. The first team to have all four athletes cross the finish line will win.

Guardianes de Guadalajara

Guardianes de Guadalajara is the only Mexican/Latin-American Team competing in Major League Triathlon. They represent the City of Guadalajara. The Guardianes de Guadalajara will feature experienced triathletes like Olympians: Crisanto Grajales (London 2012 and Rio 2016), Irving Pérez (Río 2016), Cecilia Pérez (Río 2016) and the future of the extremely strong Mexican National Team including: Junior and U23 triathletes like Vanesa de la Torre, Abraham Rodriguez and Aram Peñaflor.

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Rudy Project Launches Project Podium for Age Group Athletes



Rudy Project North America, the exclusive distributor of Italian-made endurance sports gear, and the most worn helmet at Kona 7 times in a row is launching Project Podium, an initiative that rewards North America’s fastest age group triathletes with award-winning performance Rudy Project eyewear and helmets. All age group racers that win their age group in any sanctioned long distance triathlon in the United States and Canada are eligible to receive a free, top-of-the-line Rudy Project Boost 01 road aero helmet and a pair of Tralyx sunglasses. Winners will also be featured on Rudy Project’s website and lauded on social media as the top long-distance age group triathletes on the continent.

“A full-distance, 140 miles plus race is nothing to sneeze at, and attempting one is a feat in of itself,” said Paul Craig, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of Rudy Project North America. “To win your age group, to come out on top, is something exceptional, and we want to reward the best, with the best.”

The program is open to all age group triathletes that compete in a sanctioned long distance triathlon race, in Canada or the United States, that is included in Project Podium’s list of eligible races. Athletes must be legal residents of either Canada or the United States in order to be eligible to win. The prize pack being offered is worth up to $625 USD, and triathletes that win their age group can submit their results online for verification at in order to redeem. Athletes will be able to choose from the entire Boost 01 road aero colour line up, which includes Stealth Black and eye-popping Pink Fluo. Rudy Project’s new road aero helmet is quickly becoming an athlete favourite, following wind tunnel testing by ProCycling Magazine that demonstrated the Boost 01 was faster than any competitor helmet tested. To complement their helmet, athletes can also select a frame from the entire award-winning Tralyx family, including the regular Tralyx, Tralyx XL for additional coverage, or the new Tralyx SLIM, designed specifically for athletes with narrower faces. That, coupled with customer-forward warranties like Rudy Project’s 6 Year Crash Replacement Guarantee and Lifetime Replacement Lens Guarantee, make this an unbeatable prize package for the age grouper at the top of their game.

“Rudy Project is simply the best,” said Paul Craig. “We’re choosing to celebrate athletes who power the sport – the age group athlete and rewarding those that get to the top, the pinnacle of success. It may seem too good to be true, but we’re serious. If you win your age group in one of our listed races, we want to give you a helmet and sunglasses. If that extra push is all it takes to motivate someone to train a little harder, run a little faster down the chute toward the finish line, then we’ve done our job.”

Winning athletes can submit their information and race results for verification online. Athletes that won their age group in any 2018 full distance triathlon prior to the announcement of the program are also eligible to redeem retroactively. Full terms and conditions of the initiative can be found online, as well as a full list of eligible races. The program will run until December 2018.

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Taiwan added to XTERRA World Tour on 29-30 September at Kenting National Park



XTERRA World Tour today announced the inaugural XTERRA Taiwan off-road triathlon and accompanying sports festival to be held September 29-30, 2018 at Kenting National Park.

Events include an XTERRA championship distance event, an “Xticer” beginner distance off-road triathlon, 5, 10 and 21-kilometre trail runs.

“We are thrilled to bring XTERRA to the people of Taiwan and introduce the sport and lifestyle to athletes of all ages and skill levels,” said Brian Wei, Vice President of Marketing. “We also look forward to having XTERRA Tribe members from around the world join us in Taiwan to discover a truly remarkable location in Kenting and the fabulous culture and community that is found here.”

Kenting is on the southern tip of Taiwan and famous for its warm, turquoise water and white-sand beaches that give way to magnificent mountains and natural reserves.

The main event starts with a one-mile swim at Little Bay beach with a short run in between two-laps. The swim-to-bike transition is at the fascinating Kenting Youth Activity Center, which is comprised of 17 different styles of old-world buildings and is a tourist destination all by itself. Then, the 26-kilometer mountain bike course takes competitors from coastal terrain to rocky riverbeds to uncharted territory high atop MenMaLou mountain. And the final test of endurance is a 10-kilometer trail run through the tranquil and “enchanted forest” of Chihniuling, considered one of the eight wonders of Hengchun.

The XTERRA Taiwan Championship event offers an elite prize purse of $15,000 USD split among the top seven men and women and also 49 qualifying spots for amateurs vying to compete at the 2019 XTERRA World Championship race in Maui.

The Xticer tri is a perfect introductory race with a manageable 200m swim, 10km mountain bike and 2km trail run. Relay teams of two-or-three people are encouraged to race in the full distance event.

In addition to the off-road triathlons there is a race for everyone in the family during the 5km, 10km and 21km trail running races. And for the fast runners, a $20,000 NTD (about $700 USD) will be awarded to the top three men and women in the half-marathon distance race.

XTERRA has had a presence in the Asia-Pacific region since 2000 and hosts events in Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, Tahiti, and New Caledonia, however, this is its first foray into the burgeoning endurance sports market of Taiwan,” said Janet Clark, President of XTERRA World Tour.

Nico Lebrun, the XTERRA European director, helped design the course. He also returned to Taiwan to host local coaching clinics to help leaders in the area teach the various disciplines of XTERRA as well as champion the XTERRA motto to “Live More” through a healthy, active, outdoor lifestyle.

“After two trips to Kenting I can tell you it’s a beautiful place, and the perfect location for XTERRA,” said Lebrun, who is also part of the organizing committee producing the event. “If you like hot weather, warm water, fresh local food, and strong culture, you will love it here.”

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Drama and excitement at Challenge Denmark



Andreas Dreitz and Pernille Thalund each took home a convincing victory in Saturday’s Challenge Herning. After a non-wetsuit swim the athletes had to conquer an unusually hot summer day, which delivered as well drama as excitement.

For a while favourite, Camilla Pedersen (DK) looked like a sure winner. The former elite swimmer came first out of the water after only 25:56 minutes, with two minutes down to fellow dane Pernille Thalund. But almost halfway through the bike course, Thalund took the lead and kept it all the way to the finish line. Laura Siddall (GB) fought her way up from being 9th to second place, well three minutes after Thalund. 18 minutes later Frankie Sanjana (GB) crossed the finish line.

Meanwhile, Camilla Pedersen fought a brave but brutal battle with her stomach which refused to hold anything down in the heat. It goes without saying that it was an unfair match, and halfway through the course, she chose to pull herself out of the race.

Dreitz does it again

Among the men, Swedish favorite Jesper Svensson was first out off the water with Daniel Bækkegaard right behind him. But racing across the Danish heath, the ranks were turned upside down. Ultimately, the former Challenge Denmark winner Andi Dreitz took the lead, after which Danes Matthias Lyngsø Petersen and Kristian Hindkjær succeeded in overtaking Svensson.

Last year’s winner, Anders “Hightower” Christensen finished fifth.

The weather as X factor

One should never complain about the fabulous, Danish summer weather. But in the triathlon context, the heat was grueling.For the pros, the water temperature of 23.1 degrees meant a non wetsuit swim, which was a draw back for the heavier athletes.The vast majority of the age groupers athletes chose to swim in their wetsuits.

The almost non-existent wind made cycling really fast. But as the athletes went out running, the combination of heat, sun and no wind meant an excruciatingly hard run through Herning’s otherwise festive streets.

“The weather is always the x-factor in triathlon. It’s something you can not predict or change – and that can make a huge difference in either direction. But it’s the same for everyone, and that’s something that makes it exciting”, says race director Claus Vesterby.

All about the experience

It is a very proud and happy race director, Claus Vesterby, who can close and shut Challenge Herning this evening: “We had a phenomenal pro field with some amazing athletes and personalities. It’s amazing to notice how the Challenge Family spirit influenced the day among both pro and age group athletes. All the amateur athletes at all levels who struggled to exceed their own expectations and have a party with their sport, never seize to amaze me. They are just as important to us as the professionals, and it’s fascinating to see the breadth of our sport. I am proud of that,” says Claus Vesterby:

“Everyone is here to do their best, but first and foremost they come to get a great experience. And there’s no doubt they’ve got that today – and so have I.It’s a pleasure to feel how the city of Herning has taken the Challenge in and really backs us up and creates a party around the athletes. That means so unbelievably much. So we are already looking forward to making an even more amazing event next year.”



  1. Andreas Dreiz, D, 3:47:12
  2. Matthias Lyngsø Petersen, DK, 3:51:54
  3. Kristian Hindkjær, DK, 3:57:31


  1. Pernille Thalund, DK, 4:20:55
  2. Laura Siddall, GB 4:24:00 PM
  3. Frankie Sanjana, GB, 4:42:00 PM

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Mark Allen is Final Surge’s New Partner, Spokesperson, and Advisor for Triathlon



Mark Allen, 6-time IRONMAN® Triathlon World Champion and “The Greatest Endurance Athlete of All Time” according to ESPN, has teamed up with FinalSurge, the Best Online Training Log according to Triathlete magazine’s June 2018 Issue, to produce a special edition “Mark Allen Coaching” branded training program for triathlon. Allen will also serve as a spokesperson and advisor for Final Surge triathlon projects.

“His accomplishments as an endurance athlete are legendary, but we were even more blown away with his depth of knowledge, experience, and innovations in coaching,” said Bob Butler, IRONMAN Certified Coach and COO of Final Surge. “Having Mark Allen on the team represents an extraordinary opportunity for us to use his unparalleled athletic experience and coaching insights to build on our recent honor as “Best Online Training Log.”

“When the opportunity arose to work with Final Surge I recognized that the technology created by their team had finally reached a level of sophistication and ease of use that would be a perfect match for my coaching theories,” said Allen. “Final Surge has developed the best mobile applications for online coaches in all endurance sports, and I am proud to be a part of their team as they continue to innovate and grow.”

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Rio Olympian Ryan Bailie moves to 6th on the WTS World Rankings



It was a case of survival of the fittest in yesterday’s energy-sapping World Triathlon Series Leeds round with Australia’s Rio Olympian, “Mr Consistent” Ryan Bailie the best of the Aussies, moving up the ITU WTS World Rankings to sixth after his 10th place finish.

His Olympic teammate Aaron Royle, after his sterling performance to put Australia in the medal hunt in Thursday’s WTS World Triathlon Mixed Relay, faded on the 10km run to finish 13th.

The tough Olympic distance Leeds course, with its immediate hill climb off the 1500m swim and then the 12.5km ride into the city before the tight technical street laps over 27.5km, proved unforgiving for some.

There were some casualties on the bike and then more on the run – including the likes of Leeds local hero and two-time Olympic medallist Jonny Brownlee.

Commonwealth Games silver medallist Jake Birtwhistle, third on the rankings going into Leeds, has dropped to seventh after his 22nd placing in a race which also saw his Commonwealth Games teammate Luke Willian 32nd and Marcel Walkington 36th.

“But there were some positives up until that point and in recent times they have been few and far between so I’ll take it. Bit of ‘R&R’ for a few days and then back into it.”

Royle has jumped four places on the WTS rankings to 17th to 13 to give Australia three in the top 15 after the first five events of a season that will culminate in the 2018 Grand Finale on the Gold Coast (September 12-16).

The next stop will be Hamburg on July 14 and 15; Edmonton (July 27-29) and Montreal (August 25-26) before the Gold Coast final stop.

Defending champion Mario Mola sits on top of the rankings ladder after his second-place finish behind South African Richard Murray yesterday which saw Frenchman Vincent Luis third.

But things didn’t go all Mola’s way as Murray scooted away to South Africa’s first-ever Olympic distance WTS gold.

“I had a beginner’s mistake today,” said Mario Mola. “I jumped on my bike and when I hit the pedal it hit the floor so I had to get down and fix it. Luckily I had a very good swim so I was able to get in the second pack. From then, I just kept working and today the effort paid off. Congratulations to Richard, he was really strong today. I really liked the course, it’s tough but I liked it.”

The Australian women had a frustrating day in the office with Ashleigh Gentle, Natalie Van Coevorden, Charlotte McShane and Gillian Backhouse all falling by the wayside recording DNFs through the 40km bike leg.

Gentle wrote on Twitter: “Out of Leeds after my pre-race swim yesterday. Things went south.

“Stomach bug or food poisoning flattened me. I lined up to give it a go but unfortunately, I felt incredibly weak and couldn’t hardly push any power.”

The race eventually went to local Vicky Holland in a GBR quinella with youngster Georgia Taylor-Brown taking silver and Katie Zaferes (USA) third.

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