Jan Frodeno (DEU), the 2015 Ironman 70.3 World Champion, reclaimed the crown from defending champion Javier Gómez (ESP) and dominated a deep field of world-class talent on the final day of the 2018 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa. Frodeno, who spent his adolescent years in South Africa, secured the victory in a time of 3:36:30 after doing the 1.2-mile swim in 21:53, the 56-mile bike ride in 2:04:28, and the 13.1-miles in a blistering 1:06:33. Approximately 2,900 men were registered to compete in Nelson Mandela Bay as the Isuzu Ironman 70.3 World Championship came to the African continent for the first time.
The wet weather conditions the elite men faced were in stark contrast to the sunny and warm temperatures the women experienced on Saturday, with overcast skies giving way to rain as the swim kicked off at King’s Beach on Sunday morning. After 200 meters, a pack of eight emerged, led by Ben Kanute Geneva, Ill. (USA), including Frodeno, Sam Appleton (AUS), Alistair Brownlee (GBR) and Gómez. Kanute and Frodeno swam shoulder to shoulder for much of the discipline, but it was Kanute who was first out of the Indian Ocean in 21:52, closely followed by Frodeno, Gómez, Brownlee and Appleton.
Onto the early part of the bike, Kanute, Brownlee and Frodeno all rotated turns in the lead, with Gómez and Appleton hanging close behind. Brownlee then took the initiative and pushed his way to the front of the pack, only for Kanute and Frodeno to match the pace as the trio shuffled order through much of the ride. Heading back towards town, the front group order shifted yet again, with Appleton surging to the front for the first time with about 10K to go. Gómez was content to maintain his fifth-place position and as the group approached the second transition, the gap to the next group was nearly four minutes.
Appleton was the first man into transition, but Frodeno was first onto the run course. A hard-charging Brownlee closed the gap to the front within minutes of the run, overtaking Frodeno, but his lead was short lived. Gómez, who also came flying out of transition, ran up to leader Frodeno’s shoulder and settled into second position. By 10K, Frodeno and Gómez had opened up a 30-second gap over Brownlee, with Kanute back in fourth and Appleton trailing the leaders in fifth position. Frodeno made his move with just a few miles to go, and shortly after, Gomez began to slow, grabbing at a side stitch. This was the motivation Brownlee needed, and set about taking second position for himself. However, the two-time Olympic champion simply couldn’t catch Frodeno, who recorded a 1:06:33 half marathon on his way to victory (3:36:30). Brownlee finished about a minute later in 3:37:41, and Gomez held on for third in 3:38:26. Kanute finished in fourth, holding off a surging charge from Pieter Heemeryk (BEL) who finished fifth.
“I’m very, very happy, what a special day,” said Jan Frodeno post-race.
“Coming back home, essentially growing up in South Africa. To come here is special, and to perform in front of a home crowd is just epic. To be world champion is surreal. Somehow today I just had my running legs. I didn’t start celebrating until the last turn—I was just running for my life.”
The impressive professional field, along with the age-group athletes tackled a 1.2-mile (1.9 km) swim that started at King’s Beach and proceeded in an open-water swim in the Indian Ocean, followed by a one-loop, 56-mile (90 km) bike course that took athletes around the Nelson Mandela Bay area. The Ironman 70.3 World Championship event was capped off with a two-lap, 13.1-mile (21 km) run that saw athletes finishing at Hobie Beach. In order to qualify for the 2018 Ironman 70.3 World Championship, more than 185,000 age-group athletes competed to earn slots at over 100 Ironman 70.3 events held worldwide.