The 10th anniversary of IRONMAN South Africa threw up some exciting contests as Nils Frommhold (GER) took on the pre-race favourites and triumphed while the ladies’ race mirrored that of 2013 with Jodie Swallow (GBR) dominating proceedings only to be trounced at the death with Simone Braendli taking the spoils.
Frommhold holds the competition at bay
The day started out with ideal weather conditions. The sea was flat with only a light north-westerly wind as the athletes began their swim.
German triathlete Nils Frommhold left the water first after 00:48:16 and was closely followed by Faris Al-Sultan (GER) and Dutch pair Edo van der Meer and Bas Diederen.
Exiting the water with the lead group, Al-Sultan managed to get an early lead on the trailed closely by Frommhold and Diederen. The early leaders kept a distance of 60 metres between the three of them. When the leading group passed the 30km mark, a small chase pack was starting to form behind them. It was from this chase pack that Georg Potrebitsch (GER) moved up the positions to steal the lead from Al-Sultan who had been looking comfortable.
Shortly before the 60km, Potrebitsch started to lose ground until eventually stopping for medical attention after a third of the bike leg. With Potrebitsch slowing, Frommhold and Al-Sultan made their move to overtake their compatriot. Frommhold was now out in front with Al-Sultan in second. At this point South African PRO debutant, Kyle Buckingham and Diederen moved ahead to join the early leaders.
Once Frommhold gained the lead, he looked determined to hold onto it. The leading pack, which consisted of Frommhold, Buckingham, Diederen and Al-Sultan respectively, had a space of 50 metres between each of them. After 135km, Frommhold put down the hammer in an attempt to widen the gap between himself and the chasers. Further back, Bertrand Billard (FRA), Matt Trautman (RSA), Potrebitsch and defending champion, Ronnie Schildknecht (SUI) stuck behind the lead group.
Frommhold’s tactic to push for a lead looked a good one as he entered transition over five minutes ahead of Buckingham. Diederen and Al-Sultan came into T2 a minute after Buckingham, with 4 seconds separating them. It remained to be seen whether Frommhold would be able to hold on or would Buckingham, Al-Sultan or Diederen have the legs to run him down.
Though Frommhold was securely in first position, Buckingham and Al-Sultan pushed hard to get to the top and there was a constant battle for second position between the pair. While Frommhold impressed many by managing to hold on to his lead, a real tussle developed between Al-Sultan and Buckingham heading into the last 10km. Buckingham slowed and eventually started walking. This was when Al-Sultan passed and moved into second. No one expected Buckingham to get a second wind but with less than 5km to the finish, the South African managed to regain second spot.
Frommhold maintained his lead and crossed the finish line in 08:26:06 to become the 2014 IRONMAN South Africa champion. To the delight of the local crowd, Kyle Buckingham managed to claim second place in his debut IRONMAN as a professional in his home town finishing in a time of 08:32:38. Buckingham proved that he is an athlete to be taken seriously on the PRO circuit. Al-Sultan came in shortly after with a time of 08:33:18 – his first podium in South Africa in three attempts.
Braendli shines in Nelson Mandela Bay
As expected, it was Jodie Swallow who dominated the swim exiting first for the ladies with a blistering pace that placed her second overall. Lucie Reed (CZE) and Simone Braendli were second and third out of the water to begin the chase. Rounding up the top five were Denmark’s Michelle Vesterby and Katja Konschak (GER) four minutes later.
Swallow took off on her bike, making light work of the bike in the early morning’s favourable conditions. Reed trailed by only two minutes with Braendli close by.
Up until 42km the leading pack remained unchanged. Swallow had a substantial lead over Reed, Braendli, Vesterby and Lucy Gossage (GBR) respectively. At the halfway mark, Reed seemed to be losing strength and relinquished her second position to Vesterby. With Swallow in such dominant form, falling behind this early would make it difficult for the Czech to get close again. Swallow maintained her lead while Reed eventually slipped from the top 10, leaving Vesterby, Braendli and Vesterby vying for second, third and fourth position on the bike.
Entering T2 with a lead of over 8 minutes, Swallow was looking to extend the lead on the run course but Lucy Gossage and Simone Braendli were the danger contenders as they started running down the leading lady. Into the second loop of the run Swallow was desperately holding on to the lead by two minutes as the flying Swiss, Simone Braendli overtook Gossage for second place. Not long after, at the 37km mark, Braendli finally claimed the lead over a tiring Swallow.
Braendli kept the lead all the way to the finish with a smooth and comfortable run to cross in 09:31:53, while Swallow held off Gossage for her second consecutive second place finish at IRONMAN South Africa in a time of 09:33:58.
Men’s Provisional Top 5
1. Nils Frommhold (GER) – 08:26:06
2. Kyle Buckingham (RSA) – 08:32:38
3. Faris Al-Sultan (GER) – 08:33:18
4. Bas Diederen (NED) – 08:37:24
5. Matt Trautman (RSA) – 08:48:24
Ladies’ Provisional Top 5
1. Simone Braendli (SUI) – 09:31:53
2. Lucy Gossage (GBR) – 09:33:06
3. Jodie Swallow (GBR) – 09:33:58
4. Jessie Donavan (USA) – 09:49:43
5. Astrid Ganzow (GER) – 10:00:54