(BIVN) – Great Britain’s Lucy Charles-Barclay was the first to cross the finish line on Aliʻi Drive on Saturday in Kona, winning the first-ever women’s-only VinFast IRONMAN World Championship. Charles-Barclay finally earned the crown after four previous second place finishes in previous years. She finished the course in 8 hours, 24 minutes, and 31 seconds.
Two German triathletes, Anne Haug and Laura Philipp, took second and third place, respectivly. In her first ever IRONMAN, Taylor Knibb of the United States finished fourth. Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf placed fifth.
From the Ironman media team:
Charles-Barclay’s storybook victory started in the water with her event best 49:36 swim. She held her own at the front of the race for the entirety of her 4:32:29 bike and ran a 2:57:37 marathon to put together an overall time of 8:24:31, setting a new women’s course best time at the IRONMAN World Championship.
The 2.4-mile, one-lap, non-wetsuit swim was held in Kailua Bay’s clear, turquoise water. A light chop on the water made for slightly more difficult conditions, but that didn’t stop the mermaid herself—Lucy Charles-Barclay—from breaking away within a few hundred meters of the start cannon sounding.
As expected, Charles-Barclay swam away from the field. Behind her, the women gradually split into packs: the smaller of which, approximately 30 seconds back, was led by Lauren Brandon (USA) and Haley Chura (USA), with the second, 45 seconds back, containing many of the sport’s super-bikers: Daniela Ryf (CHE), Taylor Knibb (USA), Skye Moench (USA), Anne Haug (DEU) and Kat Matthews (GBR).
The third chase pack contained pre-race notables last year’s VinFast IRONMAN World Champion, Chelsea Sodaro (USA) and Fenella Langridge (GBR).
Out of the water in 49:36, just over a minute shy of her own swim course best time of 48:14, Charles-Barclay blazed through transition and headed out onto the 112-mile (180km) FulGaz bike course. Chura, Brandon, Rebecca Clarke (NZL) and others exited the water approximately 1:30 minutes back, with Knibb at the tail of that group. Hannah Berry (AUS) lead a third group into transition 4 minutes back, including Langridge, Sodaro, Sarah True (USA), Matthews, Lisa Norden (SWE), Haug, Ryf, and others.
With Charles-Barclay in her sights, Knibb displayed both rookie enthusiasm and also unparalleled bike strength, pushing into third over the opening miles. She overtook Brandon for second, leaving a growing gap to the athletes behind her.
As she had done on the swim, Charles-Barclay did not falter over the entire 112-mile bike ride, maintaining her lead over Knibb and putting time into the rest of the field.
At the start of the ride, five-time IRONMAN World Champion Ryf was in eighth place. After Kawaihae, as the road begins to climb to Hawi, she put in a significant effort with a group containing Langridge, Matthews, and Jocelyn McCauley (USA), eventually overtaking Brandon, Chura, and Clarke to move into third. “This is the Daniela we’re used to seeing,” commentator Matt Lieto said on course.
Frustrated by a swim that left her further back than she’d hoped, Laura Phillipp (DEU) was climbing through the ranks as well.
Other players on the bike included Els Visser (NLD), who made a pass of more than ten athletes to move from 20th place into seventh along the climb to Hawi. Norden, Philipp, and McCauley eventually overtook Ryf. Super runner and 2019 IRONMAN World Champion Haug rode herself into seventh by the end of the bike course, and American Skye Moench also rode well, moving into eighth.
Charles-Barclay entered T2 with a 3:47 lead on Knibb, and over 10 minutes on McCauley, in third. Philipp entered transition in fourth, also over 10 minutes back, but in a much better position than last year when she had to serve a 5-minute penalty on the bike. After her, it was Norden, Ryf, and Haug, who would be putting the pressure on from behind.
Over the first miles of the marathon, the question became who could uber-runner Haug could catch, and how soon. But at the helm of the race, Charles-Barclay did not relent, despite a reported Achilles issue.
Haug blazed past Knibb around mile 18, moving into second place. Philipp caught the American IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion late in the marathon, running into third place.
A runner-up in Kona four times, the Brit had held Knibb off confidently through the oppressive heat of the legendary course, and up the Palani Hill. The hard-charging Germans were also no match for her as she made the final turn down Ali’i Drive, running to a much-anticipated victory with a marathon over five minutes faster than she ran last year.
Having executed a near-perfect swim, bike and run, Charles-Barclay soared to the finish line in 8:24:31, breaking Daniela Ryf’s 2018 course best time of 8:26:18. After many attempts, injuries, and hard work along the way, she finally was able to do what she had come to Hawai`i so many times to do.
“It’s really hard to put it into words,” Charles-Barclay said at the finish line. “I’ve been wanting this so badly since I started my career. It’s taken me five attempts and I’ve finally done it. I don’t think it’s sunk in whatsoever, but I’m just over the moon.”
“All of the pro women were cheering me on, and to have their support even when we’re all out there suffering just shows how amazing this sport is.”
Haug ran the marathon in 2:48:23, breaking Mirinda Carfrae’s 2:50:26 longstanding run course best from 2014. “Because we have so many high-class athletes right now, we have to push each other,” she said at the finish line. “You have to go faster to be on the podium. Everyone has to step up to keep up, and I think that’s really good for the sport.”
Laura Philipp bested her fourth-place performance last year, coming in third: “I was a bit disappointed with my swim … I knew I really had to do some work on the bike and I rode a lot harder than I was planning to. While I was riding, I was thinking that the run could turn out slower than expected. But I stayed focused the whole time, and just tried to do my thing. When I saw Taylor was also struggling out of the Energy Lab, I tried to invest everything I could.”
Knibb performed extremely well in her Kona and full-distance IRONMAN debut, holding on for fourth, and the ever-impressive five-time IRONMAN World Champion, Ryf bid adieu to this race course with class and a strong fifth place finish.
Showcasing women’s racing in historic fashion today, these professionals swam, biked, and ran with strength, style, and class, showing the world yet again that Anything is Possible and women deserve an equal world stage.