The 2018 IRONMAN World Championships – 2018 Kona Contenders (Part 2)
Men’s Race Timeline
The Pro men’s race starts at 6:25am Hawaiian time.
Swim – race time: 50 minutes
Last year, Josh Amberger was able to break away from the rest of the field and he’s the strongest swimmer in this year’s field as well. Most of the pre-race favourites, including Javier Gomez and last year’s winner Patrick Lange will be within a few seconds of each other, probably one or two minutes back from Josh. Andrew Starykowicz might be in that first big group or just a minute behind. Three strong cyclists, Sebastian Kienle, Lionel Sanders and Cameron Wurf should be around five minutes behind – the time in which they exit the water will impact how the first half of the bike develops.
Early Bike – 1.5 hours
There is usually a big first group of riders that consolidates in the first hectic miles on the out-and-back through Kona. This year, Josh Amberger might stay off the front, and might be joined by some of the stronger bike riders such as Andrew Starykowicz or Braden Currie, who are willing to go hard and to take a risk early in the race.
Behind them, there will be a large group of 25+ athletes. Everyone will want to ride near the front, often leading to close drafting calls. Last year, Sebi, Cam and Lionel rode together for the first part of the bike, methodically reducing the gap to the front group.
Turnaround at Hawi – 3 hours
At the turnaround, the chasers have usually caught up to the big group. The pace picks up as soon as they hit the front of that group, and one athlete after another is forced to drop back. This year, there could still be a small lead group with Josh, Andrew or Braden off the front. The strong bike riders (Sebi, Lionel, and Cam) will work hard to get to the front or at least reduce the gap as much as possible, but more importantly they will be aiming to also drop as many of the strong runners
Back into T2 – 5 hours
By this time, the groups will have shattered almost completely. The slower runners (such as Andrew or Cam) will be looking for the best bike split, T2 lead and – conditions allowing – a new bike course record; look for the gaps between the main contenders. Sebi and Lionel can probably afford to give a few minutes to Andrew or Cam in the final section of the bike, but they’ll also want to put a minute or two into each other and to increase the gap to the other solid runners, such as James Cunnama, Patrick Lange or David McNamee. Patrick and David will have to work hard to keep the gap to the front at less than ten minutes in order for their strong runs to allow them to fight for a podium finish.
First part of the run (Ali’i out and back) – 6 hours
A few athletes who have either biked too hard or aren’t strong runners will fall back, but major changes are unlikely in this early run section that is relatively cool compared to the Queen K and the Energy Lab. The turnaround at the end of Ali’i Drive (around 5 miles/8 kilometres) is the first chance for the athletes to get splits as to the rest of the field, while everyone will project to the others that they are still feeling good. The stronger runners (such as Patrick) will make up some time, but probably not more than three minutes as most of the top contenders will also still be running well.
Finish (Energy Lab and back) – First Male to finish around 2:30pm local time
The short but steep climb on Palani Road is the start of the long and hot section on the Queen K toward the Energy Lab. This part will see major shifts between the faster and the not-quite-that-fast runners. Last year the race tightened considerably in this section, and at the turnaround in the Energy Lab the top four were within just a few minutes of each other. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see a similar situation this year, with the final order to be decided in the last 30-minutes of the race.
Note: Jan Frodeno is no longer racing due to injury.
Women’s Race Timeline
The Pro women’s race starts at 6:30am Hawaiian time.
Swim – race time: 0:50
Similar to last year, Lucy Charles is going to lead the race after the swim, maybe she’ll even be able to break the swim course record (48:43 by Jodi Jackson from 1999 – she was just five seconds off the record in 2017). Lucy and, possibly Lauren Brandon, should be able to build a gap of up to four minutes to top favourite Daniela Ryf. Heather Jackson is likely about 10 minutes back from Lucy, and almost all of the other contenders should be somewhere between Daniela and Heather.
Early Bike – 2 hours
A few groups are likely to form in the early parts of the bike behind Lucy. At Kona 2017 Sarah Crowley and Annabel Luxford were able to ride with Daniela, hardly putting time into Lucy. This year, one of the first indications of how well Daniela is racing will be if she’s riding away from Sarah and Annabel and if she’s able to start closing the gap to Lucy as soon as the bike starts.
Heather Jackson will be the other yardstick. Can she close the gap to Daniela, as she was able to do in the first half of the 2017 bike leg and, who is able to ride with her? It would be great for athletes such as Mirinda Carfrae, Kaisa Sali, or Susie Cheetham to stay close to Heather as she moves towards the front.
Turnaround Hawi – 3.5 hours
Based on the 2018 bike times, Daniela should be able to catch Lucy and any other fast swimmers by the time they hit the turnaround. Typically, Daniela will then ride away from the others and only extend her lead as the day progresses. The other strong bike riders will slowly move up in the field, but it’s unlikely that there are going to be bigger groups. However, there will be a few pace changes and surges, indicating who is having a good bike day. An interesting athlete to look for is Helle Frederiksen. The strong Ironman 70.3 athlete has raced only one Ironman so far and should be in the mix at least during the swim and bike.
Back into T2 – 6 hours
The last section of the bike is typically where the biggest time differences occur. This will be a challenging section especially for athletes looking to save energy for a fast marathon such as Kaisa Sali or Mirinda Carfrae. Behind Daniela and Lucy, there are likely going to be 10 to 15 athletes within 10 minutes – a situation that you won’t see in any female Ironman outside of Kona. Expect some strong efforts by athletes that feel good or need a gap after the bike.
First part of the run (Ali’i out and back) – 7 hours
Daniela and Lucy should be five to 10 minutes ahead of the rest of the field, but behind them, the other athletes will be in a close race. The athletes looking to run a sub-three-hour marathon such as Mirinda Carfrae or Kaisa Sali will start with a solid pace, raising the pressure on the slower runners and those that biked too hard. The sheer number of athletes is likely to make it hard to predict the podium even this late in the race.
Finish (Energy Lab and back) – First Female to finish around 3:30 pm local time
Once the athletes have climbed Palani Road at 16k, it should be apparent if anyone will be able to challenge Daniela for the win or Lucy for a podium spot. If things go according to plan for them, first and second place should be pretty clear by now – but even then a lot can happen in Kona. The race for what is likely the last podium spot can be judged where everyone is in relation to Heather Jackson and Mirinda Carfrae. Both have always run well in Kona, but maybe Sarah Crowley can run a strong marathon like last year, Kaisa Sali’s efforts to close gaps will be rewarded, or a Kona rookie such as Helle Fredriksen is going to be this year’s surprise on the podium.