RELATED: Gallery: The 2012 Ironman World Championships
Pete Jacobs Plays It To Perfection
Rumour had it that the weather was going to be relatively pleasant on race day. The three foot swell that rolled through the swim course told a different story. As is becoming customary at the World Championships Andy Potts made relatively short work of the swim emerging at the front of the field in 50:32 with Marko Albert (50:47) close behind. Behind them, the Kona Train was already starting to form. A huge pack of swimmers exited the water together, including Jacobs (51:28), Alexander (51:35) and Frederik Van Lierde (51:36). There were, however, a few notable names absent from this group. Marino Vanhoenacker looked out of sorts as he exited in 52:11, McCormack was off the pace at 52:34, while Andreas Raelert struggled to a 55:17 (he later admitted that he could not find his rhythm in the water).
The race then assumed a familiar pattern as the Train closed down Potts and soon a huge group of men were spaced out pretty-much perfectly along the Queen K. Surprisingly, though, Jacobs was taking turns with Luke McKenzie to pull that train. In what has traditionally been his weakest discipline on the Big Island, Jacobs gritted his teeth and kept the tempo high. Behind him Vanhoenacker had caught up with the back of the group, Sebastian Kienle was doing his ‘thing’ and closing in effortlessly, while Andreas Raelert initially looked like he was bridging the gap before dropping back slightly.
One man who did drop back – and eventually out – was Chris McCormack, who struggled to stay with the pace on a tough day. Macca was just one of a few big names having a bad day on the Big Island. Eneko Llanos punctured on the way to the Queen K effectively ending his race chances, and Michael Raelert bonked in the latter stages of the bike and was seen weaving across the road.
At the business end of the field, though, the bikers were coming to the fore. Jacobs would have known that he couldn’t stay with either Vanhoenacker or Kienle for the entire bike, and the pair eventually escaped at the Hawi turn. As the leaders’ gap grew it seemed like the race was playing into their hands. How quickly everything changed. Kienle flatted around the Mile 60 mark, and without a replacement was forced to watch for five minutes until he could get going again. It left Vanhoenacker up front on his own, and negated the German’s bike advantage (he rejoined behind Alexander five minutes down on the Belgian).
It was a pivotal moment in the race. As Kienle dropped back, so the Train splintered, leaving groups of men scattered around the Queen K as the winds started to hit 35mph. Jacobs, though, was still pushing. In fact, not only was he pushing but he was part of the lead chase group that included Dirk Bockel and Frederik Van Lierde. It was an amazing statement from the Aussie… as long as he wasn’t going too hard. The pace proved to be too high for reigning World Champion Craig Alexander, who soon dropped off the back of that pack and would eventually start the run 17 minutes down on Vanhoenacker – nine down on Jacobs and Van Lierde.
Vanhoenacker pushed all the way into T2, coming off the bike in 4:25:49. It was a big lead, but was it enough? Jacobs sprinted off his bike in 4:35:15, joined in T2 by Dirk Bockel (4:34:17) and Frederik Van Lierde (4:35:25). Behind them Andreas Raelert had finally found his race legs and had managed to limit his losses with a 4:36:34 bike.
The chase was on.
Jacobs was immediately out and closing in on Vanhoenacker. The Belgian looked good in the early miles but the tell-tale signs were there. Frantically grabbing anything going at the feed stations he looked like a man desperately trying to cool his core and keep the calories coming. Jacobs, meanwhile, was measured. The run was fluid, the form flawless and the time to Vanhoenacker came down with every mile. An 8:36 deficit was down to 5:20 by Mile 10 as the Belgian visibly started to tire. As the top of the Energy Lab is was Game Over for Vanhoenacker, who first walked and was then cruelly forced to sit out the rest of the race as the tanks ran dry.
Jacobs, though, was flying (he averaged 6:15min/mile for the run and hit 4:51min/mile at one point). The lead was his, he had a nice gap, and he was looking strong. Andreas Raelert ran magnificently to pass both Kienle and Faris Al-Sultan in the Energy Lab for second, but was soon embroiled in a fight with Van Lierde. The pair quite literally traded elbows in the last few miles as they duked it out for second spot, Raelert collapsing over the line after a last kilometre dash that saw him mouth agape as he milked his body for every ounce of energy. It was just one of many impressive performances in the Kona heat.
But the day belonged to Jacobs. The magnitude of his achievement hit the Aussie 3km from the finish line and he could barely contain his excitement. He ran the closing stages of the race with his hands in the air, shouting encouragement to fellow athletes and high fiving the spectators who had come out to meet him. He had achieved his goals – his dreams, even – and he had done it in style. A 2:48:05 marathon sealed the deal in 8:18:37.
“I’m in love!” Jacobs cooed as he crossed the line. “In love with the sport, my friends and family – they’ve done so much for me. I was just saying the words ‘love’ to myself towards the end. I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to do what I do and have a good day out there.
“For a while there I thought he [Marino Vanhoenacker] had it, up until about 25km on the run – I thought he was the better athlete on the day – but he came back to me very quickly. I was already writing my losers speech!”
Australians have now won the last six men’s races at the Ironman World Championships. What’s more, you wouldn’t bet against Jacobs coming back and doing that again on yesterday’s showing.
Leanda Cave Digs Deep
As commentators and spectators alike revelled in the brilliance of Jacobs’ win, an entirely different race was reaching a thrilling climax. It was a race that had had it all, and the final twist was that Leanda Cave was about to do something remarkable: become the first woman to hold both the Ironman and 70.3 World Championships simultaneously. It could have very nearly been very different.
Cave exited the water in 56:03 alongside Mary Beth Ellis (56:06) – the pair would be seeing a lot more of eachother during this race – just under a minute back from early race leader Amanda Stevens (55:09). Caroline Steffen was seen exiting the wet stuff (57:37) as Ellis and Cave were mounting their bikes, and suddenly the race was on. The other Brit favourite Rache Joyce, usually one of the speediest swimmers on the day, came out in 57:42 as the effects of a week of bronchitis started to take their toll.
After a few miles finding their bike legs Cave and Ellis made their move off the front of the pack. Pulling away from Stevens they started up the long road to Hawi. Steffen, though, was coming. A legendary biker, the Swiss star made short shrift of Ellis and Cave’s lead and it looked as though she was going to take control of the race. But fate (in the form of officialdom) intervened. In what would turn into a vaguely bizarre situation Steffen was the first of the three leaders to be given a four minute drafting penalty. Having caught the Cave and Ellis on the bike, the Swiss star was forced to watch them disappear down the Queen K before re-mounting her bike and playing catch-up all over again. To her credit she pushed hard, and once again bridged the gap to Cave and Ellis, and was riding with them by the turn point.
With the wind now behind them the three women started to push (hard), before officials intervened again. Cave was cited for drafting and was forced to ‘enjoy’ four minutes of down time as the TeamTBB squad members Steffen and Ellis disappeared down the Queen K. Cave would not bridge that gap, and was forced to ride alone for the majority of the latter stages of the bike. Steffen, meanwhile, just could not shake Ellis. She tried. Oh, she tried hard. But the American was dogged in pursuit of her Swiss teammate and it looked like the pair would exit T2 together. Then the final act of officialdom played out as Ellis was carded with less than ten miles to go. She would serve her four minute penalty in T2, forced to watch as Steffen sprinted out for the run.
Penalties aside it was impressive riding from all three women. Steffen recorded the second fastest bike split (5:06:49) – penalty included – with Ellis coming into Transition with a 5:08:06. Cave was third (5:12:06) and, crucially, Carfrae had managed to limit her losses with a 5:12:18 to enter T2 7:30 down on the leaders. Special mention goes to 45-year-old Natascha Badmann who scored the fastest bike of the day (5:06:07) to bring her in just off the podium positions.
The race was perfectly poised.
Steffen ran well through the early stages of the run, but Carfrae was relentless. Just as Jacobs had whittled away at Vanhoenacker’s lead, so Carfrae ate into Steffen’s advantage. She was clawing back the gap to Carfrae at 40-seconds per mile at one point, and the race looked to be playing into her hands. But Carfrae hadn’t counted on the dogged resolve of Leanda Cave.
Cave, who fought valiantly to pass a gutsy Mary Beth Ellis (Ellis simply refused to let her go), was running with Carfrae on her shoulder at Mile 16. It looked to all the world like the Aussie had her measure. She didn’t. Cave suddenly found another gear and simply ran away from Carfrae. It was as inspiring as it was effortless, and suddenly it was the Brit who was eating into Steffen’s time. The Swiss Miss was battling valiantly, but by Mile 20 Cave had her in her sights, and with three Miles to go the gap was down to 100 meters. Kona has not been kind to Caroline Steffen (yet), and for the second year in a row she was forced to watch her lead evaporate in the final miles of the run. The pass came with two miles to go, and Cave was was on her way to victory. Head down, arms swinging the Brit turned into town completely focused on taking the tape. Where Jacobs had been whooping and hollering Cave was a picture of cool concentration, flying through town en route to the finish line. It was clinical, impressive stuff. The Brit only acknowledged her quite considerable achievement when she could feel the tape in her hands. She had done it. Leanda Cave had made history with an outstanding 3:03:13 run to cross the line in 9:15:54. Steffen held on for a brilliant second (9:16:58), while Carfrae took third despite fading in the latter stages of the run (9:21:41).
For the second year in a row a Brit had won the Ironman World Championships with a gutsy, brilliant performance. It is Cave’s fifth World Championship, and she now holds both the 70.3 and Ironman World Championships. It is a truly remarkable achievement.
2012 Ironman World Championships
Top 10 Men (plus selected)
1. Pete Jacobs (AUS) 8:18:37
2. Andreas Raelert (GER) 8:23:40
3. Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) 8:24:09
4. Sebastian Kienle (GER) 8:27:08
5. Faris Al-Sultan (ARE) 8:27:08
6. Timo Bracht (GER) 8:30:57
7. Andy Potts (USA) 8:31:45
8. Tim O’Donnell (USA) 8:33:28
9. David Dellow (AUS) 8:35:02
10. Dirk Bockel (LUX) 8:36:21
12. Craig Alexander (AUS) 8:40:49
DNF Marino Vanhoenacker
Top 10 Women (plus selected)
1. Leanda Cave (GBR) 9:15:54
2. Caroline Steffen (SWI) 9:16:58
3. Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) 9:21:41
4. Sonja Tajsich (GER) 9:22:45
5. Mary Beth Ellis (USA) 9:22:57
6. Natascha Badmann (SWI) 9:26:25
7. Gina Crawford (NZL) 9:28:54
8. Linsey Corbin (USA) 9:32:18
9. Caitlin Snow (USA) 9:36:18
10. Amy Marsh (USA) 9:38:15
11. Rachel Joyce (GBR) 9:40:16
FILED UNDER: News / Race Results TAGS: 2012 / About / Andreas-Raelert / Caroline-Steffen / Frederik-Van-Lierde / Hawaii / Ironman World Championships / Kona / Leanda-Cave / Mirinda-Carfrae / Pete-Jacobs / race-report / Results