For many triathletes, completing an Ironman is the holy grail of the multi-sport.
Qualifying for the Ironman World Champs for your Age Group can be even more special, where people who work full time to support their passion get the opportunity to swim, bike and run against the pros.
With a record breaking year for Ironman and long distance triathlon, with Jan Frodeno setting a new world record time for the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.22-mile run course, attention across the triathlon world has been turned towards the long course racing following the Olympics. Here are a few takeaways from this year’s World Championships in Kona.
- Frodeno and Ryf are King and Queen of the Lava Field
Both Jan Frodeno and Daniela Ryf destroyed the competition at the Ironman World Championships in Kona this year.
With over a 24-minute lead on Miranda Carfrae, the 2014 Ironman World Champion, Ryf blew her opposition away as the only female athlete to post a sub-5 hour bike leg.
The men’s race was more tightly contested, with a group of the top 8 men bunched together over the swim and the bike. The run course allowed for the athletes to spread out and where Frodeno dug deep to brush off his nearest competition by 4 minutes – 2014 Ironman World Champion Sebastian Kienle.
After their performances throughout the 2016 season, including a new ironman World Record from Frodeno at Challenge Roth, it seems these two are unbeatable at the moment. The real question is whether they can hold on to their World Champion titles for yet another year in 2017.
- The professional field is growing and DNFs are decreasing
Over the past 5 years the field of Professional athletes has grown from 84 athletes to 99 this year.
With the 18% increase of participants in the Pro field, there has been a significant decrease in the number of DNFs in the same time period since 2010. A decrease from 23% to 20% DNF may sound insignificant, but when taken in to account the field has actually grown this is a big change.
Achieving sponsorship is a competitive business and with more Professional athletes on the start line, there is increasingly more pressure for athletes to push themselves to their limit to register a time against their performance. It will be interesting to see how the number of athletes on the line and the DNF rate unravels in coming years.
- Age groupers are slowing down
It seems the gap between the Professional and Age Group field are getting further apart every year.
The margin between the Ironman World Champion and the fastest Age Grouper has increased every year over the past 3 years.
In 2014, when Kienle and Rinny Carfrae rained King and Queen of Kona, the margin between their winning time and the fastest Age Grouper time was 36 minutes and 50 minutes respectively.
Looking at the 2015 results, the fastest male Age Grouper was 38 minutes behind the respective World Champion and the fastest female Age Grouper was 54 minutes behind.
For 2016, this gap was significantly larger. The time gap between the male and female World Champions and respective fastest Age Groupers was a shocking 55 minutes and 1 hour 10 mins respectively.
The times indicate that Professional athletes are continuing to push the standard of their field, whereas the Age Grouper field isn’t improving at the same rate. What does this actually mean? For anyone looking to make the jump to the world of professional triathlon, they will likely find the gap harder the bridge.
- Emphasis on the bike for the champion
This isn’t necessarily ground breaking news but it was definitely demonstrated across the Professional and Age Grouper races.
As the longest part of the race, even small gains in average speed can have a huge impact on the overall positioning of in race.
In the professional races, Ryf put in the fastest bike time and pushed far ahead of the female field. Frodeno was in a cluster of 6 that recorded bike splits under 4:30. Both times placed the 2016 Champions in excellent stead to push on and succeed for yet another year.
Throughout the Age Grouper athletes, the respective winners for each category posted either the fastest or the second fastest bike leg. It really enforces the importance of strength in the bike leg for anyone looking to post a PB or place highly in their Age Group.