2015 Ironman and Ironman 70.3 World Champion Daniela Ryf.

As we reflect on a truly magnificent men’s and women’s Kona World Championship, I’ve been asked about the performance of the winning athletes.

In the lead up I have tried to be very protective in my analyses of the Bird’s (Daniela Ryf) form – not wanting to add any more pressure to what she already has to carry off the back of performances at the top level of female racing.

She was again, totally superior, and the best of the day across the men’s and women’s fields. Only 43 minutes off the top man in the biggest winning margin at the World Championships since 2009.

The Men

The heat was extreme and it affected the performance of many very good athletes yesterday. With the top players exiting the water closer than usual, the lead men chugged along at a good pace on the bike – devastating the strong bike chasers who had missed the swim and fried themselves in the conditions trying to catch up. This year saw the highest calibre DNF list in recent memory. Every year we see more and more the importance of the swim at Kona. Don’t have one you’re dead. In the end the men’s podium would feature two guys who were in the front group for the whole 180km and over the last 80km on the bike were playing cat and mouse for the run. More than 10 others were within 5 minutes for the whole trip.

Jan (Frodeno) put some work in the last 20km of the bike to test out Seb’s (Kienle) legs in the final piece. Like most of us watching he was trying to work out if Mr Kienle was just having a bad day or preparing in the heat to unleash a big, big run.

To his surprise Sebastian did not respond and so it gave a huge mental lift heading onto the run. Meanwhile Tim O’Donell was having the bike ride of his life enjoying the euphoric surprise of finding himself at the front while knowing full well that apart from Jan ‘I’m the fastest runner here – this could be my shot’. So he too was riding a mental wave during the ride.

The eventual third place finisher has been on the podium at big races many times and after a little issue on the bike had nothing to lose – it was a win or bust mentality as soon as he racked his bike. A storming run that just petered out where it normally does for him around the 32km mark. Raelert, who did well not to cook himself on the bike, ran strongly into second. The winner was just a bit too classy across the three disciplines and the boys are going to have to think long and hard about where the cracks are going to come if they want to beat him.

So congratulations to the men’s podium. It’s a fine podium with the class there for all to see.

The Women

After a solid swim the women found themselves unexpectedly in a large group loaded with bike monsters whose careers have been marked by up front bike power: Jodie Swallow, Caroline Steffen, Mary Beth Ellis, Michelle Vesterby, Camilla Pedersen and Leanda Cave just some of the bike animals in the front pack. Rachel Joyce the beneficiary of a poor transition that meant she could ride her own race, while Liz Blatchford (so happy for you Ms Lizzy) chose the smart option letting the front girls go relatively early.

The early bike pace meant that the fast runners with weak swim/bikes were out of the race from the start.

At the 60km mark the Angry Bird started to put the hurt on the hurters. Going to the front she put on the pressure and showed her cards 6-hours out. Jodie (Swallow), being the competitor she is, knew what was happening straight away. Here is the race. Right here, right now. As did MBE (Mary Beth Ellis), who trains with Daniela and knows when the Bird is getting ready to fly the coop. The group stuck to her and responded.

It turned out the Angry Bird’s move was not a knock-out attempt, but more of a ‘going to work on the body’ to soften them up for the later rounds. Those who took the race to her (Jodie followed by the Honey Badger holding tantalising close for the first 140km) ending up paying the price for it.

The Move

Last year the worst part of Daniela’s race was the final 40km of the bike. This year the strategy was to replicate the Chrissie (Wellington) strategy of attacking the last 40km – looking for 1 minute every 10km. It was executed and made even more impressive because of a puncture 2km out from the finish which she was able to ride through to transition.

The hard cycle left the strong bikers vulnerable for the chase group, who decided early on that the bike pace was too hot for them on a blistering hot day and launched a salvage mission – where we saw Rachel Joyce, followed by Liz Blatchford run through them for the podium.

The Bird ran the prescribed 3-hour pace as if it was natural to her. It’s not, it takes an incredible amount of training and discipline to remain so composed after such a tough ride.

Congratulations to the women’s podium. Three very tough women who are all again deserved World Champion medallists.

Comment on Daniela Ryf

Daniela has always had high performance in her body, but has struggled to manage it. She is a much more mature athlete than 2 years ago and has found a balance in seeking out and taking on board sound advice.

Our approach lends itself heavily on boxing philosophy:

Even if you win the first 11 rounds, you can still be knocked out in the 12th. So keep your hands up and chin down over the closing miles.

To me, Daniela executed nearly the perfect performance given the day and conditions.

However, and while this may make scary reading for some, there is still improvement to be made. It was only her second Kona and as a relative IM baby she is still learning and still getting better.

In 2014 before Kona I wrote this about Daniela’s chances:

Regardless, my tip is this is the year to beat her, because next year we are going to see a monster racer of Chrissie Wellington proportions. Yes, she could be that good.

There is nothing to suggest we should change our mind on that. The Angry Bird has landed and personally I’d like to thank her. The whole Trisutto.com team are proud that in our small way we could help make a dream her reality.

As those champions who have come before in Trisutto.com will know, what she does now with her career will be her responsibility. We believe she can be great and yesterday proved it to all. I just hope she proved it to herself.

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