Great Britain’s Ruth Astle, a former Kona age-group world champion who turned pro two years ago, proved once again that she is the real deal on the pro front as she held off a fast-charging Annah Watkinson for her second Ironman win in five weeks (to go along with the Ironman Mallorca title she took last month) by taking the Ironman African Championship in Port Elizabeth.
After struggling through the marathon at Ironman Florida a couple of weeks ago, Imogen Simmonds (SUI) was back racing again in South Africa, leading the women out of the water after the shortened 1.9 km swim (rough water conditions led organizers to modify the swim course) in 23:24 with Astle over three minutes behind and South Africa’s Magda Nieuwoudt six secods behind the Brit.
Simmonds’ lead would start to dwindle from the start of the ride and by 60 km Astle was in front with Simmonds a couple of seconds down. Shortly after the halfway point of the ride Astle would finally break clear of the Swiss star and would hit T2 with a commanding 4:35 lead on Simmonds, with a bunch of South Africans ready to duel for spots on the podium including Nieuwoudt at 12:28, Katharina Grohmann at 13:19, Watkinson at 14:19 and Jade Nicole at 14:09.
Simmonds would gain a bit of time early on in the run, but would fade dramatically after the 10 km point, leaving Astle to work at a steady pace up front to remain well clear of the rest of the women. Through the halfway point of the run Simmonds was still in second, but was 9:35 back, with Watkinson in third at 10:54.
Watkinson would continue to gain time on Astle, but would run out of real estate and hit the line just under two-minutes back. Astle’s 3:11:55 marathon was enough to get her to the finish in 8:38:52. Watkinson would run a 2:59:26 marathon to take second in 8:40:44. Nicole would take third in 8:47:31 with countrywoman Natia van Heerden also getting past Simmonds to take fourth in 8:53:34. Simmonds would round out the top five in 8:58:33.
You can find results from today’s race here.