Germany’s Maurice Clavel staged a come-from-behind victory today at Ironman South Afica, passing countryman Sebastian Kienle in the closing kilometers of the race. Kienle, who had announced his retirement earlier this month, had to settle for a runner-up finish, but after a season hampered with Achilles tendon issues, he finally appears to be on track for some fast racing again.
Thanks to tough water conditions organizers decided to shorten the pro swim to 1.9 km, while age group athletes did an even shorter swim loop to start their day.
A big group came out of the water together with 12 men within 25 seconds of each other, led by Jesper Svensson, but it was Great Britain’s Sam Laidlow who would push early on the bike to pull clear of the rest of the field. A group of five including Sweden’s Rasmus Svenningsson, German’s Marcus Herbst, Kienle and Clavel, along with South African Kyle Buckingham steadily gained on the Brit, though. Over the last part of the bike Svenningsson, Clavel and Kienle would pull clear to lead into T2 – 21 seconds separated the three as they hit transition.
Out on the run course it was Clavel who led the way early – he was 20 seconds up on Kienle through the first 1.5 km, but Kienle would move ahead by about the 10 km mark. The 2014 Kona champion appeared on track to begin his two-year retirement tour in style – through 22 km his lead was up to 1:29 on his countryman.
But Clavel found another gear and started to gain back time on Kienle. With nine km to go the lead was down to 16 seconds and shortly after than Clavel moved ahead for good. A 2:45:16 marathon was enough to net Clavel the win in 7:30:30, with Kienle running a solid 2:47:02 marathon for a 2:32:32 finish and second place. Svenningsson held on for third in 7:34:35, with Buckingham taking fourth in 7:39:30 and Xterra world champ Bradley Weiss rounding out the top five in 7:44:49.