Steve McKenna and Chelsea Sodaro to stunning victories Ironman New Zealand

Chelsea Sodaro as one of the big guns (Picture: press release IM)

After a hard-fought day, Steve McKenna has just won Ironman New Zealand. In the women’s race, the win went to an unleashed Chelsea Sodaro, who managed to win by a wide margin.

McKenna started the day in the lead group during the swim and thus started the day perfectly. He came out of the water after 52:07 minutes and saw himself surrounded by Michael Boult, Justin Metzler and also Dutchman Niek Heldoorn at that time.

On the bike, it was then Heldoorn and McKenna who initially took off in pairs and grabbed a small lead over the other men, but eventually a larger lead group formed. Boult could not keep up with the pace, but Heldoorn and McKenna were joined by Metzler and also Mike Phillips.

It was the latter athlete who proved to have the strongest bike legs in the second half of the bike leg, as Phillips took off on his own and eventually grabbed a lead of just over two minutes over Heldoorn and McKenna, while Metzler started the final 42.2 kilometer run at just over three minutes. So, that left the battle completely open.

While McKenna and Heldoorn stayed together for the first few kilometers of the run in pursuit of Phillips, McKenna proved to get off to a more energetic start: he caught up to the leader faster and in the meantime managed to put the Dutchman at a slightly growing disadvantage. Halfway through the marathon, it was McKenna who was already in the lead and in the meantime Heldoorn had run up to Phillips, who together followed in second and third position at just over a minute.

From that point on, however, Heldoorn began to push even more, running away from Phillips and also starting to catch up to McKenna. Just past the 30 kilometer mark Heldoorn even took over the lead in the race and for a moment it looked like he would win Ironman New Zealand. His lead became over half a minute and with only five kilometers to go, Heldoorn was still in the lead, but in the end McKenna also knew not to give up and eventually passed Heldoorn again.

McKenna won the race in 8:01:13. Heldoorn finished second in 8:03:46 and Ben Hamilton, who passed Phillips in the closing stages, finished third in 8:08:13.

Women’s race: Sodaro Supreme

In the women’s race, it was ultimately one woman who proved supreme; Chelsea Sodaro. Up front she was seen as the biggest favorite and she lived up to her favorite role and eventually won by a wide margin. Sodaro also started the day the best way possible and came out of the water in a leading group of five women. At that point, Sodaro saw herself surrounded by Jocelyn McCauley, Barbara Riveros, Meredith Kessler and Regan Hollioake.

On the bike, Sodaro and McCauley immediately took off in pairs and proved clearly too strong for the other women who initially swam in the lead group. Their distance quickly increased, while the only woman who could do something back turned out to be Dutchwoman Els Visser. Visser – who came out of the water in seventh place and was just over five minutes behind – did what she does more often; ride her bike fast and make up time from her deficit, in order to also win back positions. That worked until about fifty kilometers, because after that Visser also started to lose some time on the two leaders.

Not yet confirmed, but after about a hundred kilometers Sodaro seems to have had mechanical problems; within twenty kilometers she suddenly lost more than four minutes on McCauley. It meant that the latter rode to T2 on her own from then on, while Sodaro did begin to make up time and eventually started the marathon 2:38 minutes behind. Visser also remained rock solid and, trailing by 6:37 minutes, returned to T2 in third place, briefly followed by Hollioake.

During the run, in fact, the ‘Sodaro show’ began right away, and already within a few kilometers the American closed her gap and took over the lead in the race from McCauley. That lead only grew bigger and bigger and so Sodaro ran unchallenged to victory. Behind, a more than exciting battle ensued between McCauley, who started to lose more and more time, Visser and Hollioake, who kept up well with Visser’s pace.

With ten kilometers to go, the three women were virtually running together, with only thirty seconds time difference. Visser was running in the best position and thus second. Until the last meters she managed to hold that position.

Sodaro won the race in 8:40:07. Visser was second in 8:57:34 and McCauley third in 8:58:23.