Marta Sanchez runs to beautiful victory Ironman South Africa

Marta Sanchez wins Ironman South-Africa (Archive picture: PTO)

Spain’s Marta Sanchez has won Ironman South Africa after an exciting race. In a race in which several women were close together, it was the Spanish who kept her head cool best and struck in the closing stages.

During the swim, it was Sanchez who immediately dictated the pace and swam so hard that no one could follow. After 52:18 minutes, she had had her 3.8-kilometer swim and then it was more than a four-minute wait before Britain’s Susie Cheetham was second to her bike. A few seconds later followed Daniela Ryf and also Marlene de Boer, while a few seconds later Daniela Bleymehl followed in fifth position. Emma Bilham came out of the water in sixth and then it was Diede Diederiks who started the bike after 59:25 minutes and in seventh position.

On the bike, the field initially got closer and closer together, and it was soon clear that Sanchez could not maintain her minutes lead. This was mainly due to Bleymehl, who rode incredibly strong and took over the lead of the race after about sixty kilometers. The women behind switched positions several times but it was especially noticeable that Ryf could not maintain the pace. She dropped further back and lost pretty much time.

Once in T2, Bleymehl had built up a comfortable lead; with 3:51 minutes ahead of Sanchez, 4:34 minutes ahead of Diederiks and 5:27 minutes ahead of De Boer, the German athlete switched toward her marathon, while Ryf followed in fifth and was then more than nine minutes behind.

In the early stages of the marathon, the Dutch Diederiks seemed to have wings; for quite a long time she set the highest pace and already after ten kilometers she took over second position from Sanchez. Meanwhile, Diederiks made up considerable time on Bleymehl, and halfway through the run there was less than a minute’s margin left for the front-runner. At the same time, Sanchez did not give in either, as where the Spanish first lost some time on Diederiks, she now began to make up her deficit.

Not much later Sanchez even passed Diederiks again and Bleymehl was also outsmarted: after 27 kilometers the first three women ran within twenty seconds of each other. After thirty kilometers, the final decision in the race was made: Sanchez suddenly ran away from Diederiks at a high pace, while Bleymehl just dropped away completely. This seemed to settle the battle for gold and silver in favor of the Spanish athlete, while Zimmerman had moved up to third postion.

Sanchez won the race in a time of 9:15:36. Diederiks took second place in 9:17:52 and Zimmermann was third in 9:19:12.