The 2014 Ironman 70.3 California race welcomed an eager field of professional and age-group athletes ready to test early-season fitness. Oceanside Harbor provided ideal conditions to a championship-caliber group of pros. In the end, 2008 Olympic gold medalist Jan Frodeno of Germany beat out five-time Oceanside winner Andy Potts of the United States and posted a new course record. Canadian Heather Wurtele also won her first Ironman 70.3 California title and posted a new course record by outlasting a game and motivated Heather Jackson (USA) on the run.
Potts assumed his usual front position out of the 2.4-mile swim, exiting in 22:01. Frodeno and James Seear (AUS) were the only athletes who were able to keep contact with super-swimmer Potts. After the trio, it was a solid 30 seconds before Kyle Leto (USA), Jens Toft (DEN), Brent McMahon (CAN) and Matt Chrabot (USA) made their way to T1. After that it became a waiting game to see how much ground the stronger cyclists would have to make up out of the swim. Andrew Starykowicz (USA) started the bike with about two minutes to make up on the front group, while two-time Ironman 70.3 world champion Sebastian Kienle (GER) was three-and-a-half minutes back.
Potts, Frodeno and Chrabot pushed the pace through the first half of the bike, forcing the super cyclists to work hard to try to make up the ground they lost in the swim. At the midway point of the bike, Potts, Frodeno and Chrabot continued to lead with Joe Gambles (USA), McMahon, Kevin Collington (USA) and Jens Toft (DEN) less than two minutes back. By mile 35 the trio continued to lead out front, but two minutes back the strong group of Kienle, McMahon, Gambles, Collington, Starykowicz, Leon Griffen (AUS) and Matt Reed (USA) was starting to make up time.
Near the end of the bike Starykowicz made the big move and found the leaders before 56 miles was up. He led into T2 with Frodeno four seconds back, Potts 17 seconds back, Chrabot 28 seconds back and Kienle 1:30 back. Frodeno used his ITU skills to blaze through transition and instantly gain a 15-second lead to start the run. He ripped through the half-marathon, building on his lead with every step. He ran a 1:11:49 half-marathon and crossed the finish line at 3:49:25 to earn his first 70.3 win on American soil. “I mentally had a bit of a point to prove after [Ironman 70.3] Vegas last year and really felt good all day today,” said the champion. “Never super fast but strong all day and that’s what you need here.”
Potts turned in a steady effort to finish nearly three minutes back in second at 3:49:25. Kienle was third at 3:53:21.
Meredith Kessler (USA), Julie Dibens (GBR) and Jennifer Spieldenner (USA) led the women’s field out of the harbor at just over 24 minutes. They were followed by Emily Cocks (USA) at 25:27, Kelly Williamson (USA) at 25:59, 2013 runner-up Heather Wurtele (CAN) at 26:43 and 2013 winner Heather Jackson (USA) at 27:04.
Dibens, who hadn’t raced in a road triathlon since she dropped out of the 2011 Ironman World Championship, returned to her cycling prowess and quickly built a lead over the others. Through 20 miles the gap stood at one minute over Kessler and two minutes over Wurtele, Rachel McBride (CAN) and Jackson. By the midway point, Dibens remained all alone out front with Kessler continuing to be her closest chaser at two minutes back.
Dibens came into T2 1:41 ahead of McBride, 2:00 ahead of Wurtele, 2:02 ahead of Jackson and 2:24 ahead of Kessler. Out of transition it was obvious that Wurtele and Jackson had the freshest legs as they immediately cut time into Dibens’ lead. Wurtele was fastest through the first half of the run and earned the lead spot. She was unable to outrun Jackson in 2013, but showed a new level this year to take the win with a sub-1:18 run split. Jackson finished second, a reverse of the top two places from 2013. Kessler cruised in for third.
“Heather [Jackson] had me running scared all day,” said Wurtele. “I had a good swim, the legs were there on the bike and I was able to hammer on the run and keep her away.”
Aaron Hersh contributed to this report.
Ironman 70.3 California
Oceanside, Calif. – March 29, 2014
1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run
1. Jan Frodeno (GER) 3:49:25
2. Andy Potts (USA) 3:52:18
3. Sebastian Kienle (GER) 3:53:21
4. Joe Gambles (AUS) 3:55:00
5. Brent McMahon (CAN) 3:55:46
1. Heather Wurtele (CAN) 4:13:12
2. Heather Jackson (USA) 4:14:15
3. Meredith Kessler (USA) 4:19:52
4. Julie Dibens (GBR) 4:24:54
5. Caitlin Snow (USA) 4:25:24