Ben Hoffman makes it three wins in four years in Ironman African Championships
American Ben Hoffman “got that magic feeling” while on the run leg as he strode home to claim his third Standard Bank Ironman African Championship title on a breezy afternoon in Port Elizabeth on Sunday.
Hoffman, who walked last year's course due to an injury he picked up only weeks before racing in the Absa Cape Epic, was in spectacular form as he came home to the roars of the sport-loving Nelson Mandela Bay crowds who lined the red carpet.
In the woman’s race, Great Britain’s Lucy Charles-Barclay was greeted by her husband, Reece, as she claimed her second African Championship title in as many years.
Finishing in a time of 7 hrs, 34 mins and 19 secs, Hoffman said: “I had a second injury at the end of last year which kept me out of Ironman Hawaii, so it was a full year without doing an Ironman.
“I can tell you, in addition to taking the entire year off due to injury, I wanted to come back here and show all of Port Elizabeth that I really love this race and I take it super seriously and I believe I am the man to win this race,” Hoffman said.
With the swim leg shortened from 3.8 km to 1.6 km due to some extremely choppy conditions, Hoffman said: “I was a bit disappointed to see the swim shortened. I would have liked to see a full distance swim, at least for the professionals.
“At the end of the day, they make choices for the safety of the athletes and when the race changes you have to race the race.
“I didn’t change anything, my focus was to execute the best race on the format we had, and I did that. I think if there was a full swim I still would have won,” Hoffman remarked.
Coming off the swim leg in 12th, Hoffman worked hard as he made his way to the front of the lead group, eventually taking over the lead at the midway point of the bike leg.
“I pushed the pace on the first lap, but I wasn’t able to shed many of the guys, so I settled in a little bit and let us ride together. I knew that I wanted to come off the bike with a bit of a lead and my legs felt good.
“I guess it was about 90-95 miles into the bike, I decided to attack a little bit and over one of the final climbs before heading into town I just pushed the pace and went all in. I said this was my moment and I wasn’t going to look back.”
Charles-Barclay, whose finish time stood at 8:35:32 said she felt so loved on the run course as the crowd helped drive her towards the end.
“It was a really tough day out there, conditions were tough, but I managed to tough it out and have a strong run at the end.
“I am really, really happy to defend my title here as it means a lot to me, because the crowds always give me so much here and I feel so loved out on that run course,” Charles-Barclay said.
Feeling slightly disappointed with the shortened swim leg of the event, she added: “The swim is one of my super strengths. At first, I was really disappointed that it was shortened, but once I was out there, I knew it was the right decision, because it was really choppy.”
For their exploits on the streets of the Bay, both Charles-Barclay and Hoffman will pocket USD30,000, with second place receiving USD15,000 and USD8,000 for the third placed athletes.
On the home front, Annah Watkinson was the first South African female to cross the line to claim third place in the woman’s pro field with a time of 8:43:19. Matt Trautman was the first South African home in a time of 7:54:23 to claim eighth place in the men’s pro field, while James Cunnama finished 115th in a time of 8:12;27.
It was a day to forget for defending champion Kyle Buckingham, of Port Elizabeth, as he withdrew on the bike leg, bringing to an end his hopes of defending his title.
Men: 1 Ben Hoffman (US) 07:34:19; 2 Nils Frommhold (Germany) 07:40:12; 3 Michael Weiss (Austria) 07:42:35; 4 Eneko Llanos (Spain) 07:44:59; 5 Maurice Clavel (Germany); 6 Andreas Dreitz (Germany) 07:45:38; 7 Josh Amberger (Australia) 07:52:19; 8 Matt Trautman (SA) 07:54:22; 9 Bart Aernouts (Belgium) 07:56:20; 10 Giulio Molinari (Italy) 08:02:13 +27:54
Women: 1 Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) 08:35:31; 2 Gurutze Frades (Spain) 08:40:47; 3 Annah Watkinson (SA) 08:43:18; 4 Lauren Brandon (US) 08:53:35; 5 Anja Ippach (Germany) 08:57:10; 6 Tessa Kortekaas (Netherlands) 09:10:01; 7 Antonina Reznikov (Israel) 09:19:25; 8 Federica de Nicola (Italy) 09:23:10; 9 Ashley Paulson (US) 09:24:11; 10 Mareen Hufe (Germany) 09:27:54