Frodeno leads German domination in Kona

Jan Frodeno led a German podium and other top finishes in defending his world championship title in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

| October 9, 2016 | NEWS

Photo >Kevin Mackinnon

A good day to be from Germany

Jan Frodeno. Sebastian Kienle. Thomas Lange. One. Two. Three. In Kona. At the Ironman World Championship. A German podium.

Go back 19 years. Thomas Hellreigel. Jurgen Zack. Lothar Leder. One. Two. Three. In Kona. At the Ironman World Championship. You got it. A German podium.

If there was ever any doubt that Ironman racing is on fire in Germany, today should certainly have laid all that to rest. Coming into the 2016 Ironman World Championship there was lots of talk about Jan Frodeno’s amazing year. The guy lifted the men’s game to a new level in winning the race here in Kona last year, and he’s doing that and more in 2016. Despite a torn calf that slowed him down in the early season, he managed to validate his Kona slot with a runner-up finish in Lanzarote. He then set a world-best time at Challenge Roth in July, going 7:35:39.

Photo >Kevin Mackinnon

“Shattered” by that effort (his word, not mine) Frodeno passed on trying to defend his world 70.3 title in Mooloolaba, setting his sites on another championship here in Hawaii.

Frodeno has simply brought a new level to racing. Not just in terms of his times and victories, but in terms of the approach he takes to competition. No stone is left unturned when it comes to preparation. He holds his own press conference on the Tuesday before the race here so he can do all his media appearances at once. He travels with his family – “we run a small family business” is the way he describes it – and works diligently away at being the best Ironman athlete in the world.

Which, he proved once again today, he is. Sebastian Kienle, the 2014 champion, had an amazing race – it just wasn’t quite enough to top his countryman. It was probably enough, though, to get him fired up for another go at regaining this title.

The day began with Frodeno trailing Harry Wiltshire and Andy Potts by a few seconds out of the swim, then leading a huge group out onto the bike course. Kienle was 4:28 back out of the water, but as he did in Mooloolaba a month ago, was able to work his way up to the leaders on the bike.

Through 30 miles on the bike, though, Kienle wasn’t part of the huge group of men that led the way. Frodeno wasn’t even in front – that honor was held by Luke McKenzie, seemingly in the form that would get him another podium finish here in Kona. At that point of the race there were 25 men within a minute of each other, keeping things pretty crowded at the front. Included in the “who’s who of triathlon” group were McKenzie, Timothy Van Berkel, Frederik Van Lierde, Andy Potts, Frodeno, Tim O’Donnell, Andi Boecherer, Ben Hoffman, Brent McMahon, Marko Albert, Eneko Llanos, Tim Don, Denis Chevrot, David McNamee, Paul Matthews, Patrick Lange, Igor Amorelli, Ruedi Wild, Christian Kramer, David Dellow and Andreas Raelert.

The fireworks began, though, over the next 10 miles. Raelert, McMahon, Van Lierde and a few others got penalties, which put them right out of the picture. Boris Stein, Michael Weiss, Tyler Butterfield, Ivan Rana, Jesse Thomas and Kienle suddenly joined the lead group, too, which spiced things up even more.

By the time the crew got up to the top of the climb in Hawi and turned for home, Kienle was in front, driving the pace. Weiss, who averaged over 300 watts for the ride, would lead the way for much of the descent, but once the guys hit the Queen K on the return ride home the true elite on the bike began to make their moves. McKenzie, Kienle, Frodeno, Stein, Hoffman, Boecherer and O’Donnell managed to separate themselves out, heading into T2 within seconds of each other and setting up a dramatic run.

Which it was, for the first 10 miles. Frodeno immediately went to the front on the marathon, Kienle quickly got on his shoulder. Where he stayed until the infamous “Pay and Save” hill heading up to the Queen K, where Frodeno finally pulled away and never looked back. By 14 miles the gap was 90 seconds. By 16 it was 2:34.

In the end Frodeno won by 3:33 over Kienle, who might not have won on the day, but certainly earned lots of respect in keeping Frodeno honest right to the line. Lange set a new marathon course record to run his way to third. Hoffman gave it all to get to the line in fourth, just a few seconds ahead of Andi Boecherer (yes, that’s four Germans in the top five, but who’s counting). O’Donnell took sixth with another German, Boris Stein in seventh.

Frodeno’s 8:06:30 was a few minutes shy of Craig Alexander’s record time here in Kona, but one hardly thinks he’ll be too upset over that. It has been an amazing year for the 2008 Olympic gold medalist who has come to rule the Ironman world of late. And he’s bringing Germany along for the ride.