2012 Ironman World Championship

The Kona Hall of Fame welcomes two new members, Pete Jacobs and Leanda Cave

On 13 October, the Kona Hall of Fame welcomed two new members. For the men, an Aussie who came so close in 2011. For the women, a Brit who stepped out of Chrissie’s shadow. Here’s what happened on a windy day in Kona…

At 16km on the run Vanhoenacker’s lead over Jacobs had dropped to 5mins. It would take a further 9km for Jacobs to catch and pass the Belgian, leaving the Aussie in the lead…

The Men

It was Groundhog Day in Kona as the USA’s Andy Potts clocked the fastest swim split of 50:32mins. Pete Jacobs was part of the 20-strong pack that followed power-swimmer Potts out of the water less than a minute later. Germany’s Andreas Raelert missed the lead group by 4mins but Belgium’s Marino Vanhoenacker stayed in contact and was soon pushing the pace out front.

By Hawi corner, the Belgian was ahead with 70.3 World Champion Sebastian Kienle. The conditions were increasingly windy and puncture problems soon set Kienle back 5mins. So it was left to Vanhoenacker to head for T2 alone and with an 8min lead over the chasing pack of Jacobs, Dirk Bockel, Frederick Van Lierde and Faris Al-Sultan.

At 16km on the run Vanhoenacker’s lead over Jacobs had dropped to 5mins. It would take a further 9km for Jacobs to catch and pass the Belgian, leaving the Aussie in the lead… to the finish.  Jacobs became the youngest winner since a 27-year-old Faris Al-Sultan won back in 2005. Behind him, Raelert recorded the fastest run (2:47:23) to finish second. Reigning champ Craig Alexander came in 12th, while Vanhoenacker pulled out mid marathon.

Top 10 men

3.8km swim | 180km bike | 42.2km run
1. Pete Jacobs, AUS 8:18:37; 2. Andreas Raelert, GER 8:23:40; 3. Frederik Van Lierde, BEL 8:24:09; 4. Sebastian Kienle, GER 8:27:08; 5. Faris Al-Sultan, GER 8:28:33; 6. Timo Bracht, GER 8:30:57; 7 Andy Potts, USA    8:31:45; 8. Timothy O’Donnell, USA 8:33:28; 9. David Dellow, AUS 8:35:02; 10. Dirk Bockel, LUX 8:36:21.

The Women

Leanda Cave watched American super-swimmer Amanda Stevens take off ahead of the group. “Usually we can’t tell who’s in front because both the men and women are together, so it helped me figure out my positioning better.”  Cave exited the water roughly a minute behind Stevens in a group with New Zealand’s Gina Crawford and Americans Meredith Kessler, Mary Beth Ellis and Amy Marsh. “I grabbed my transition bag, but then I realised that I’d not put my helmet in it like the other girls did,” she says. “The run through T1 to get your bike is really long, and all the other girls already had their helmets on, and I ended up fumbling with mine for a bit.”

Helmet on and nutrition safely stowed, Cave headed out on the bike. “My whole goal was to just stay conservative,” she says. “At the turnaround at Kuakini, I was able to see Steffen. I could tell she was just going to push the pace. I reminded myself to stay calm and wait to make a move. A lot of the other girls surged up front with her, but I held back.”  Cave’s strategy paid off, when a few miles down the road Steffen received a four-minute penalty for drafting. After climbing the hill toward Hawi, Cave knew that Ellis was sitting right behind her, and Steffen had already made up a lot of time from her penalty. There was a strong crosswind up at Hawi, and Cave pushed hard through it. “When we reached the turnaround I stopped to grab my special needs bag and I watched as Ellis and Steffen just flew by.”

Coming down from Hawi, Cave passed Ellis but was unable to overtake a surging Steffen within the 25-second time limit, which resulted in a penalty. “All three of us had been flagged – it levelled the playing field.” From 10-14km on the marathon, Cave and Ellis were level. “We weren’t trying to break one another – it’s just I couldn’t speed up and neither could she. But I started to feel better right as she began to feel worse, and so I made a move.”

Inside the Energy Lab, Cave hadn’t realised that Carfrae had bridged the gap and was right on her tail. “I didn’t even see her when I looked behind my shoulder; I heard the motorbikes and the helicopter but I didn’t know that’s why they were there. I saw that she was close at the turnaround, but at the same moment I saw Caroline up the road, and I just began to really push. “Coming out of the Energy Lab, I could see that I was bringing in 15secs on her every mile. I started to do the maths in my head, and I knew I’d be able to catch her and take the lead by the last mile if I held pace.” At 38km Cave made the pass – earlier than expected. “From that point on, it wasn’t a dream for me anymore. I realised just how badly I wanted to win.”

With 25 metres to go, Cave grabbed a Union Jack. “You have all these plans of how you’ll handle a moment like that, but then when it happens you just hear the crowd and you can’t think straight.”

Top 10 women

3.8km swim | 180km bike | 42.2km run
1. Leanda Cave, GBR     9:15:54; 2. Caroline Steffen, SUI 9:16:58; 3. Mirinda Carfrae, AUS 9:21:41;
4. Sonja Tajsich, GER 9:22:45; 5. Mary Beth Ellis, USA 9:22:57; 6. Natascha Badmann, SUI 9:26:25; 7. Gina Crawford, NZL 9:28:54; 8 Linsey Corbin, USA 9:32:18; 9. Caitlin Snow, USA 9:36:18; 10. Amy Marsh, USA 9:38:15