The hottest field in Ironman 70.3 history assembled in Port Elizabeth, South Africa over the weekend for the 2018 Ironman 70.3 World Championship. The half-ironman format sees competitors taken on a 1.9km swim, 90km bike ride and half marathon run. The professional men's field showed incredible depth as Olympic Gold Medallists and World Champions in both 70.3 and full-distance Ironman took to the start line in what many predicted as the best race of the year, the predictions being accurate!
Flying the flag for Giant Bicycles in the event this year was young Australian Sam Appleton. The 26 year old who's now based in Boulder, Colorado headed into the event as one of the event favourites after finishing 4th at the same event in Chattanooga, Tennessee one year prior.
The race got off to a flying start in the waters of Nelson Mandela Bay as the favourites showed their swim strength, Sam Appleton exited the water right at the front of the bunch just 5 seconds behind the leader as the lead pack ran onto the sand and into first transition.
Onto the bike and an elite group of 6 formed quickly with Sam Appleton remaining right in contention along with all the race favourites. Sam rode a super consistent and smart bike leg as the lead changed various times throughout the picturesque out and back 90km bike course. His Trinity Advanced Pro triathlon bike performed flawlessly and his Giant Rivet TT helmet ensured he could maintain a fast aerodynamic position throughout the duration of the 90km ride.
Sam took over the lead of the race from race favourites Jan Frodeno and Alistair Brownlee with approximately 10kms left to ride as they made their way back into T2 in Port Elizabeth. Appleton dismounted in the lead with Jan Frodeno hot on his heels as well as the other four from the elite pack. His bike split saw an impressive average of over 43km/h on a course with over 600m of climbing and wet roads. The leaders headed out onto the run course at breakneck speed within seconds of one another.
The pace was on from the beginning as Frodeno and Brownlee surged ahead of the rest of the field. Sam held onto Ben Kanute from the USA for the first part of the run before eventually being gapped by the 2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2nd place finisher. Sam maintained his strong pace for the second half of the 21km distance run eventually crossing the line in 6th place in a time of 3 hours 43 minutes and 58 seconds.
When asked about his race Sam had this to say, "I'm really happy with yesterday's race. I was up front for a lot of the day and put myself in a very competitive position to challenge for a podium finish. 6th place in the best World Champs field ever assembled is really satisfying, but it also has lit a fire in me to improve over the years to come."
Sam will now focus on his recovery before taking on some Asia-Pacific 70.3 distance races closer to home later on in the year.
For full results from the 2019 Ironman 70.3 World Championship visit the Ironman website here.