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Kona 2019 Kings & Queens: Patrick Lange

Kona Kings & Queens is a collaboration project with sports photographer James Mitchell to highlight some of the Pros racing in Kona. James supplies his awesome pictures (for more check his Instagram account), I add some data and commentary.

JM KoK Patrick Lange

PatrickPoints

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Patrick Lange is the Kona winner of the last two years. He holds both the run course record and the overall course record. So obviously he’s the favorite to win Kona 2019 as well?

As the saying goes, you’re only as good as your last race. Applying this yardstick, others are the Kona frontrunners. Patrick’s season started well with a win against a solid field at 70.3 Vietnam in May, but his performance in Frankfurt was a disappointment. He was riding in a bigger bike group that lost seven minutes in the first 100k to Frodo and Sebi, then suffered a flat that he had to fix in the middle of downtown Frankfurt with thousands of spectators around him. He went on to finish the race in 11th place – after all he needed a full Ironman to validate his Kona slot. Even if he wasn’t in a position to play a big role at 70.3 Worlds, his result was another disappointment: A solid swim was followed by losing a lot of time on the bike, and even a good 1:11 run only resulted in a 23rd place for him. These results certainly put a big question mark on his chances for another Kona title this year.

Then again, this story isn’t really new and pretty much a copy of his last two seasons, both of which ended with Kona wins and new course records. When he raced Ironman Frankfurt in 2017 and 2018 and wasn’t able to seriously contend for the win, finishing 6th and 3rd about ten minutes behind the winner. “The start of the season 2018 didn’t go well, but I was quickly able to identify why I hadn’t been able to win. I learned a lot and was able to make the appropriate changes. It was too bad that I had been written off, but it helped to take a bit of the pressure off for Hawaii”.

Of course the conditions and how the races developed played into his hands, but winning Kona two times in a row takes a lot more than a bit of luck. Patrick has posted the fastest run splits in Kona for the last three years, starting with his run course record of 2:39:45 in 2016. In all likelihood he will also be one of the fastest runners in 2019. In order for him to be able to run himself into another win (or at least a podium), coming off the bike he can only afford to be just a few minutes behind stronger bikers that will be able to run in the 2:45 to 2:50 range. As in the last years, this will put the pressure on him in the swim and especially on the bike, and other athletes will expect him to put in the effort needed to keep the bike leaders in view. For quite some time he has said that “I’m only seen as a runner, but I feel I’m under-rated on the bike. Because I was further behind than expected after the swim last year, I had to take some extra risks at the start of the bike. If I had stuck to my original plan, it would have cost me the title. The decision to take the risk and to go with the stronger bike riders showed to me how much I have improved and that I have been able to absorb the hard session in the mountains. The run might have looked under control from the outside, but I struggled a lot with the heat. To be honest, the first part of the run was tough: My competition started to attack from the first kilometers and I decided to let them go. This was a decisive moment – after 8k I found back into the race and was able to catch up to the others again. From then on, my head was back in the game as well.”

It’s clear that once again he plans to use his heat camp in Texas to get into his best physical shape possible but also the right frame of mind. Last year “in Texas I was able to completely focus on my training for the first time since Kona 2017. I almost didn’t have any contact with the outside world, only my coach, my family and my training partners. That’s what flipped the switch.”

Following his performance in the swim and bike will probably require a bit more digging through the tracker data as the race goes on. If he’s not on point on race day, we might only see him for short glimpses in the live coverage. But if he manages to get things right again, he’ll get a lot of camera time in the second half of the run.


This is an excerpt from my “Kona 2019 Rating Report”. You can download your copy here.

Kona 2019 Kings & Queens: Daniela Ryf

Kona Kings & Queens is a collaboration project with sports photographer James Mitchell to highlight some of the Pros racing in Kona. James supplies his awesome pictures (for more check his Instagram account), I add some data and commentary.

JM QoK Daniela Ryf

DanielaPoints

DaniBibF1

When writing about Daniela and her chances in Kona, there are two different approaches you can take: Make it clear how dominant she continues to be – or focus on how she can be beaten and who might be able to do so.

We’ve seen a couple of races this year where a few of the other athletes were not willing to concede the race to her. Most notably, Jocelyn McCauley and Kim Morrison rode with her on the bike leg at Ironman Texas, making this her first long-distance race that she was not leading in T2 and that she didn’t post the fastest bike split. Jocelyn was even leading for a good part of the marathon, before Daniela felt pressured to go harder than she probably was ready for – and probably run harder than her April fitness normally would have allowed. The result in Texas was the same as usual when Dani is on the start line, but it was an indication that one day even Daniela is not going to win an Ironman she races at and that there are athletes thinking about beating her and what it will take to get ready for that.

The other approach – how dominant she is in her racing – is expressed very well in a blog post by her coach Brett Sutton titled “It’s Not Easy Flying Solo“, written after her win at 70.3 Worlds. I’ll just add that the only time she didn’t win an Ironman she finished was her first Kona race in 2014 when it took a course record 2:50 run by Mirinda Carfrae to relegate her to second place. Even jellyfish stings shortly before last year’s start didn’t derail Dani, and as she’s also been able to deal with the immense expectations, it’s extremely likely that she’ll become the first female to win Kona five times in a row.


This is an excerpt from my “Kona 2019 Rating Report”. You can download your copy here.

Kona 2019 Kings & Queens: Lucy Charles-Barclay

Kona Kings & Queens is a collaboration project with sports photographer James Mitchell to highlight some of the Pros racing in Kona. James supplies his awesome pictures (for more check his Instagram account), I add some data and commentary.

JM QoK Lucy Charles

LucyPoints

LucyBibF2

Lucy’s Kona races in the last two years are almost carbon-copies of each other: Win the swim (posting a new swim course record in 2018), then riding at the front of the race for most of the bike leg, being overtaken by Daniela Ryf at about 160k on the bike, then running well and hold on to second place in the marathon. If this year is going to be different, can she improve on second place or will she end up further back in the field?

Her 2019 racing so far has been almost flawless: She won Ironman South Africa even though the swim was shortened, minimizing her swim strength. At Challenge Samorin and Challenge Roth she took the lead in the swim as usual, after which no one in the world-class fields was able to reduce the gap to an extent that her win was in danger. In Roth she posted a new overall PR of 8:31:09 which is also the fastest long-distance time this season, and both her marathons in South African and Roth were under three hours. The only race she wasn’t able to win this year was 70.3 Worlds where she was quickly caught on the bike and then received a drafting penalty when she drifted into another athlete’s draft zone in a slight downhill and didn’t pass her. Even with a 5-minute penalty she still finished in fifth place.

In her last three IM-distance races she has shown that she is no longer “just” a swim specialist. She’s been consistently riding one of the fastest splits and her run has improved as well. As she continues to outswim most of her competition by about six minutes, it will require a very patient “catching up all day long” strategy to beat her. The last two years Daniela Ryf has been able to catch up to her on the bike – maybe this year Lucy will ride even harder to at least make it a race well into the marathon. The rest of the field will have to work harder than in the past to reduce the gap on the bike. It’ll be very interesting to see how the gaps between Lucy and the rest of the field will develop and if anyone other than Daniela will have a chance to overtake her this year.


This is an excerpt from my “Kona 2019 Rating Report”. You can download your copy here.

Kona 2019 Kings & Queens: Bart Aernouts

Kona Kings & Queens is a collaboration project with sports photographer James Mitchell to highlight some of the Pros racing in Kona. James supplies his awesome pictures (for more check his Instagram account), I add some data and commentary.

JM KoK Bart Aernouts

BartPoints

BibBartM2

In the last few years, Bart has been racing well in Kona, with a second-place finish last year as his best result. Still, the quiet Belgian probably won’t factor in many race predictions. This is partly because he is losing a fair chunk of time in the swim (around 6 minutes to Jan Frodeno), and while he has improved his bike in recent years, he hasn’t yet become a “bike powerhouse” on the level of Sebastian Kienle or Cam Wurf. His real strength is on the run, especially in the Kona heat. Last year he was able to bridge up to the big bike group that included Patrick Lange and then posted the second-fastest run.

Bart hasn’t had a spectacular 2019 result, but his 6th place at 70.3 Worlds indicates that his Kona form is developing nicely. If he manages a decent swim, he’ll probably have good company in the deep Kona field. A slightly more aggressive bike than in the past could help him start the run in a good position. He’s one of the few athletes with a sub-2:45 run potential in Kona, and that run speed is what he’ll need in order to finish on the Kona podium.


This is an excerpt from my “Kona 2019 Rating Report”. You can download your copy here.

Kona 2019 Kings & Queens: Sarah True

Kona Kings & Queens is a collaboration project with sports photographer James Mitchell to highlight some of the Pros racing in Kona. James supplies his awesome pictures (for more check his Instagram account), I add some data and commentary.

JM QoK Sarah True

SarahPoints

SarahBibF5

Sarah was fourth at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. After a disappointing DNF at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games she was able to make a great transition to long-distance racing, earning two more fourth places in big races, at 2017 70.3 Worlds in Chattanooga and in Kona 2018.

When she crossed the finish line in Kona 2018, she was clearly struggling and not 100% coherent anymore. She was struggling even more in this year’s Ironman races: She DNF’d on the run at IM Cairns and at IM Frankfurt when her body shut down and she wasn’t able to continue. Finally, in her third Ironman start in as many months, she was able to secure her Kona slot with a second-place finish at IM Mont Tremblant.

As far as I know it’s still a mystery what has created her problems on the run. This makes it very hard to predict what she’ll be able to do in this year’s Kona race and how she’s going to approach the race. The first half of the race will probably see her well-positioned after the swim, last year she was part of a small chase group behind the “super fish” Lucy Charles and Lauren Brandon. In her past Ironman races she’s been using that time to get settled on the bike and to start her attacks in the second half of the bike.

But her main strength in her 2018 Ironman races has been a great marathon, and she hasn’t yet been able to show that in 2019. I will closely follow her Kona race and especially her run, hoping she’ll be able to fight hard for the whole marathon – and then still be able to cross the finish line with a satisfied smile.


This is an excerpt from my “Kona 2019 Rating Report”. You can download your copy here.

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