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Men’s Ironman World Championship 2023 – How the Race Unfolded

Here are the Top 10 finishers from the men’s 2023 Ironman World Championship in Nice and others who played an important role as the race progressed:

Rank Name Nation Swim Bike Run Time Diff to exp. Prize Money
1 Sam Laidlow FRA 00:47:50 (5) 04:31:28 (1) 02:41:46 (6) 08:06:22 -26:44 US$ 125,000
2 Patrick Lange GER 00:49:01 (13) 04:43:24 (10) 02:32:41 (1) 08:10:17 -10:04 US$ 65,000
3 Magnus Ditlev DEN 00:49:14 (19) 04:35:54 (2) 02:41:07 (5) 08:11:43 -07:30 US$ 45,000
4 Rudy Von Berg USA 00:47:50 (5) 04:37:23 (4) 02:42:44 (7) 08:12:57 -19:35 US$ 25,000
5 Leon Chevalier FRA 00:51:11 (31) 04:39:30 (5) 02:39:26 (4) 08:15:07 -21:08 US$ 20,000
6 Arthur Horseau FRA 00:53:19 (36) 04:42:19 (6) 02:37:17 (3) 08:18:36 -11:16 US$ 18,000
7 Bradley Weiss ZAF 00:47:55 (11) 04:44:23 (11) 02:43:22 (8) 08:20:54 -12:06 US$ 15,000
8 Gregory Barnaby ITA 00:47:51 (7) 04:44:23 (11) 02:44:04 (11) 08:21:15 03:05 US$ 13,000
9 Robert Wilkowiecki POL 00:47:48 (4) 04:44:36 (13) 02:43:45 (10) 08:21:23 -16:40 US$ 12,000
10 Clement Mignon FRA 00:47:59 (12) 04:43:03 (9) 02:47:55 (12) 08:24:10 -04:41 US$ 11,000
11 Matthew Marquardt USA 00:47:46 (1) 04:49:11 (17) 02:43:44 (9) 08:26:17 -03:30 US$ 8,000
14 Cameron Wurf AUS 00:51:07 (28) 04:36:03 (3) 02:58:40 (22) 08:30:42 -07:37 US$ 4,000
16 Braden Currie NZL 00:47:46 (1) 04:46:37 (16) 02:58:01 (21) 08:38:50 08:38
24 Jan Frodeno GER 00:47:47 (3) 04:44:59 (14) 03:08:12 (26) 08:48:42 22:04

You can find the full results in my Nice Results post.

The following graph shows how the race developed (click for a hi-res version):

Men Top10

Let’s start with a short summary of the race:

  • In the swim, a group of eleven athletes including Jan Frodeno, Sam Laidlow and other pre-race favorites was able to break away from the rest of the field, the first chase group including Patrick Lange and Magnus Ditlev was  just a minute behind.
  • The front group split up as soon as they hit the first hills. Sam Laidlow pushed the pace, for the first 40 miles Clement Mignon was able to ride with him but then had to let Sam go as well. Sam posted the fastest bike split of the day and built a lead of about five minutes into T2.
  • In the second half of the bike leg, Rudy von Berg and Magnus Ditlev were the closest chasers of Sam. Cam Wurf was able to improve his position on the bike but never got further ahead than fourth place. All other athletes were at least ten minutes back, and most of the other “big names” reached T2 within 2 minutes of each other.
  • On the run, Sam had a very solid 2:41 marathon and his win never was in doubt. Once he found his rhythm, Patrick Lange was the fastest runner of the field, with his 2:32 marathon he was able to move into second place. Magnus Ditlev ran slightly quicker than Rudy von Berg, they finished third and fourth.

(All photos are kindly supplied by Marcel Hilger.)

Compared to earlier Ironman World Championships in Kona, how unusual were these results in Nice?

  • Sam Laidlow was the first French winner of IM Worlds.
  • The French men further increased their impact on the race. Before 2022, there were a few French in the Top 10 – the first one was Nice race director Yves Cordier in 1989. There were two French Top 10 athletes in May in St. George (Chevalier and Laidlow) and three in October in Kona (adding Mignon). In Nice there was another new athlete (Horseau), leading to a record four French athletes in the Top 10.
  • Nice also had the first Italian (Barnaby) and first Polish (Wilkowicki) athletes in the Top 10.

The next Ironman World Championships in Kona will indicate how much of these trends were influenced by the different location in Nice instead of Kona.

The rest of this post is a closer look at the main athletes and how their days unfolded.

Ironman World Champion: Sam Laidlow

After finishing second in Kona the year before, Sam Laidlow was able to win the 2023 title:

1 Sam

After a good swim in the front group, Sam took some extra time to put on his “aero socks”, losing almost a minute in T1. He quickly closed that gap in the flat section along the Mediterranean and with Clement Mignon started to move away from almost everyone else in the first climbs. 25k into the bike, they were already more than a minute ahead of Braden Currie and one and a half minutes ahead of a shrinking chase group. Sam and Clement stayed together in the second big climb as well, but then Sam slowly built a lead in the flatter middle section.

By 100k, Sam was four minutes ahead of Rudy von Berg and Magnus Ditlev. In the final descent back to sea level, Rudy was only able to get back a few seconds, and at the start of the run Sam’s lead was 5:36 over Rudy and 6:00 over Magnus. Sam posted the fast bike leg of 4:31, four and a half minutes quicker than Magnus and Cam Wurf.

At the start of the run in Kona 2022, Sam was 6:19 ahead of Gustav Iden, Kristian Blummenfelt and Max Neumann. But other than last year, his chasers in Nice weren’t really able to reduce his lead: After three of four run laps, he was still six minutes ahead of Magnus. In the end, Sam ran a 2:41 marathon, the sixth-best in the field, and won the Ironman World Championships with a final gap of 3:55.

Second Place: Patrick Lange

Patrick Lange had the best marathon of the day which saw him finish second:

2 Patrick

Patrick just missed the first fast swim pack, in T2 he was a minute behind the trailing swimmer in the first group but leading the second group that included some strong bike riders such as Magnus Ditlev. Once Patrick hit the hills, he was not able to stay with Magnus. Even if he was riding in 15th and continued to lose time to the front, he got a boost from catching up to Jan Frodeno after three hours of racing. He must have felt even better when he was able to ride away from Frodo in the climb to Coursegoules around mile 75. He was overtaking a few other athletes and was in a solid Top 10 position – but already more than ten minutes behind the lead. He lost some more time in the final flat section and started the run in ninth place, exactly 13 minutes behind Sam and seven minutes behind Magnus in third. How far ahead would a good marathon carry him?

As is typical for him, Patrick’s start of the marathon looked “slow”, for example Gregory Barnaby was able to put forty seconds into him in the first 4k of the run. But Patrick’s run pace is unrelenting – once he has dialed into his pace, he won’t slow down. At the end of the first run lap, Patrick had caught Gregory Barnaby and already moved into fifth place. The gap to the podium had come down to just under five minutes, even if Sam seemed out of reach for him with a lead of over eleven minutes. In each of the final three laps, Patrick was able to make up one spot: In lap 2 he caught Cam Wurf, in lap 3 Rudy von Berg and at the start of the final lap he passed Magnus for second place. Patrick ran a 2:32 marathon, the fastest of the day by almost four minutes over Matt Hanson (who finished 21st) and also the fastest ever in an Ironman World Championship.

Third Place: Magnus Ditlev

After a strong bike and run, Magnus Ditlev claimed the final podium spot:

3 Magnus

Similar to Patrick, Magnus also lost some time in the swim (he exited the water 12 seconds behind Patrick) and then some more time in T1. At the start of the bike he was more than a minute behind Patrick, but made up most of that in the flat section at the start and quickly overtook Patrick in the first climbs. But at that point, Sam had already started to push the pace at the front, and by mile 20 Sam was almost three minutes ahead. Then Magnus started to ride a bit quicker than Sam and also gained quite a few spots: By mile 35 he had ridden into 4th place, and the gap had slightly shrunk down to just over two and a half minutes.

It was expected that the rolling middle section would suit Magnus and others who could push big watts, but Sam rode that part hard and faster than everyone else. Magnus continued to lose time to Sam, and Rudy von Berg was even able to ride away  from him in the closing downhill. Magnus was able to almost bridge up to Rudy in the final flat section, but he started the run in third place, almost six minutes behind Sam.

Once on the run, Magnus closed the final 30 seconds to Rudy and then ran away from him after the first turnaround. At the end of the first run lap, he was 28 seconds ahead of Rudy but still six minutes behind Sam. Magnus continued to push the pace but ran a bit out of steam at the end of the second loop – he only made up another 30 seconds to Sam but was able to increase his gap to Rudy to almost two minutes. In the final loop, Patrick stormed by Magnus – Magnus ran a 2:41 marathon but wasn’t able to match Patrick’s 2:32 speed. A third place was nonetheless his first Ironman World Championship podium and a solid improvement over his eighth place from Kona 2022.

Fourth Place: Rudy Von Berg

Rudy Von Berg used his “local knowledge” to finish in fourth place:

4 Rudy

Rudy started his day with a good swim in the lead group and was close to the front when the climbing started. When Sam and Clement rode away, he wasn’t following them but rode at his own pace. After about 30 miles, he had lost about two minutes to Sam, and Magnus had ridden up to him. Then he rode together with Magnus until the top of Coursegoules, about mile 80, riding in second and third almost five minutes behind Sam. In the descent back to sea level, Rudy used his course knowledge, made up a few seconds to Sam but also put a gap of about a minute into Magnus. He gave up some of this in the final flatter section but was still 37 seconds ahead of Magnus at the end of the bike.

On the run, Rudy was quickly caught by Magnus in the first 5k and then had to let Magnus run away. When Patrick passed him at about 28k (run lap 3), he was able to slightly increase his pace for the final 14k. Magnus was ahead by just under two minutes, and Rudy was able to gain back only a few seconds. He crossed the finish line in fourth place, 1:14 behind Magnus. His 2:42 marathon was a new personal best for him, about 6 minutes quicker than when he won IM France in 2022 (on what was then probably a slightly shorter run course than for the World Championships).

Fifth Place: Leon Chevalier

After a seventh place in Kona 2022, Leon Chevalier improved two spots and finished in fifth place:

5 Leon

Leon was the top finisher from the athletes not in the first or second swim group, he exited the water 3:21 behind the swim leader in 30th place. Once on the bike, he started to move forward in the field, rode well in the climbs and entered the Top10 before Andon, roughly at mile 50. He wasn’t quite able to match Sam’s pace on the bike and continued to lose time to the front, but he was able to make up even more places on the bike. By T2, he was eleven minutes behind Sam but had moved into fifth place, posting the fifth-best bike split of the day.

Leon also had a great 2:49 marathon, which was the fourth-best in the field. Especially in the second run loop, he was able to put time into almost everyone who was slightly behind him, only Patrick Lange was able to overtake him.

Those in front of him also ran well, and Leon was only able to overtake Cam Wurf. In the end, he finished in fifth place, 2:10 behind Rudy in fourth but also with a 3:29 gap to sixth place.

Sixth Place: Arthur Horseau

After losing time in the swim and on the bike, Arthur Horseau had a solid run through the field all the way into sixth place:

6 Arthur

Arthur’s result is proof that patient racing can give you a great overall result in the end even after a slower swim. He was among the last Pros out of the water, losing five and a half minutes to the leaders, and in the first half of the bike he lost another ten minutes to Sam. But then he started to show that he was racing with a plan: He had the fourth fastest split for the last 85k, quicker than Magnus Ditlev and Cam Wurf. At the start of the run he had advanced into 16th place, just four minutes behind the Top 10.

He showed great pacing for the run as well. After taking some time to ease into the run, he ran the second fastest among the top finishers (only Patrick Lange was faster, further down the field Matt Hanson was also slightly quicker) and started to climb in the field: 13th after lap 1, 10th after lap 2, then seventh after lap 3.

In the final lap, Arthur was also able to overtake Gregory Barnaby and finished in sixth place (and third Frenchman!).

Seventh Place: Bradley Weiss

Even with a five-minute penalty, Bradley Weiss showed a great performance and finished seventh:

7 Bradley

Going into the race, Brad was very excited about his chances for a great race in Nice. His day started well: He swam in the lead group, exiting  the water in 11th place just 9 seconds off the lead. In Roth, he had lost almost two minutes to Sam and Magnus – in Nice he swam in the group with Sam and was 1:20 ahead of Magnus. When Sam pushed the pace in the early climbs on the bike, Brad did not follow him but rode among the chasers with the group getting smaller and smaller.

Very early on the bike Brad received a drafting penalty – according to him “while climbing a 10% switch back at less than 10km/h”. When he took his penalty right after mile 50, you could see his frustration in the TV pictures. Would he be able to keep things together? Before being forced to stop, he was in third place riding with Rudy and Magnus – after the penalty he was eight minutes behind the lead, even if still inside the Top 10. He rode for a while with Leon but eventually had to let him go.  He fell back into the group behind that had a lot of strong runners, reaching T2 in tenth position.

He had a quick transition and was running most of the first lap with Robert Wilkowiecki in ninth position. Towards the end of lap 1 he was able to run away from Robert but then had a tough patch around the half-marathon mark and fell back to tenth place. But he was able to come back to run well after 30k, making up three spots in the final lap to finish in seventh place. On a physically and mentally tough day Brad showed a lot of resilience and handled the challenges of the race very well.

Eighth Place: Gregory Barnaby

In his first Ironman World Championships, Gregory Barnaby was in a great position all day and finished in eighth place:

8 Gregory

In his only previous Ironman race at IM Israel in November 2022, Gregory swam in the first big group with some fast swimmers. In Nice he managed to stay in the lead group as well. While he didn’t follow Sam and Clement when they rode away in the first hills, he stayed in the chase group. But when Magnus rode up to that group and the pace picked up, he was no longer able to follow and he started to fall back. For some time, he was riding alone between the groups, then in a small group with Niek Heldoorn and Matt Marquardt and by mile 80 with Patrick Lange and Robert Wilkowiecki.

Gregory reached T2 in 8th place, and after a fast transition he moved into 6th place in the first run lap. In the second lap, he was overtaken by Patrick but also gained back his sixth place by overtaking Cam Wurf. Not much changed for him in run lap 3, but then he lost two spots in the final 10k when Arthur Horseau and Brad Weiss were able to run quicker. However, eighth place was the best finish by an Italian at an Ironman World Championship – before him it was Daniel Fontana’s 12th place in 2011.

Ninth Place: Robert Wilkowiecki

After a disappointing 39th place in Kona 2022, Robert Wilkowiecki improved to ninth place in Nice:

9 Robert

Robert swam with the front group and exited the water in fourth place. Once the lead group hit the hills, he quickly fell back, losing just under ten minutes in the first half of the bike. Riding with Gregory and Patrick in the second half, he didn’t lose much more time to the front and entered T2 in the Top 10. He also ran a solid 2:43 marathon in a close back-and-forth with Brad Weiss. In the end, he almost caught Gregory in the final kilometers, finishing 8 seconds behind him in ninth place, becoming the first Polish athlete in the World Championship Top 10.

Tenth Place: Clement Mignon

After leading the race early on the bike, Clement fell back in the second half but still ran well enough to finish in the Top10:

In last year’s Kona race, Clement lost 90 seconds to the front group in the swim and got  a penalty when chasing on the bike. In Nice, he was able to hold on to the front group in the swim and went with Sam Laidlow in the first hills. Clement was able to stay with Sam until the end of the climbs in the first third on the bike, but then had to let Sam ride away in the flatter middle section. But he still had a sizable lead to the next chasers, and it took Rudy and Magnus until mile 70 to catch him. Their pace was too hot for Clement and he continued to lose more positions and more time to Sam. By T2, he had dropped to sixth place, eleven minutes behind Sam and less than two minutes ahead of a group of fast runners. His first half marathon was only 68 seconds slower than Sam’s, but then he had to slow down in the third lap, dropping from seventh to tenth place.

Clement tried to rally at the start of the fourth lap in order to make up some positions late in the marathon, ran out of steam but was still able to secure his tenth place.

Bonus: Matthew Marquardt, Cameron Wurf, Braden Currie and Jan Frodeno

A look at some more athletes:

Men More

Matt Marquardt was first out of the water, but similar to most of the field he then fell back as soon as the hills started. For the first half of the bike he was just inside the Top 10, almost ten minutes behind Sam. He also lost more time in the second half, by T2 he fell back to 17th, almost 17 minutes behind the leader but only four minutes outside the Top 10. He ran a good 2:43 marathon, the ninth fastest of the whole field and advanced into 11th place.

As usual, Cameron Wurf lost some time in the swim, he was 28th in T1, 3:21 behind swim leader Matt Marquardt. That was another small step forward for him, he was 4:36 behind in Kona 2022. But as in Kona last year, his bike leg was overshadowed by Sam Laidlow: Sam rode four and a half minutes quicker. Cam finished the bike in fourth place but was quickly caught by the faster runners and had fallen out of the Top 10 by the half-marathon mark. In the end, a 2:54 marathon was only good enough for 14th place.

The day started well for Braden Currie, he was second out of the water. But then things did not go according to plan: The zipper of his race suit broke and he had to ride with the top flapping in the wind. With his team scrambling in the background (potential penalty? what to do in T2?), he lost time to the front but rode in the second group until halfway on the bike. He then received a penalty for littering which seemed to break his spirit. By T2, he was more than 16 minutes behind in 14th place. He had decided not to serve his penalty before T2 and ran a decent first half-marathon, still in 15th place. His pace dropped in run lap 3, and in the end he crossed the line in 16th place, the first position outside the money. After being DQ’d for not serving his penalty, he appealed and the penalty and his DQ were overturned.

Jan Frodeno‘s goodbye to professional racing ended not quite in the way he was hoping for. The swim went well, he was in a good position in the big front group and exited the water just one second behind swim leader Matt Marquardt. However, without any swim specialist willing to push the pace the lead group consisted of eleven athletes, probably more than Frodo was hoping for. [tearing race suit] Once Sam and Clement rode away at the front, Frodo rode in the chase group. But then he was no longer able to stay with Rudy, Brad or Braden in the climb up to the Col d’Ecre, and Magnus passed him as well. By mile 40, he had fallen back to the group around Patrick Lange, and the two stayed together until mile 80 when Patrick was able to ride away in the last big climb to Coursegoules. At that point, Frodo was more than twelve minutes behind and it seemed clear that he wouldn’t be able to win his last Pro race. To a German TV cameraman he shrugged and said “A gladiator dies in his arena”. Nonetheless, he was almost able to ride back up to Patrick by T2. At the start of the run, he took some extra time to hug his family, losing some more time and making it clear that he wouldn’t run all out but still finish respectably. Later on the run, he also hugged and thanked his coach Dan Lorang who was out on the run course. In the end, he ran a 3:08 marathon, finishing 24th. He was given a rousing reception by the spectators at the finish line and said goodbye to them and all triathlon fans.

Frodo Nizza2023

All photos © Marcel Hilger, used with permission.

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