American Ben Kanute led a bold race on home soil to take home the silver medal at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships on a challenging Chattanooga, Tennessee course while Tim Don of the UK rounded out the podium with the bronze.
A 2016 Olympian, the 24-year old ITU Olympic distance triathlete has been stretching his race distance to the half IRONMAN event and impressed many by attacking the stacked world class field that included ITU World Champions, IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion medalists amongst the star studded field. Confident in the work he had put in but surprised by the result, Kanute said “I was just trying to execute my plan. My prep for this race was really really good and I had specific process goals for the swim, bike and run. I just wanted to follow through on those, and if that got me a good result I would be happy. I thought top 5 might be in reach, but a podium is incredible to me.”
First out of the water, Kanute gained a mere 4 seconds on the 5 time ITU World Champ, Javier Gomez. The pair managed to open up a 56 second gap on First Endurance athlete and current IRONMAN World record holder, Tim Don, who was followed by a chase pack of 12 others that were all within 1:19 of the leaders. Meanwhile, Sebastian Kienle, a 2 time IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion, was 4:19 in arrears.
Kanute showed his cycling talent by opening a gap in the early miles and by the 23-mile marker had already stretched his lead on the field by over 4 minutes while a large and talented chase pack of 10 formed behind him, all within 17 seconds of one another at mile 30.
Only to be outdone on the bike by Kienle, Kanute put himself in position to hold off the field with his blistering bike split of 2:08:11, just 25 seconds off of Kienle’s split, putting him 3:50 ahead starting the run. Kienle led the large chase group who were all within a minute of one another, including Gomez 4:16 back of Kanute at the end of the 56-mile bike.
Engaging the crowd as he started the run, Kanute said “I actually felt good for the first mile or so and fed off the crowd. I tried to hold back a bit so that I did not over run the first half of the half marathon.”
Kanute kept Gomez to 3 minutes back for the first 2 miles but at around the 8-mile mark Kanute was unable to hold off Gomez’s unmatched race best run split. Despite his effort on the bike which blew the race apart, Kanute was still able to finish an impressively strong half marathon for a world championship podium finish stating “I did have a bit of a stomach cramp around miles 2-4, but I just tried to keep rolling and work through it.” Kanute, who is a first year First Endurance athlete, said “I had a bottle of EFS as a part of my breakfast, 2 bottles on the bike, and two mini bottles out on the run at the pro aid station. (I also had a bottle of Ultragen recovery drink at the end of the race). I must have hit my nutrition fairly well because I was able to negative split the run. I had an eye on the splits, but I was just trying to run as fast as I could without blowing up, and it ended up being good enough for 2nd!”
Although Don clocked a 1:13:05 run split for the third fastest run leg on the day, he said “I did not feel too good for the first 4-5km of the run but when I found my legs I could pick the pace up and start my work to bridge up to Sebi. Once I caught him I went straight by and never looked back. I was always pushing as with Ben’s super bike effort you never know if it will come back to haunt him on the run but fair play – he had a strong ass run too get 2nd!”
Holding off the hard charging Tim Don, Kanute had sufficient time to enjoy the final meters to the finish line crossing in 3:51:07, 1:22 behind Gomez with First Endurance team mate Tim Don rounding out the podium with a bronze medal. Following his phenomenal world championships silver medal result, Kanute expressed
“I am still trying to sort through all the emotions. It was a combination of relief, excitement, elation and so many other emotions. I was just so pumped to be able to run down that finish shoot on the podium!!! It is all still sinking in.”
As Kanute heads back to the ITU Olympic distance circuit, Don has his sights set on the IRONMAN World Championships and said “It’s a great indication that everything is on track for Kona but that race is a different animal so I am not taking anything for granted either, back to simple training and focusing on the process, day in day out for the next 5 weeks” Adding the IRONMAN 70.3 Bronze medal to his list of accolades Don remarked
“Any medal at a World Championships is always hard fought – I think I have 8 or 9 in my career and cherish everyone.”
“With all the hard work, all the sacrifice and planning, and all the support from my family and support network, it’s great to push all the way for the podium !!!”
IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship
September 10, 2017
1) Javier Gomez (ESP) 3:49:45
2) Ben Kanute (USA) 3:51:07
3) Tim Don (GBR) 3:52:00
4) Sam Appleton (AUS) 3:53:34
5) Sebastian Kienle (GER) 3:54:46
6) Maurice Clavel (GER) 3:55:18
7) Tyler Butterfield (BER) 3:56:22
8) Andreas Dreitz (GER) 3:56:34
9) Ivan Tutukin (RUS) 3:56:55
10) Pieter Heemeryck (BEL) 3:57:38