Triathlon Magazine Canada
SODARO’S SURPRISE VICTORY
Ahead of the women’s pro race, the three favourites were Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf, Great Britain’s Lucy Charles-Barclay and Anne Haug of Germany—a trio that fans of the sport have grown used to seeing on the podium. Heading into this year’s event, Ryf was a five-time Ironman world champion, Haug was the defending champion in Kona and Charles-Barclay had finished second in Kona for the past three straight races on the Big Island.
The race started off routinely, with Charles-Barclay taking control in the water. Charles-Barclay had exited the water in first every time she’d raced in Kona as a pro, and she improved her record to a perfect four for four this year. Her 50:57 split gave her a 40-second gap over the first chase pack, and she set off on the bike course on her own.
Sodaro finished the swim close to four minutes back of CharlesBarclay, with Ryf and Haug another three minutes behind. Of course, with a 180 km bike ride ahead of them, there was no need to panic, and they all left T1 with Charles-Barclay in their sights.
Charles-Barclay’s solo lead didn’t last too long, and soon enough she was joined by her compatriot Fenella Langridge, who had exited the water in fifth place. The two Brits stayed together for much of the ride, exchanging leads every now and then, but never pulling too far away from one another. All the while, Ryf was charging up the road behind them, chipping away at their shared lead.
It took almost the entire 180 km for Ryf to catch the pair, but she finally overtook them with about 10 km to go, first passing Langridge and then Charles-Barclay. Ryf was riding well at this point, and after she passed the two Brits, it looked like she would be able to extend her lead significantly before reaching T2. She did manage to put a minute into Langridge, but Charles-Barclay didn’t let her get too far ahead, and by the end of the bike, Ryf’s lead had only grown to 17 seconds.
With the rest of the field not too far behind, the standings after the ride had Ryf, Charles-Barclay and Langridge in the top three spots, followed by Sweden’s Lisa Norden and Sodaro in fourth and fifth, both just over three minutes back of the lead. Haug sat in sixth, five and a half minutes behind Ryf.
By the time they made it through transition, Ryf’s lead was down to just seven seconds, and Charles-Barclay passed her in the first few hundred metres. She still had almost an entire marathon in front of her, but at this point, it truly looked like it was Charles-Barclay’s time to finally make the leap onto the top step of the podium after so many second-place finishes. If not for Sodaro, that would have been how the race shook out.
In no time at all, Sodaro had passed Langridge and Ryf to move onto the podium, but she didn’t stop there. She hammered the opening stages of the run, and just after 12 km, she took the lead, blowing by Charles-Barclay. Despite the fact that Sodaro looked fresh and strong, the Ironman Live commentators expressed their doubts that she could hold on for the win. After all, she had 30 km to go and she had never raced in Kona before. Surely Charles-Barclay’s or Haug’s experience at the race would win out and they would eventually pass the rookie.
But that never happened. Sodaro’s lead continued to grow. At the half-marathon mark, she was more than two minutes ahead of CharlesBarclay. Haug had climbed into third place by then, but she still sat five minutes behind the American. After 30 km, the lead was up to five minutes. Three kilometres later, it was more than six. This was when it became clear that, barring a catastrophic meltdown, Sodaro was not going to be caught.
With less than 5 km to go, her lead had grown to seven and a half minutes, at which point the drama shifted to the battle for second place, as only 23 seconds separated Charles-Barclay and Haug. Sodaro crossed the line in 8:33:46, taking the win in her first appearance at Kona thanks to a spectacular 2:51:45 marathon. Charles-Barclay managed to hold off the charging Haug, stopping the clock at 8:41:37 and finishing second for the fourth straight time in Kona. Haug claimed third in 8:42:22.