LAHTI, Finland — Colorado’s Taylor Knibb captured her second IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship title in Lahti, Finland on Saturday. After exiting the swim course in the top-three, Knibb quickly gained the lead on the bike course and never looked back. Putting in a dominating performance, Knibb successfully defended her title as World Champion and did so with a new IRONMAN 70.3 best time of 3:53:02, beating out the previous best time of 3:53:03 set by Germany’s Laura Phillip in 2022. Knibb joins Daniela Ryf as the only two back-to-back IRONMAN 70.3 World Champions, and is the only American female triathlete to win this event since Joanna Zeiger in 2008.
On the shores of Lake Vesijärvi in Lahti, Finland, triathlon fans worldwide got to witness the return of the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship to European soil. Female professionals and age-groupers alike took to the waters of Teivaa Harbour, ready to test themselves not only against the world’s best, but the region’s beautiful swim, bike, and run courses.
Pre-race conversations were dominated by two women: the fast-rising American star Taylor Knibb and the sport’s reigning Queen Daniela Ryf of Switzerland. Knibb is the youngest woman to ever represent the U.S. in triathlon at the Olympics (Tokyo 2020) and has wowed fans in each one of her appearances in triathlon since. Yet she hasn’t had the chance to race an “on” Ryf (the five-time IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion and five-time IRONMAN World Champion). Both Knibb and Ryf have enjoyed considerable success this year and came into this race flying high. Taylor Knibb took off out of Teivaa Harbour, with a group of about six others forming behind her in a lead pack. Lucy Buckingham (GBR) took over the lead about a third of the way into the 1.93 km (1.2-mile) ROKA swim course in Lake Vesijärvi, with Knibb staying hot on her feet. Brazil’s Pamela Oliveria was in the mix at the front of the swim as well.
Behind the lead pack of about seven, many of the pre-race favorites all formed the chase pack: Holly Lawrence (GBR), Kat Matthews (GBR), Paula Findlay (CAN), Daniela Ryf (CHE), Emma Pallant-Browne (GBR), and Laura Phillip. Lawrence swam aggressively, trying to bridge the gap to the lead swimmers, but they remained up front. Buckingham was out of the water first in 24:43, with Knibb and Oliviera close behind her, just two seconds back. The second pack exited the water a minute and a half back, including Lawrence, Salthouse (AUS), Matthews, Ryf, Pallant Browne, Findlay, and Tamara Jewett (CAN). After a lightning-fast transition, Knibb surged to the front almost immediately in her newly confident TT bike position. She continued to put on a show on the rolling, rural bike course taking in Lahti’s pastoral countryside. Imogen Simmonds surprised with her aggressive move to the front and ability to hold second for much of the bike course. Ryf, Findlay, Matthews, and Pallant-Browne stayed together as a chase pack, but all began to lose time to the hard-charging Knibb as the 90 km (56 mile) bike course unfolded.
Simmonds held her own, but it was Knibb at the front of the race all day long. The chasers’ gap only increased as the kilometers clicked by, to well over three minutes at the end of the bike. As Knibb began to repeat just what she did in St. George last year, fans began to wonder how large her buffer would be this year.
Knibb jumped off the bike with a split of 2:07:52, with Simmonds 2:09 back and Matthews, Pallant Browne, Ryf and Findlay rolling in at just over 5 minutes back. Knibb made short work of T2 and was off in under 40 seconds—almost 30 seconds faster than Simmonds, next in line. She demolished the first 5 kilometers of the two-loop, 21.1 km (13.1-mile) run course in under 19 minutes, setting a blistering pace from the get-go. Her run form was spot-on, despite having struggled with a foot injury late last year.
With only Matthews and Pallant-Browne running in Knibb’s ballpark, the two Brits battled it out for third. Matthews held her own and then, with her strong, consistent pace, was able to overtake Simmonds late in the run for second. Knibb surely knew the crown was hers long before she turned towards the famous Salpausselka Ski Jumps. The final taste of victory was sweeter though as she entered the finish chute knowing a repeat title was hers. On the heels of a 1:18 half marathon split, Knibb finished with an impressive 3:53:02 (her fastest IRONMAN 70.3 finish time yet) and heaps of pride on a day that rewarded her hard work, patience, and determination.
“It’s a long day, it’s an IRONMAN 70.3 and I’m just grateful to make it to the finish line and grateful to be here,” Knibb said at the finish line. “Some people were questioning my decision to race, but racing excites me and I’m just happy to be here.”
|1. Taylor Knibb
|2. Kat Matthews
|3. Imogen Simmonds
|4. Emma Pallant-Browne
|5. Paula Findlay
In the men’s professional field on Sunday, Germany’s Rico Bogen set an IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship best time of 3:32:22, a standard that hasn’t been broken since Michael Raelert’s 3:34:04 set in 2009. At just 22 years old, Bogen is also the youngest ever winner of an IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship and is in good company in the IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion Hall of Fame, joining fellow Germans Michael Raelert, Sebastian Kienle and Jan Frodeno. Germany has the most IRONMNAN 70.3 World Championship titles, with Bogen’s win making it seven in total.
Americans Ben Kanute and Mark Dubric were among the early leaders in the water, setting the tight swim up from the get-go. The front group of 15 to 20 athletes formed a long stream, all in contact with one another until the second half of the swim. Defending IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship Kristian Blummenfelt was farther back than most expected, with the company of Coloradan Sam Long.
A frantic swim exit featured a steady stream of men all within 2:20 of each other. Justus Nieschlag (DEU) was first out of the water in 23:43 with Jorgen Gunderson (DEN), Marc Dubric, Rico Borgen, Kanute and others out of the water just seconds behind the leader.
Blummenfelt exited the water 1:29 back, with Matt Hanson (USA) and Jackson Laundry (CAN) on his heels. It was a great swim for Lionel Sanders (CAN) and Sam Long as well, in close proximity to each other out of the water, setting them both up well to work together on the bike.
It was a true European showcase over the 90 km (56 mile) bike course through the Finnish countryside. With very low winds and a sprinkling of rain, weather wasn’t a huge factor as the men began to power through the rolling course.
Reminiscent of the era in Kona when German cyclists dominated the sport (circa 1990’s), five Germans drove the front of the bike, with Frenchman Mathis Margirier holding his own in the mix. Frederic Funk (DEU) moved up early in the bike to join Bogen, Nieschlag, Jan Stratman (DEU), and Maximillian Sperl (DEU), joined by Brit Joshua Lewis held steady in the front group, which continued to put time into the chase group behind them.
Funk moved through the field in the opening kilometers of the bike, with Long and Sanders putting in solid moves on the bike as well; until Sanders was delivered a penalty, he’d moved into tenth. The front pack continued to put time onto everyone behind them, however.
Funk was off the bike in 1:55:13 and out of transition in the lead. Margriere was hot on his heels, with Bogen, Nieschlag, Stratman, and Lewis all chasing.
Margriere and Funk ran out onto the two-loop, 21.1 km (13.1 mile) HOKA run course stride for stride, with Bogen, Stratman, Nieschlag and Lewis ready to put the chase on all within a minute back.
Sperl and Long lead the second group out of transition, starting the run approximately 3:30 back of the leading six men.
At just two kilometers in, 22-year-old Rico Bogen, who won IRONMAN 70.3 Kraichgau earlier this summer, made a surprisingly aggressive move to the front. He held onto his lead, running a blistering average pace in the low 3-minute range and putting more time into Margriere with every passing kilometer. Funk passed the Frenchman for second at 14 kilometers, and Stratmann passed him near the 20-kilometer mark.
Bogen soared across the finish line with a run split of 1:11:02 and a finish time of 3:32:22, a relative fresh face in the sport taking an astonishing win on the world stage. His countrymen and fellow bike powerhouses Funk and Stratmann were across the line within minutes of the leader, making for an all-German podium and all-European top-five.
|1. Rico Bogen
|2. Frederic Funk
|3. Jan Stratmann
|4. Mathis Margirier
|5. Joshua Lewis