Great Britain’s Ruth Astle claimed her second IRONMAN win in five weeks with victory at the 2021 IRONMAN African Championships in South Africa following her first professional IRONMAN win at last month’s event in Mallorca.
After claiming the victory in Mallorca on 16 October, setting the fastest bike split of the day and then taking the lead on the run to take the tape first, Astle made the decision to line-up on the start line last Sunday (21 November) in Nelson Mandela Bay.
Astle once again used her biking strength to put herself in a strong position heading into transition two, holding off the challenge of South Africa’s fast-finishing Annah Watkinson on the run to win by one minute, 53 seconds in Port Elizabeth.
Tidal conditions saw the swim distance reduced to 1.9km, and the windy conditions also made the bike and run challenging with Astle describing the event as an “immensely tough race”. Astle set the fastest bike split of the day to overturn the three-minute deficit from the swim to join and then pass the leading duo of Switzerland’s Imogen Simmonds and the USA’s Lauren Brandon.
After riding away from Simmonds and Brandon inside the final 60km, Astle continued to extend her lead, arriving in transition two with a four-and-a-half-minute advantage over Simmonds and France’s Manon Genet.
Astle went from second to first on the run to claim her first pro victory in Mallorca, while five weeks later in Port Elizabeth, it was Astle who led out of transition two, an advantage that continued to grow over Simmons and Genet.
But the main threat to Astle came from further down the field as Watkinson made her way into second place to set-up a compelling final few kilometres after more than eight-and-a-half-hours of racing.
Despite the best efforts of Watkinson, Astle’s 3:11:55 marathon time ensured a strong finish and another superb victory for the British athlete, who crossed the line in a time of 8:38:50, one minute, 53 seconds ahead of Watkinson in second and eight minutes, 39 seconds ahead of Watkinson’s compatriot Jade Nicole in third.
Speaking after the event to IRONMAN Live, Astle said: “On the last lap on the run I was doing everything I could to not walk or stop. This was definitely much harder than Mallorca – I really felt that IRONMAN in my legs on the run, for sure. The support out there was absolutely epic.
“On the first lap [on the bike] when I caught Imogen [Simmonds] and Lauren [Brandon] I actually thought I had gone straight past them, so it was a bit of a surprise to me when we went round the corner, they were both on my wheel. I used the tailwind back out to kind of drop them again but that last 30k in the headwind is just relentless, you’re just getting battered everywhere.
“This is definitely an immensely tough race of dealing with the wind, knowing that you are going to get that relief from the tailwind, but that’s one of the hardest runs.”
2021 IRONMAN African Championships results: https://www.ironman.com/im-south-africa-results
2021 IRONMAN Mallorca results: https://www.ironman.com/im-mallorca-results
Image: IRONMAN South Africa