Daniela Ryf highlighted an outstanding season with a superb win at the inaugural IRONMAN 70.3 Middle East Championship Bahrain. The 28-year old Swiss led the race from start to finish, adding yet another title to her impressive resume: IRONMAN 70.3 Middle East Champion and winner of the inaugural "Triple Crown" prize purse of one million U.S. dollars – the highest prize purse in the sport of triathlon.
Ryf won the first race of the "Nasser bin Hamad Triple Crown" series in Dubai in February, followed by a victory at the 2015 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Zell am See-Kaprun in August. She then captured the Triple Crown title with a win in Bahrain.
Although the swim had to be cancelled for safety reasons due to very strong winds in the morning, Ryf never looked back in women’s pro race. In the beginning, Jodie Swallow (GBR), Ryf’s compatriot Caroline Steffen and the strong Swede Asa Lundström were not too far behind the lead, but step by step the "angry bird" fluttered away. After the half way point of the 90 kilometer bike ride, Ryf let the hammer fall down. With 15 kilometers to go on the bike, she had opened up a gap of about 2 minutes over Lundström, Swallow and Steffen were already about 4 minutes back.
When Ryf started the run, she could concentrate on her leg speed and focus on the historic chance to win a 1 million USD prize purse. On the first third of the course she put another 2:35 minutes on Lundström, and by 11.5 km, Ryf had an advantage of 6:40 over the Swede. After managing the best bike split in 2:07:28 on the super fast course, Ryf added a stunning run split of 1:18:48. With six kilometers to go, Steffen made the pass for second place ahead of Lundström and Swallow.
On the men’s side, Bart Aernouts led the race from the get go too. Heading into the inaugural Bahrain race as one of the favorites, the weaker swimmer from Belgium had the benefit that the swim was cancelled.
Once he had left the transition zone, Aernouts really pushed his gears. On the first part of the flat course a group of six was still close behind, but the 31-year old consistently made his move. Through 76 kilometers of the flat bike course, he was two minutes in front of Canadian Brent McMahon and Domenico Passuello from Italy.
McMahon and South African James Cunama tried to close the gap early on the run, but Aernouts was as strong as he had been when he won the IRONMAN 70.3 European championship Wiesbaden back in 2014. He had a breathtaking bike ride on the Bahrain course in 1:55:14 and was still able to manage a 1:14:00 half marathon. Ruedi Wild from Switzerland had the run of the day in 1:12:02 and made his way into second place. Wild came off the bike 3:10 down in sixth place, but he took over second place after only a third of the course and fought hard to further close the gap to the front. At the finish line he was only 71 seconds behind Aernouts while Cunnama finished in third place after a consistent and strong race.