Ben Hoffman overcame a rough swim, windy bike, hot run, and talented field to win the Ironman African Championship in Port Elizabeth, South Africa on Sunday. The American sporting the Bahrain Endurance racing red stopped the clock in 8:12:37.
While he exited the waters of Nelson Mandela Bay four minutes behind the race leaders after a 3.8-kilometer swim, the 2014 Ironman World Championship runner-up steadily made up the difference to enter the top ten within the first 40 kilometers and finish the 180-kilometer cycle course in fourth place. By 21 kilometers into the run, Hoffman had seized the front position and sealed his win with the day’s fastest marathon.
“It was a hard winter of work and everything came together on the day, so I’m ecstatic,” he said. It was by no means an easy win, with Tim van Berkel on his heels through the bike and run. “There’s no easy Ironman and it was tough all day long. I had a bit of a shocker in the swim, it was really rough out there and I had to battle back on the bike, and fortunately I had my run legs. I was able to drop Tim about 22K in and push on, but he never let up so even at the final turnaround at the end here I was only a minute up on him. I really had to stay on the gas all the way to the end.”
Bahrain Endurance, team captain His Highness Shaikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa finished 8th in a very competitive age group, while training partner David Plese finished 17th pro male.
Despite a top ten finish in his category Sheikh Nasser was less then pleased with the time.
The mishaps started in the swim, following the feet of someone off course, then dropping his nutrition on the bike, then his GPS watch failing him on the run. But like the true Captain he is managed to overcome each of the setbacks.
“It was a real test of character for me today out there, everything that could go wrong across all legs did but it is how you respond to these challenges is the real test,” H.H. Shaikh Nasser states.
He believes he is very capable of achieving a 9.40 on this course and will return to achieve his goal.
However, it was not the day for power couple Jodie Swallow and James Cunnama. Swallow held the lead from the swim through the halfway mark on the bike, but a bloody crash after the turnaround changed the race dynamic. While she still managed to get off the bike in second place, after jogging a few minutes she decided to pull out. Cunnama was in the men’s top ten through to the bike finish, but also ended his race early on the run. “It was a bad day,” he said.
Brent McMahon had his share of bad luck, catching the flu in the lead up to Ironman 70.3 Texas which also resulted in a DNF. But expect to see these champions return to fight another day.