Chris Leiferman came home victorious in his first Ironman race of the season. With a 4:01:50 bike split he broke open the race on the bike and managed to hold on to his lead on the run. Eventually, Chris posted a winning time of 7:52:44. His fellow countrymen Matthew Hanson (USA; 7:55:02) and Sam Long (USA; 7:55:33) finished 2nd and 3rd respectively.
Earned on the bike, rewarded on the run
After his win at the Great Floridian two weeks ago, Chris Leiferman knew he was nearing his top shape ready in time for Ironman Florida. During the swim, Leiferman reached the Australian exit well inside the first big chase group, only 30” behind the leader. In the second lap, that big chase group broke in pieces as Chris came back to shore in 10th place and had lost another minute towards the lead of the race. After a fast transition, the BMC-Vifit athlete jumped on his bike with clear intensions. He closed down the gap within the first 30k. From that point onwards, Chris would never drop out of the top 3 of this race. Together with 3 other strong bikers Dreitz, Russel and Long, Leiferman broke away from the big group after 50k. They worked hard to successfully open up a significant gap. At the 126k mark, the foursome had an advantage of over 6 minutes on the remainder of the field. Clearly, Chris had something left in the tank as he pushed the pace even higher. At first, he tolerated Dreitz to stay within his trail, but in the final 10k the American found another gear. He managed to break away and reached T2 with a blistering bike split of 4:01:50. That phenomenal bike performance gave him an advantage of 1’ over Dreitz and nearly 3’ minutes over Russel starting the run. At the start of the marathon, Chris kept doing what he did on the bike: pacing hard. Within the first 10k, the American opened up a gap of nearly 4’ over Dreitz in second. Leiferman noted his biggest lead around the 25k mark. At that point he had managed to build up a lead of 5’ over Hanson, who took over 2nd place from Dreitz. Hanson was on a charge and was closing in on Leiferman, but Chris was on a mission. He kept his pace high enough to control his win towards the finish line. With a courageous sub-8-hour performance Chris Leiferman crossed the line in a time of 7:52:44. Posting a 2:50:29 marathon time after such a hard and high pace bike split, is a real class act.
Afterwards Leiferman reflected on his fantastic victory: "Such a great feeling to come away with the win at Ironman Florida today! Given what the world has had to deal with this year and in turn what us athletes had to sacrifice, I am super pumped to tick off an Ironman victory for 2020. And a shout of to my wife. She has been an absolute rockstar in helping me make this career possible and I give this win to our little baby boy".
From start to finish
Katrina Matthews led the race from start to finish. Even a penalty couldn’t stop her from taking a fantastic victory. After a very strong sub-3-hour marathon, she crossed the line in a time of 8:40:50. Sky Moench (USA; 8:46:35) and Meredith Kessler (USA; 8:59:01) stood next to Katrina on the podium.
Katrina Matthews toed the line for BMC-Vifit in the women’s race. An excellent start of the day saw her exit the water in first place, closely followed by Kessler and Withrow. On the bike is where Matthews made the difference. Riding her own pace, she opened up a gap of 2’50 in the first half of the bike. She controlled that lead throughout the second part of the bike. Unfortunately, Katrina had to serve a dubious 1’ penalty reaching T2 which saw her lead melt into nothing.
The BMC-Vifit athlete decided not to let that penalty affect her race. She opened the marathon strong and managed to drop Moench after 7k, building a small lead second by second. Her lead never grew by a lot, but growing steadily it did. Halfway through the run, that advantage over second was around 1’. Katrina kept doing what she could to keep her pace as high as possible. And that pace was the highest of all female athletes as she extended her lead towards the finish line. With an incredible run split of 2:58:29, Katrina Matthews broke the tape. She dominated the race from start to finish, coming home in a winning time of 8:40:50 and to seal the double victory for BMC-Vifit. With these victories, both Chris and Katrina have clinched their Kona slots as well.
Afterwards Katrina Matthews was stoked to take the win and achieve her goal with a sub 3-marathon. “I cannot believe what a tough day that was. Having not done an IRONMAN since my first one a year ago, I think I forgot how hard they were. It was really tough from the start all the way through. I had no one to play with on the bike and then on the run, I had to crack on. I set off pretty steady, dropped off a little bit, but I managed to put it right back. I just felt so good on the run which led to a sub-3 marathon. That was one of my goals and to take the win for BMC-Vifit and stand on the podium with my teammate Chris as well. I am absolutely stoked to come back to racing in this COVID-era and perform for the team".
Images @itskennywithrow & Ironman Florida