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Notes and quotes from the top triathletes

From left: Sebastian Kienle, Frederik Van Lierde, Andreas Raelert, Pete Jacobs and moderator Greg Welch. (Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

Newly crowned world champions Pete Jacobs and Leanda Cave were joined by the other top finishers for a pair of press conferences following the Ironman World Triathlon Championship.

Journalists from around the world fired questions at the 10 athletes in separate men’s and women’s conferences to recap the race and share their thoughts.

Here are some of the highlights:

Jacobs, who finished second at last year’s race, captured his title. Finishing in 8:18:37, the Australian ran his way to the title after beginning the marathon more than seven minutes behind Marino Vanhoenacker, who led off the bike.

An Australian has claimed the men’s title at the last six consecutive world championship’s races. Three of the previous five titles belong to Craig Alexander, who finished 12th this year; two belong to Chris McCormack, but he failed to finish the bike leg this year.

Jacobs excelled over a men’s field that included last year’s third place finisher Andreas Raelert, as well as former world champions Alexander, McCormack and Faris al-Sultan.

American Andy Potts exited the water first for the second year in a row, but Vanhoenacker, Sebastian Kienle and Jacobs powered to the front of the bike leg with the Belgian and German ultimately pulling away just before the turn-around in Hawi.

Kienle got a flat tire. While he had a spare, he couldn’t get the valve extender off the tube, so he had to wait for tech support to help change the tire. Once they did he was back on the road, but had lost almost five minutes.

That left Vanhoenacker to lead the way into T2 with the lead. He held his position for almost 16 miles of the run until Jacobs, who posted last year’s fastest run, made the pass.

A few miles later Vanhoenacker would pull off the course at an aid station and eventually live up to his pre-race prediction: he would either win the race or be hauled off in an ambulance. He ended up taking a medical vehicle back to town.

The rest of the race was a dash to the finish for Jacobs. As he ran his way back up from the Energy Lab towards the Queen K for the epic last seven miles of running, a classy Alexander ran across the road, gave him a high five, and told him to “relax, relax, relax.”

The Aussie secured the title in convincing fashion and jumped up and down in excitement as he crossed the finish line.

Meanwhile, Raelert was putting together the fastest run of the day, getting over a disappointing start to once again put himself in contention for the win. While he couldn’t catch Jacobs, he did manage to run himself into second, only to suddenly find himself in a head-to-head battle with Van Lierde over the last mile.

Suddenly finding himself behind the Belgian with a mile to go, Raelert remembered the day two years ago when he lost this world title to McCormack.

Once again he was passed on the fateful downhill about a mile away from the finish, but this time he responded.

After falling 10 seconds behind, he surged passed Van Lierde and held on for his second runner-up finish here in Kona.

Cave had a solid race from start to finish and held off surges by several challengers throughout the run to snag her first Ironman title, crossing the line in 9:15:54.

After finishing third in 2011, Cave returned to Kona fresh off a victory at the Ironman World Championship 70.3.

Amanda Stevens exited the water first, followed closely by Meredith Kessler, Gina Crawford, Cave and Mary Beth Ellis.

A strong pack of athletes, including four winners of Ironman races earlier this year, charged along the 112-mile bike course of the Queen Kaahumanu Highway as Ellis, Caroline Steffen and Cave pulled away and headed into T2 with the lead.

2010 champion Mirinda Carfrae appeared to be in contention, too, as she came off the bike just over eight minutes behind Steffen and seemed to be ready to unleash one of her unreal run splits to take another world title, but Cave had different ideas.

After Steffen set the lead pace for much of the run, the race would turn into a close battle when, in the final three miles, Cave made her pass for the win.

Carfrae moved into third and came within a few meters of Cave, but could not improve on her position.

With the victory, Cave became the second person in Ironman history, and first woman, to win the Ironman World Championship 70.3 and Ironman World Championship in the same year. Great Britain has held on to the women’s Ironman World Championship title the last five out of six races, with the other titles all belonging to Chrissie Wellington.

Top 5 men

1. Jacobs, Pete, 31, Sydney, Australia – 8:18:37

2. Raelert, Andreas, 36, Rostock, Germany – 8:23:40

3. Van Lierde, Frederik, 33, Menen, Belgium – 8:24:09

4. Kienle, Sebastian, 28, Hohenkling, Germany – 8:27:08

5. Al-Sultan, Faris, 34, Al-Ain, U.A.E. – 8:28:33

Pete Jacobs

On his win: It hasn’t quite sunk in. The guys who have won before me I look up to as idols and almost inhuman. Crowie (Alexander, who has won three titles to go along with McCormack’s two over the last six years) performs here every year – this is the first year he had a bad one. I was confident that if I had a good day, I could win. I ended up having a great day.

I wasn’t hurting as much as I was last year, but I was cramping a little bit. I hadn’t drunk enough and had lost one of my bottles on the bike. I made sure to walk the aid stations with ice. I was really fortunate that Crowie took the time when he was near the Energy Lab to cross over and tell me, ‘relax, relax, relax.’ He could see I had the lead I just had to keep it.

I kind of feed off being in front. I just kept feeling stronger and stronger and got more confident as we kept dropping more and more guys.

The crowd was so enthusiastic. I thought ‘I’ve got this.’ That pumped me up. I was just super excited to be in front.

Faris Al-Sultan

On what he witnessed of Pete Jacobs’ cycling abilities back when Jacobs was on the Abu Dhabi Triathlon Team: Pete is probably the most gifted Ironman athlete I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen someone swim so little and be so fast. Then, he’d beat us around in every run session we did. The only thing he wasn’t good at was cycling. I remember Rachel Joyce making him absolutely suffer. He is the new triathlon superstar. It will be really hard to beat him.

On the conditions this year: The last really hard year here was in 2004 when Normann (Stadler) was just hammering the course and we all looked like stupid little schoolboys. Even last year’s conditions were fairly easy — not that I want to take anything away from last year’s results — but you have to look at all the records broken. This is more like ‘normal’ Kona with how tough the winds can be.

Sebastian Kienle

On his perspective of younger, newer men entering the field: Macca said they would keep doing it until somebody retired them. If we retired them today, I don’t know. That wasn’t important to me if they were here or not. The strongest were there in front of me and that’s how it was.

On going from being underrated to potentially overrated: When too many people start telling you “you’ll win this thing,” you start expecting it. But I felt there was the right balance this year between … I said at the pre-race conference that top 10 was my goal and I did it, so I’m happy.

Frederik Van Lierde

On coming in a little under the radar: Before the race not a lot of people would have bet on me. I was quite comfortable this week and felt good being under the radar.

Andreas Raelert

On coming in third: I was feeling really good. I thought there was still a little chance. I had a really nice finish with Freddie, but I didn’t enjoy it to be honest (smiling). But today I can say I won the second place. I didn’t lose the first one, I won the second. […] When I crossed the finish line I was so emotional. I was almost at the edge. I wouldn’t say it was crying, I was just so overloaded.

It was not the best start and Pete was just the better athlete. I would love to come back just to give it another try.

From left: Mirinda Carfrae, Caroline Steffen and Leanda Cave. (Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7)

Top 5 Women

1. Cave, Leanda, 34, Great Britain – 9:15:54
2. Steffen, Caroline, 34, Spiez, Switzerland – 9:16:58
3. Carfrae, Mirinda, 31, Australia – 9:21:41
4. Tajsich, Sonja, 37, Sinzing, Germany – 9:22:45
5. Ellis, Mary Beth, 35, Superier, Colo. – 9:22:57

Leanda Cave

On winning: “It’s good to keep the title in the U.K. Chrissie (Wellington) did say in the press this week that she wanted either myself or Rachel (Joyce) to fly the flag of Great Britain and I’m proud to be able to say we still hold that title and next year I hope we can do it again.”

On what was running through her mind knowing Mirinda Carfrae was behind her: Well, there were quite a few words you wouldn’t be able to publish. I came off the bike with a lead on Mirinda and couldn’t believe she closed in on at least half of it. In every other race we’ve done she’s managed to chase me down. When I saw her at the turn around at the Energy Lab I was pretty convinced that she was going to pass me quite close to the end. It was like she was just toying with me out there. I was quite surprised at that last stage, and thought ‘wow, this could actually be my day.’

On her penalty: I decided I’d try to pass Caroline, and I couldn’t pass her, and that’s apparently … cheating. (laughter)

Mirinda Carfrae

On her race, and placement in general: I was please to see my split coming off the bike. Eleven and a half minutes behind them around Hawi, and then the times came back down coming back onto the Queen K. I felt that I had to be within 10 minutes of whoever was first off the bike, because Caroline can run fast now. I was a little worried at the start of the run because I wasn’t making up time as quickly as I normally would, and I was hurting, a lot.

Then I was able to pass Mary Beth, right before I was going to try to pass Leanda, and my mind said to do it but my body wouldn’t respond. I lost a bottle on the bike and was low in calories and I paid for it. Not to take anything away from these women. They were unbelievable out there today, but the bottom line was my nutrition. I’m still really proud to be on the podium. I’m stoked.

Mat Steinmetz and I have been working a lot on my cycling. I don’t want to just be known as a runner. Hopefully at some point we’ll be able to get them going together. I think I improved my bike a lot. I am disappointed in myself for not doing my homework for nutrition on the course, in knowing what to take and how much to take. But you live and you learn and I won’t be making that mistake anytime soon.

On Natascha Badmann, 47, placing sixth: Natascha Badmann is my hero. I raced one of my first 70.3 events was against her. She’s just always smiling and is an impressive human being.

Sonja Tajsich

It was not a great swim. The cycling was really good for me. Then I thought ‘and now you run as fast as you can.’ After I passed Natascha Badmann and Mary Beth Ellis, I had to go completely overboard. I was working hard. I am very proud of that.

Mary Beth Ellis

It was hot.

(Editor’s note: The Ironman World Championship 2012 broadcast will air 10 a.m.-noon Saturday, Oct. 27 on NBC.)

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