Marten Van Riel still hasn’t lost an Ironman 70.3

Marten Van Riel's comeback campaign continued in Bahrain with an emphatic victory

After nearly two years recovering from injuries, Marten Van Riel is making up for lost time with a fierce return to form. He won Ironman 70.3 Bahrain on Friday for his second middle-distance win in less than two weeks. Van Riel has won every Ironman 70.3 event he has entered in his career — a perfect 4-for-4 — and is trending towards a big 2024.

“Bahrain is a super fast course, so it was difficult to make the difference,” Van Riel said after the race. “The crowd and the cheers helped me to push that little extra. But riding on the F1 course — although a little slower then the cars do — was an amazing experience and one I won’t forget quickly.”

Marten laying the hammer down on the bike leg.

Just like in Fortaleza, a strong swim set up Van Riel to impose his will on the bike. He entered the first transition in a lead group of eight, then after a 56-mile ride, was off the front with Wilhelm Hirsch by nearly a minute-and-a-half.

The big question entering the race was how Van Riel would do on the run. He has been very gradually building back his strength for the final leg after suffering a serious ankle injury in 2022. But in Bahrain, he looked like his old self, pulling away from Hirsch and eventually crossing the line for a 1:29 victory over second-place Henri Schoeman, who ran a nearly identical split.

“Backing up a hard bike with a fast run today was great because the last two years I struggled with an ankle injury, and at moments it seemed like getting my old level on the run back was going to be very tough,” Van Riel said after the race. “I am starting to feel closer and closer to my old running level and hopefully next year I can go beyond that and have a better year than ever.”

Marten is getting stronger and stronger on the run following his 2022 ankle injury.

The victory was especially impressive coming off a very hard effort on a different continent — Fortaleza and Bahrain are 6,270 miles apart. Van Riel turned in an arguably even more impressive effort in Bahrain, which featured a stronger field of competitors, including double Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee. 

“I knew that my training had been going really well leading up to Ironman 70.3 Brazil, so I was hoping that I could keep that shape up for this race as well,” Van Riel said. “Obviously the travel and the tough, hot race did make it hard to recover in between the two races. That combined with the strong field here in Bahrain makes me very happy to take the win again and end the year on a high.”

No stopping him.

Van Riel will be hard at work this offseason preparing for what should be an eventful 2024. His season will begin with the World Triathlon Series opener in Abu Dhabi in March. The Olympics will begin soon after in July. But for now, Van Riel is enjoying how far he has come from a pair of injuries that had waylaid his plans. 

“It’s the lows that make the highs feel even higher,” Van Riel said after his race in Fortaleza. “All the disappointments, all the hard work I’ve put in the last few years haven’t been for nothing, even though I haven’t been able to show a lot because of the injuries. Winning now means even more than just a little win. It’s kind of a reward for all the struggle and for the journey that I’ve had.”