Skye Moench overcame an inauspicious swim and brutal headwinds for a career reaffirming victory
The bike portion of Ironman 70.3 Texas was an out-and-back along the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston, with nothing to protect competitors from high winds coming across the water. As Skye Moench made her turnaround to complete the second half of the 56-mile segment, her speed dropped precipitously. So she dug in.
“We faced an intense headwind for the last half of the 56 mile bike, and I used that to my advantage,” Moench said after the race. “It was a GRIND but it paid off.”
Moench came out of the swim in ninth place, 2:28 behind then-race leader Pamella Oliveira. She remained persistent, however. When she was mercifully able to hop off her bike, she was in third place on the course after posting the second best women’s bike split.
A strong run sealed the deal: Moench passed Kim Morrison and Dede Griesbauer on the half marathon course to secure her first win since Ironman 70.3 Boulder in August, 2019. Later that year, she suffered a bad accident that forced her to miss the Ironman World Championship despite being in peak form.
“It was an amazing feeling to break the tape again,” Moench said. “Between a really bad bike crash in 2019 and a global pandemic last year, it’s been a long wait to get back to the top step at a race!”
Moench’s performance Sunday reestablished her place among the best triathletes in the world, especially when facing down headwinds, both inside and outside of racing.
Ben Kanute sprints for silver
Behind winner Lionel Sanders, three men competed in a nail-biter finish for the last two podium spots. Ben Kanute overcame Sam Long in the last half mile of the run — after more than three and half hours of racing — to take the silver medal by five seconds. Long held on to beat a hard-charging Matthew Hanson by 10 seconds for bronze.
“I brought back about 35-45 seconds over the last lap,” Kanute said after the race. “I was able to run exactly as planned, which was nice and steady through two laps, and then see what I could do.”
Kanute held a strong lead after the swim, coming out of the water 15 seconds ahead of his closest competitors, and 1:37 in front of Sanders. The headwinds of the bike segment would equalize the field, however. When he entered his second transition, Kanute was at the tail end of a leading bunch of six, headed by Long.
Sanders pulled away on the run and eventually beat Kanute by 1:01. Meanwhile, Kanute clawed back his gap to Long to score his second thrilling result in the last month. In March, he took third at Challenge Miami by just 11 seconds over Chris Leiferman.
Behind Kanute, Trek teammate Bart Aernouts had a solid sixth place showing in Galveston. Aernouts was in 15th place out of the water, but put himself in seventh place, approximately three minutes out of the lead, after the bike. His final time was 4:43 outside of Sanders’ and 3:27 from the podium.