Taylor Knibb dominates Ironman 70.3 Oceanside in TFR debut!

Highlights from a STRONG early season performance by Trek triathletes

Ironman 70.3 Oceanside drew a high-caliber field to a key early test for World Championship hopefuls. As litmus tests go, Trek athletes left California with good reason to be happy with their form. No one more so than Taylor Knibb, Trek Factory Racing’s newest triathlete, and third place finisher at Ironman 70.3 World Championships in St. George last year.

Knibb posted the fastest women’s swim and bike splits on Saturday on her way to a dominant victory over second-place Luisa Baptista and third-place (and teammate!) Holly Lawrence. Knibb is a natural-born racer and fast riser within triathlon at just 24 years old. She’s now one-for-one in winning her race starts this year.

Knibb will be one of the most closely-watched athletes in triathlon this year, and her Trek teammates won’t be far behind. Lawrence once again asserted herself as one of the fastest triathletes in the world after a difficult 2021. And on the men’s side, Ben Kanute took fifth in a solid showing and Rudy Von Berg took third in a photo-finish thriller. The 2022 triathlon season is shaping up to be a stunner.

Holly Lawrence is starting 2022 STRONG.

Taylor and Holly wow in California

Knibb and Lawrence were among the first five athletes out of the water on the first leg — Knibb first overall — and they stayed firmly among the leaders for the remainder of the race. 

Lawrence, who was just five seconds down on Knibb after the swim, was the first athlete onto the bike course. Knibb’s pedaling prowess was not to be trifled with, however. She quickly regained the lead, on her way to posting the fastest bike split by 2:12 over the second fastest rider. Entering the run, Knibb was 2:59 ahead of Lawrence, who was in second place on the course.

Knibb held off all challengers with the fourth-fastest run split and took the win. Lawrence finished just 32 seconds behind Baptista, and 3:04 ahead of fourth-place Ashleigh Gentle.

Taylor Knibb was blisteringly fast on the new Speed Concept.

Lawrence won Ironman 70.3 Des Moines last year and finished second at Ironman 70.3 Cozumel, but she also finished a disappointing (by her standards) eighth at Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Her result at Oceanside was a major confidence boost.

“Honestly wasn’t sure what to expect coming into this one feeling very rusty and not ready for the main season of racing yet, but happy with a solid [third],” Lawrence wrote on Instagram. “Rounding out the podium amongst a stacked field and I think the fastest run I’ve ever done in a 70.3 off the back of long tempo runs and no speed work yet. Lots of room for improvement for the rest of the season.”

Rudy Von Berg kept it steady on the bike.

Rudy takes third in breathtaking sprint

Triathlon finishes don’t get much closer.

Von Berg was among the first three athletes to start the final leg of the race. He was fifth off the bike, but that meant he was just seven seconds behind first-place Sam Appleton, and he quickly asserted himself as one of the strongest runners in the field.

Von Berg stayed calm as Alistair Brownlee took a healthy lead, and eventually chased down the British athlete with 500 meters to go to take second on the course behind eventual winner Jackson Laundry. Unfortunately for Von Berg, Lionel Sanders was charging from behind, and the two found themselves side by side approaching the finish line with 150 meters to go.

Ben Kanute is rounding nicely into form.

The gap between the two athletes was barely distinguishable, but at the end of nearly four hours of racing, Sanders was determined to have edged Von Berg by just five-hundredths of a second.

“Never dug this deep,” Von Berg said after the race. “Unfortunately came up a few centimeters short. But this is a solid podium finish and a race I will not forget.”

Kanute, who had won the two previous editions of the race, was disappointed that he couldn’t complete the three-peat. Still, he raced near the front until well into his run, and can feel good about his early-season form. 

“Overall, a very solid day, but the guys up front were just better today,” Kanute said. “It’s still pretty early in the season for me, so a lot of positive takeaways and things to improve on in the coming months.”