The 24-year-old gave a special performance in St. George
Taylor Knibb stormed to the lead just a few miles into her bike after just 33 minutes of racing at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in St. George. She never looked back, as she dominated a field of the best triathletes in the world to win the race by 5:36 over Paul Findlay in second and Emma Pallant-Browne in third.
Knibb was in great form from the start. On the 1.2-mile swim, she stuck with the talented Pallant-Browne and Lucy Charles-Barclay, exiting out of the water right on their heels. She took her time at the first transition, putting on socks and sleeves to stay warm on a 40-degree morning while others opted not to layer up as they hopped on their bikes.
“My agent actually told me, ‘Taylor take the time in T1 to invest in the rest of the race,'” Knibb said after her win. “He’s like, ‘Make sure you towel off, because that will pay off later in the race.’ And it definitely did. Because it was cold, but I wasn’t ever at the point where I felt like it was dangerous. And we’re going fast. And just one false move and you never know.
“Once I was in the lead, I was like, ‘OK, that was a really good choice.'”
Knibb gave up several places as a result of her decision, but it didn’t matter. She never panicked — “I was doing so much that I wasn’t really looking at other people” — and she quickly picked off her competitors on the bike. She posted the fastest bike time by 6:44 over the next best rider, and heading into the run, she held a nearly 7-minute lead over the chasing trio of Charles-Barclay, Findlay and Flora Duffy. She showed zero discomfort on the run, pacing and fueling herself wisely to close out the final 13.1 miles of the race.
“I’m shocked,” Knibb said after the race, describing her emotions. “I think it’s more disbelief at this point. I don’t know how that happened.”
Knibb, just 24 years old, is a natural-born racer. In 2021, she exploded on the triathlon scene, winning a World Triathlon Championship Series race in Yokohama and at Collins Cup, where she posted the fastest women’s bike time while riding a road bike.
"I'm shocked. I think it's more disbelief at this point. I don't know how that happened."
She took third at Ironman 70.3 World Championships as well. That performance 13 months ago was an important benchmark for her as she prepared her return to St. George. Knibb focused particularly hard on improving her speed on the descents of the hilly course.
“Just coming here and riding the course again, it made me realize that I am a different athlete than I was 13 months ago. And I think it’s hard to see those changes until it’s been a little while,” Knibb said. “But there’s so many strong women on the start line, you just never know who is going to race really, really well and how the race is going to fold out.”
Knibb spent roughly three-and-a-half hours racing solo in St. George. Being all alone didn’t knock her off game any, however.
“It’s almost easier for me when I’m all by myself, because I’m not worried about getting a drafting penalty or what another person is doing,” Knibb said. “I just get to focus on my race and my day and my execution.”
This year, Knibb won Ironman 70.3 Oceanside, but a longer than expected recovery from a foot injury sidelined much of her planned racing program. On Friday, she showed the world what it had been missing. From swim, to bike, to run, Knibb was an absolute force of nature in St. George.
According to Knibb, the injury was a blessing in disguise in some ways.
“With the injury, I could bike as much as I wanted to,” Knibb said. “I have my TT bike and my road bike, and that was integral to being able to maximize my time, because I had two different positions. I was able to put in a ton of hours that my body could not have coped with in one position, but because the fits are just a little different, it allowed me to take my training to a new level.”
Getting back to racing, I'm just really grateful to be on every start line. I think it's a victory in and of itself sometimes.
As Knibb was in recovery, she had a lot of support. She thanks her family, her coaches, her agent, her sponsors and “lots of doctors” for getting her to this high point in her career. She may not have been 100 percent sure of her form heading to St. George, but she showed that her future is blindingly bright.
“Getting back to racing, I’m just really grateful to be on every start line. I think it’s a victory in and of itself sometimes,” Knibb said. “I’m really grateful with the choices I made and the people who I’m surrounded by. That the injury just made me extremely grateful for who I get to do this with.
“Thank you so much to Trek for the support. It makes a world of a difference.”
Behind Knibb, fellow Trek athletes Holly Lawrence and Ellie Salthouse also had strong performances. Lawrence was briefly in second place on the course after a blazingly fast first transition, and finished sixth for her best result at the event since taking second in 2019. Salthouse finished 13th, giving her a strong performance after a season of setbacks. On a gorgeous day in Utah, the Trek women put on a clinic of determination.
Knibb’s next major goal will be the World Triathlon Championship Final in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 25. If she can carry her form from St. George, she may be gearing up for another day of celebration as part of an incredible late season surge.