Inside Taylor Knibb's whirlwind month of triathlon dominance
Taylor Knibb capped off a whirlwind month with an impeccable performance. Just a little more than a week after earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic Triathlon squad for Paris 2024, Knibb went to Lahti, Finland, and secured her second straight title at Ironman 70.3 World Championships.
Knibb was near untouchable. She took the lead just over two kilometers into the bike leg despite taking her time at the first transition to put on socks and road bike shoes. Then she continued to widen her lead, especially as the course entered headwinds during the back half. Heading into the run, she led by more than two minutes over the next closest rider, and more than five minutes over Kat Matthews, who would eventually finish second.
“The first half of the bike was super fast,” Knibb said after the race. “It was a bit of a cross-headwind on the way back. While I didn’t feel fantastic, that’s where I think I started to really put time into the other women. It’s a good reminder that when it’s hard for you, it’s probably also hard for your competitors.”
Knibb shot out fast from the second transition into her run, and though she said that she could have paced herself a little better at the start of the final leg, there’s no arguing with the results. Her final time of 3:53:02 was her fastest time for an Ironman 70.3 ever. She took the win by 4:03 over Mathews, dominating the competition for the second year in a row.
The key to Knibb’s success this year? Feeling nervous. Even as the defending champion, she had been overcome with butterflies on the Thursday and Friday before her race. She took her nerves as a good sign, and used that excess energy to her benefit during the race.
“I was getting really nervous Thursday and Friday before the race. Like really nervous,” Knibb said. “But that means I care and, as long as I didn’t drain myself and continued to fuel well, I knew the nerves were extra energy that I would be able to tap into on race day. I’m not perfect, but I really do try to stay or at least bring myself back into the present moment while I’m racing. My focus is on executing the best race possible at each moment and keep moving forward.”
Knibb has now staked a claim as the fastest women’s middle distance triathlete in the world twice in the last three weeks. Earlier in August, she went to Milwaukee and won the PTO U.S. Open against a stacked field of competition. She’s been jet-setting and competing at a peak level all around the world. The last month of her life has been intense, but Knibb passed the gauntlet with flying colors.
“One of the nice aspects of having back-to-back races is that there’s less time to think about them and stress yourself out,” Knibb said. “Qualifying in Paris for Paris next year was a big goal for me. I am extremely grateful to have done that and it definitely lifted a weight off my shoulders. While I still feel like my riding is not quite where it was last year, I’m running better than I ever have.
“I was extremely grateful to be in Lahti healthy, fit and excited to race and see what happened. I know it’s a tremendous opportunity to get to stand on the start line and anything can happen.”
Knibb now gets to go home and spend some well-earned time off to contemplate her next move. The only race that is set in stone on her calendar is the Pan American Game in November. In the meantime, she’ll almost certainly find a way to keep herself busy with some of the biggest triathlons across all distances, not to mention training and racing for Lidl-Trek.
Knibb’s incredible summer may be coming to a close, but she is far from finished wowing us this year.