Cape Town - Rewind to 2018 ...
The man from Colorado, Ben Hoffman, was looking set to what would of have been a hat-trick of wins at the IRONMAN African Championship.
His confidence was sky high as he looked to take on the gruelling Absa Cape Epic, one of the toughest off-road cycling events, just weeks away from competing in an IRONMAN event.
Taking on South Africa’s two most demanding endurance events with only a 2-week gap between them is absolute madness to say the least, but the ‘Hoff’ was determined - you would have been a brave man to bet against him.
“Entering my 12th pro season (last year), I was looking for something different to keep things fresh and exciting. When the IRONMAN Foundation reached out to me about this opportunity, I immediately knew this would be a perfect way to mix things up. While the timing isn’t typical for an IRONMAN build-up, I was looking forward to both the cycling and mental workout which I thought would hopefully bolster my goal of having a great race at IRONMAN South Africa,” said Hoffman about his 2018 race ambitions.
Teaming up with fellow IRONMAN compatriot, Sebastian Kienle, he took to battle, navigating through the hard-hitting Cape mountains.
“It was both an amazing and extremely painful experience. I think I underestimated the Epic a little, and it definitely beat me up. Unfortunately, with the level of suffering we experienced, I did not have as much time to enjoy the scenery and experience as I would have liked, but I am proud to have taken the event on and completed it with my partner, Sebastian. I will remember it forever, and that is more than you can say about some races. For total transparency, I am not sure I would ever do it again, but I am thankful for the opportunity to have raced such an iconic event for a great cause with the support of the IRONMAN Foundation,” said Hoffman.
With the Cape Epic now behind him, Hoffman turned his focus to the IRONMAN African Championship, looking to defend his title against a world class pro field that was determined to dethrone him. With Josh Amberger who is always the first athlete out the water and uber-biker Cameron Wurf in the same line-up it promised to be a thriller. However, it was the hometown hero, Kyle Buckingham, who turned the script on its head, making headlines as he crossed over to take his first IRONMAN African Championship title. Hoffman crossed the finish line almost 4 hours behind Buckingham stopping the watch at 12:06:48, which is a far cry from his 2017 victory which came in a time of 07:58:40.
After all the hype on Hoffman pre-race, fans were left scratching our heads.
So, what had happened?
Hoffman explains, “The main problem was that I suffered a crash in the Cape Epic race that caused me lower back problems, which stopped my run training before the race. I hoped for a miracle on race day, but even as I ran into the water to start the swim, I knew it would be an issue. It took several weeks of rest after the event to recuperate and resume normal training.”
Despite the excruciating pain he felt on the marathon, despite knowing his race was over, despite seeing age-groupers zoom past him, he persevered through to the finish line. This earned great respect and appreciation and brought the Nelson Mandela Bay residents to their feet as they applauded him with a great roar as he came down the red carpet for his finish. To simply quit and disappoint his fans was just not an option for the 'Hoff'.
“I have tremendous respect for my fellow competitors and participants, the race crew, fans and all of my supporters. To simply quit was not a good option for me, as I wanted to show my appreciation for everyone who was involved in the effort. Finally, I did need to finish to secure my spot for Kona, so I persevered. In the end, I knew that time would pass the same whether I was in the hotel room or on the course, and with all the cheers I received, it kept me going.”
It's now 2019 and it’s time for the redemptive story to begin.
“I suffered another unfortunate injury at the end of 2018, so needless to say I am happy to put last year behind me and move on to 2019. I am in a good place right now, feeling strong, healthy, and ready for some racing. The time away gave me a fresh perspective on this career and I am hungrier than ever to come back and have some great performances. The big early season goal is to have some redemption and target my third title at the IRONMAN African Championship.”
“The love of sport and true passion for IRONMAN in Port Elizabeth is really special. The people understand the training that goes into an event like this and they show complete love and support during race week and especially on race day. I feel welcome and encouraged each time I come to South Africa. It is a beautiful venue, and there is plenty to do after the race is over. We feel that we really have a community there, and it keeps bringing us back.”
The 'Hoff' seems ready to rumble. With a mouth-watering pro field line-up expected, you don't want to miss the 15th IRONMAN
African Championship on Sunday, April 7, 2019.