Cycle crash ended Hoffman’s chances

Double Ironman winner finished race despite painful back injury

Ben Hoffman of the US during the Standard Bank Ironman South Africa race in Port Elizabeth two years ago
Ben Hoffman of the US during the Standard Bank Ironman South Africa race in Port Elizabeth two years ago
Image: Richard Huggard/ Gallo Images

Deposed champion Ben Hoffman has revealed that a bad bike accident during the Absa Cape Epic put paid to his chances of a hat-trick of titles at the Ironman African Championship on Sunday.

American Hoffman was out to take a third consecutive Ironman African title in Port Elizabeth at the weekend but in the end it was home boy Kyle Buckingham who crossed the line first in eight hours and 13 minutes.

Hoffman, 34, was in agony throughout the race and wanted to quit many times.

“But I wanted to honour the race and continue giving my best all day. I can say now even though I am disappointed in the result, I know that I gave my best.’’

Speaking exclusively to The Herald yesterday, a limping Hoffman said that a bike accident during the eight-day, 658km Cape Epic endurance race last month had damaged his lower back and effectively scuppered any chance he might have had of clinching the title again.

Hoffman rode for the Ironman Foundation Team in the Epic as part of an initiative aimed at raising funds for local non-profit organisations in the Western Cape.

He said he felt discomfort at the start of the swim on Sunday but in true Ironman spirit he chose to fight through the pain barrier and complete the race.

“I have been dealing with some back problems for the last three weeks. I had a crash in the Cape Epic and it did some damage to my sacroiliac joint on the left side of my back,” Hoffman said.

“I took some time off running and I just had to manage the injury with massages and physiotherapy.

“It was improving each day and I was hopeful that maybe I could do a miracle on race day, but in the end, even when I ran into the water at the start of the swim I could tell it wasn’t right.

“I just tried to fight hard and hoped for the best. I hoped that it would improve on the day and maybe something again miraculously would happen, but at the end of the day it wasn’t meant to be.”

He appeared a broken man as he trudged to the finish line among age-group competitors and will possibly think twice before entering the Cape Epic so soon before Ironman African Championship again.

Last year the Colorado professional broke the African Champs course record, finishing in seven hours, 58 minutes and 40 seconds.

On Sunday, he bit the bullet to finish at 6.36pm in a time of 12 hours, six minutes and 48 seconds.

He was forced to settle for 651th position overall, the worst finish in his career but probably the most courageous.

“I would have liked things to go perfectly and win again, but I guess there are always lessons to be learnt from setbacks.

“Hopefully I can get stronger from this. I know that it was not the way that I had traditionally liked to do an Ironman, but there was a lot of cool energy out there with some of the age-group crowd, and to have their support too was good.”

He said he would take Sunday’s experience as part of a learning curve.

“It was a long day. My bike and swim time were faster than my marathon. It has never happened before.

“It’s not something that you would really want to happen but I think there is something to be learnt from it.

“I think that it will make me mentally stronger and teach me about being more adaptable to adversity and overcoming big challenges. I am proud of what I did out there.

“I wanted to quit many times, but there are too many people who have invested energy in my career.”

Hoffman, who heads home in three days, said the Ironman World Champs in Kona, Hawaii were still on the cards for this season.

“Now I go home and I try to figure out how I can get healthy and get this injury fixed, because it’s been three weeks of dealing with it now.

“I just need to have a rest for my body and mind and then regroup and make sure that I am healthy for the rest of the season.

“I will go back to the drawing board with my coach and figure out what races we are going to do, but only once I am healthy and 100% again.

“I think even with this finish, I have enough points to qualify for Kona.”