Ultra-distance trail runner Ryan Sandes was rewarded for his cautious approach early Sunday morning (SA time), emerging triumphant in a battle of attrition as he became the first South African to win the prestigious Western States 100-mile race in California.
After settling into second place, the 35-year-old athlete from Cape Town was trailing early leader Jim Walmsley by nearly an hour at the halfway mark of the 161km contest.
With Walmsley chasing a race record in warm conditions, however, his title charge fell apart in the second half, and Sandes cruised into the lead with 40km remaining as his American opponent’s wheels came off.
Though another American challenger, Alex Nichols, tried to close the gap in the latter stages, Sandes shook him off and gradually drew clear to complete the race in 16:19:37.
He was well outside his own best time at the race, after finishing second in 15:03:56 in 2012, but Sandes earned a convincing victory.
Nichols crossed the line more than 28 minutes off the pace in 16:48:23.
Sandes secured his first win on the Ultra-Trail World Tour since he bagged the title at the 125km TransGranCanaria race in the Canary Islands in March 2012.