IRONMAN 70.3 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP With
the start in beautiful Lake Las Vegas followed by a hilly bike through spectacular Lake Mead State Park, the first two legs of the Ironman 70.3 World Championship include some spectacular scenery along with some impressive views of the Las Vegas strip as the riders finish the bike course. The three-loop run in the heart of Henderson, Nev. is deceptively tough, with some long, gradual climbs that ensure this is a true championship course.
Craig Alexander won the first race in Henderson two years ago on his way to a historic double that saw him win in Kona just four weeks later. Last year Leanda Cave managed the same feat. Those two will arrive at this year’s championship as two of the favourites, but there’s a long list of athletes who have very legitimate chances of taking the title.
Last year Sebastian Kienle blew by the rest of the lead men and opened up enough of a gap to hold off Alexander and former Olympic silver and bronze medallist Bevan Docherty. Alexander had a tough fall last year due to some back issues. That might make him more dangerous than ever this year – his double win in 2011 came after a tough Kona race in 2004 that saw him finish fourth. Despite the fact that he turned 40 in June, the five-time world champion appears to be as fit and determined as ever to return to the top of the podium in these championship events. Even if he has a great race, though, Alexander hardly arrives as a shoe-in favourite when you consider that athletes like Tim O’Donnell, Greg Bennett, Andy Potts (the 2010 world champion who is likely to lead out of the water), Terenzo Bozzone (2008 world champion) and Australian Olympian Brad Kahlefeldt are also likely to be in the hunt for the win.
Canadian hopes lie in yet another Olympian who has moved up, Brent McMahon. He dominated Ironman 70.3 St. George earlier this year over a stacked field and proved that he can compete with the very best in the sport. He’s a very legitimate contender for this championship.
While Cave has proven that she is amongst the strongest in the sport over the last few months of the year, she’ll arrive in Vegas and Kona with a huge target on her back. One of the women who will be looking hard at that target is Canadian Angela Naeth, who appeared to be on track for a top performance in Vegas last year before a crash on the bike took her out of contention. Leading the 70.3 standings as we go to print is another Canadian, Heather Wurtele, who is on her own tear this season with a course-record win in Coeur d’Alene along with 70.3 wins in Panama and Calgary and a win at Rev3 Quassy to her credit. Other women to watch for are Heather Jackson and Canadian Magali Tisseyre.
This will be the last world championship event held in Henderson – the world championship will start moving around over the next few years, beginning with next year’s world championship event in Mont-Tremblant. In addition to the impressive pro field, age group athletes from around the world will no doubt jump on their chance to mix a championship race with a Vegas vacation.