IRONMAN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Aftera few week break from all this triathlon action, the world triathlon scene will start humming during the second week of October for the lead up to the 35th anniversary of the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. It remains the biggest annual event in the multisport world. Year after year this race seems to get previewed as “the best field ever,” which is often true. The inf lux of a few Olympians who have made the move to long- distance racing after London last year has certainly added some interesting potential to the list of pre-race favourites – not so much on the women’s side of things, but certainly in the men’s race.
We’ll start with the women. Leanda Cave returns to Kona as the defending champion, but to win a second world title she’s going to have a rough enough time with her fellow- Siri Lindley- coached teammate Mirinda Carfrae. Carfrae was a few hundred calories away from running her way to a second world title last year in Kona – for the first time in her Ironman career she bonked on the run and struggled in for third after catching up to Cave on the marathon. Carfrae might not even find herself in a position to run her way to the title, though, if super-biker Caroline Steffen can avoid the penalty tent this year and ride away from the field as she seemed ready to do last year in Kona. After struggling in Melbourne earlier this year, Steffen returned to her winning ways with a big win at Challenge Roth. The list of legitimate contenders includes American Mary Beth Ellis, who has won every Ironman she’s done other than Kona, Melbourne champ Corinne Abraham, who shocked the world with her big win down under in April and Rachel Joyce, who has routinely finished in the top five in Kona over the last few years.
Canada has a legitimate podium hopeful in Heather Wurtele, who has moved through the ranks. She’s now much more than just an Ironman champion. She will arrive in Kona as one of the women to watch now that she has proven she has the ability in all three sports to compete with the world’s best.
As mentioned earlier, Craig Alexander is a scary competitor the year after he hasn’t finished as well as he’d hoped in Kona. Last year’s back issues kept him from his best in Kona, where he finished 11th. At 40, though, Alexander is facing a tough ask in his search for a fourth title. While he’s not to be discounted, there are lots of men who will be all-too- determined to take the title themselves. Leading that charge is defending champion Pete Jacobs, who has been steadily building towards a title defence in Kona after some early season run injuries slowed his training. That, believe it or not, is good news for Jacobs – he was slow to build into last season because of a foot injury, too, and that worked out pretty well for the Australian. Eneko Llanos has been on fire in 2013, with wins at the Asia- Pacific and European championships earlier this year. If he can maintain that form through October, he’s your champion. Then there’s the Raelert Brothers ( yes, the capital “B” is there for a reason – they’re so good they have become their own brand in Germany). Andreas has never finished worse than third in Kona, but many predict brother Michael is even more talented. Sebastian Kienle was, in many people’s minds, a f lat tire away from winning in Kona last year ( he finished fourth). If he is over the health issues he faced this spring he’ll be frightening on the bike again this year and another factor. Add Olympians Bevan Docherty and Ivan Rana to the mix and you have the makings of a close, fast race on the men’s side.
While Canada probably won’t have a Canadian competing in the men’s pro race in Kona, we’ll no doubt be aptly represented by a number of age group competitors, especially by last year’s TMC Triathlete of the Year Milos Kostic, who is going after his seventh straight world title. So there you have it. Six weeks of championship racing. For triathlon lovers, it doesn’t get much better than this.