THE WOMEN’S RACE
AFTER WATCHING MIRINDA Carfrae rip up the Ironman World Championship marathon course last year, it seems silly to suggest that she might be the underdog this year in Kona, but believe it or not, the three-time champ is hardly the prohibitive favourite. Daniela Ryf, runner-up in her debut in Kona last year, has been ripping up courses herself this year, and anyone who saw her decimate what was supposed to be a competitive field in Frankfurt in July will confirm that Ryf is the one to watch.
Ryf might be incredibly strong on the bike and super solid in the water and on the run, but the rest of the women in the field certainly aren’t ready to hand her over the title without a fight. Trailing by almost 15 minutes off the bike last year, Carfrae’s 2:50 marathon split was something to behold. Who knows if she has a sub-2:50 in her, but you’ll have a rough time finding anyone who would bet against that happening. Ryf heads into Kona with the realization that a 10-minute lead off the bike might not be enough – not an easy way to have to lead from the front.
And there are a few women who will be happy to keep her company at the front of the race, especially on the bike. Caroline Steffen is due for another big day in Kona. Melissa Hauschildt managed to best a strong field at the Ironman Asia-pacific Championship in Melbourne and has suddenly become a biking force to go along with her immense running prowess – a combination that could make her a factor in Kona. Jodie Swallow won in South Africa earlier this year, guaranteeing herself a spot in Kona to try and improve on her fourth-place finish from last year. Leanda Cave has been steadily gaining race momentum, pushing Angela Naeth right to the limit at the Ironman North America Championship in Texas.
Which brings us back to our Canadians. Besides Wurtele, Angela Naeth’s win in Texas signalled that she’s becoming more comfortable over the full distance (remember, she won in Chattanooga last year) and is ready to compete at the highest level.