…. and here we go again. Earlier this year, Ironman Melbourne brought an insane field. Then Ironman 70.3 Oceanside, the de facto “season opener” in North America brought gobs of talent. “Best field of the year,” everyone said. “Won’t be better until October in Kona.”
And this weekend? Moar talent. And the racing? It’s going to be righteous. Saturday’s Ironman 70.3 St. George also doubles at the North American Championships. And with that comes a pile of points for the pros to qualify them for 70.3 Worlds in Mont Tremblant, QC Canada this September.
And for both pros chasing points and age groupers pursuing one of 50 qualifying spots for the Ironman 70.3 Worlds, they’ll take on not only one of the toughest 70.3 courses on the planet, but also one of the prettiest. And this weekend: one of the hottest.
After a brisk 1.2-mile swim in Sand Hollow State Park in nearby Hurricane, Saturday’s race in St. George will send athletes through the red rock amphitheatre beauty of Snow Canyon (netting over 4,000ft of climbing in the process), and a rolling single loop run along Red Hills Parkway with a net gain of 2059 feet to earn the title. An easy course this is not.
As stated, the field is insane. The men’s contenders include including former 70.3 Word Champs Sebastian Kienle of Germany (2012/’13), Terenzo Bozzone of New Zealand (2008), American Andy Potts (2007), and defending race champ Brent McMahon from Canada, who shocked the field last year to take the win. Also back to better his performance is last year’s runner-up, American Kevin Collington.
“I’m not a billygoat, but I like the uphills here,” said defending champ McMahon. “I had one of the fastest runs last year, and fast legs uphill and quick legs on the downhill—I still think that’s what it’s gonna take to win again this year
Other names? Try Marino Vanhoenacker (BEL), Timo Bracht (GER), Trevor Wurtele (CAN), Bevan Docherty (NZL), Joe Gambles (AUS), Clayton Fettell (AUS), Michael Weiss (AUT), Paul Matthews (AUS), James Cunnama (ZAF), Ben Hoffman (USA), Matt Reed (USA), Matt Chrabot (USA), Tim Don (GBR)… just part of a field of 57 men.
But all eyes this weekend are on Germany’s Jan Frodeno. The Beijing Olympics triathlon gold medalist has the fastest rising stock, having smashed a solid field at 70.3 Oceanside a month ago. After a training block in Australia, Frodeno returns to America to build his après-ITU palmares.
“With ITU racing it’s always that maximum threshold, but I’m learning that with distance racing, the difference is maintaining your intensity for a longer period of time.,” Frodeo said of his indoctrination to 70.3 racing, as he prepares for his Ironman debut in Frankfurt later this summer. “You just don’t have intervals, you just try to maintain the same bike speed and run speed for a long as possible.”
The women’s race could go in any direction. On the start are Americans Mary Beth Ellis (70.3 Worlds runner-up in 2008 and ’09). And the defending race champ, Meredith Kessler. American non-drafting short-course star Sarah Haskins is a hot hand but an unknown entity at this distance. Also making the trek to Utah is 2010 70.3 World Champ Jodie Swallow and Australia’s Rebekah Keat.
Then you have British Ironman talent Emma-Kate Lidbury, Montana’s Linsey Corbin, XTERRA star Melanie McQuaid of Canada as well as fellow canuck Angela Naeth, and Americans Amy Marsh, Amanda Stevens and Sarah Piampiano.
Great Britain’s Julie Dibens also makes her second comeback-from-foot-injury appearance after a solid fourth-place finish at 70.3 Oceanside last month. In all it’s a field of 38 women, chasing one title.
As with the men, the most recent Oceanside champ is in the crosshairs with Canada’s Heather Wurtele. And defending race champ Kessler knows she’s one to watch.
“I’ve dealt with Heather in a few races, and (racing her) hurts—it hurts a great deal,” Kessler said.
To compound the challenge of the hills on the course is the heat; winds have been benign, and race morning temps are expected to be in the low 60s Fahrenheit, the mercury is expected to reach 93 degrees F. Hydration in the dry Utah air will be key.
Check in at Lavamagazine.com for a detailed post-race report, as well as a gallery of the day’s racing.