70.3 World Champions to be Crowned Sunday
This Sunday marks the second year the Ironman 70.3 World Championships will be held in September and in Las Vegas. The strategic move from Florida to Vegas ensures the top athletes would be facing some of the hottest conditions Mother Nature can cook up. The scheduling change, from November to September, ensures we will continually get to see the best pros battle it out in peak form. Last year was just a first time glimpse into this unforgiving race where truly only the best will win.
The men's race is packed with talent, but it is hard not to focus on the show down between Crowie and Michael Raelert. Craig Alexander gave us a sneak peak into his newfound bike speed last year, coming off the bike in 3rd, even after suffering a flat. From third, Crowie flew through the run with a time of 1:11:50. Raelert, the two-time 70.3 World Champ, sat out last year with an injury. You can't help but wonder if Raelert being undefeated at the 70.3 distance will play into the heads of the competition even before anyone enters the water. Having raced mostly in Europe, it will be interesting to see how Raelert adjusts to the dry heat of the desert.
While Crowie and Raelert may be the favorites going into the race, there are quite a few other men who will make their presence known. Andy Potts will likely lead the race out of the water and stay among the leaders well into the bike, on the heels of two impressive races in St. Croix and Lake Placid. Tim O'Donnell flexed his muscles in Texas earlier this season, taking the 70.3 US Championships with a very strong final kick on the run. Joe Gambles has also peaked at the right time, and it will be interesting to see if his recent win in Syracuse will propel him to the podium. Two of the most dynamic and fun guys to watch will be Greg Bennett and Bevan Docherty, bringing years of experience and short course speed to the longer course with some solid performances thus far this season.
Terenzo Bozzone has regained his championship form after battling through a tough Achilles injury during most of 2011. He is now racing what seems like every weekend. Two weeks ago he won 70.3 Brazil and this past weekend he just barely missed the title in Ireland, he definitely will be one to watch on the bike. Also looking to take advantage of a solid bike leg will be Filip Ospaly and Sebastian Kienle. Other contenders that may challenge the podium include Jeff Symonds, Richie Cunningham, Paul Matthews, Matty Reed, and Jesse Thomas.
In Vegas, they say to never leave the table on a heater. With that said it is tough to bet against Craig Alexander. Here are my top 3 picks:
1. Craig Alexander
2. Michael Raelert
3. Tim O'Donnell
On the women's side Melissa (Rollison) Hauschildt will be back to defend her title, which she won last year with almost a 6-minute cushion over the competition. Defending her title will be a huge task with a field that contains almost every big name in the women's field. Perennial powerhouse, Mirinda Carfrae, will ensure her footsteps are heard on Sunday. Kelly Williamson, who for a stretch seemed to not lose this season, will also look to add to the heat of the desert on the run.
This season has featured some rising stars; finally reaching their much-anticipated potential. Heather Jackson, Magali Tisseyre, and Angela Naeth have all exhibited the dominance we saw flashes of in the past for years, on a much more frequent basis. They have all notched some impressive wins and it will not be surprising to see two of these three standing on the podium. Tisseyre in particular, has always had the physical abilities, but this year she has a new mental outlook that makes her one of favorites.
The talent just continues with Linsey Corbin, Melanie McQuaid, Leanda Cave, Natasha Badmann, Meredith Kessler, and Heather Wurtele all lining up with a legitimate shot at the title of World Champion. It really will be anyone's game as they plunge into Lake Las Vegas.
The women's stacked race makes picking a podium slightly more difficult, there are, at a minimum, of 8 ladies who have the ability to dominate this race. It will be an absolute treat if everyone brings their A game on Sunday. Here are my top 3 picks:
1. Angela Naeth
2. Mirinda Carfrae
3. Magali Tisseyre
Stay tuned to Xtri for exclusive coverage of the 70.3 World Championships.