Preview: Ironman 70.3 World Championships, Las Vegas
This weekend’s Las Vegas Ironman 70.3 World Championships promises to deliver two fascinating races. After re-locating and re-timing the event in 2011 (which was formerly held in Clearwater), Vegas now suits both the 70.3 specialists and full Ironman distance boys and girls alike, and so attracts a quality field. Last year Craig Alexander became the first man to hold both the 70.3 and Ironman World Championship titles. Can he do it again? He’s got a heck of a fight on his hands…
By Julia Beeson Polloreno and Liz Hichens
Craig Alexander (AUS): Is it possible to peak for both the 70.3 and Ironman world championships? Alexander answered that question last year by dominating in Vegas and Kona. He’ll attempt to do the same this year—and there’s no reason to believe he can’t do it again. We’ve only seen him race a few times in 2012, but in those appearances he was untouchable.
Michael Raelert (GER): Raelert didn’t race last year in Vegas because of a hip injury, but he’s still undefeated in 70.3 world championship starts. This will be the two-time winner’s first attempt at the hot and hilly Nevada course. Another factor for the star runner will be the buildup to his first attempt at the Ironman World Championship. Will he be able to turn in his signature speed with Ironman training in his legs?
Bevan Docherty (NZL): With the 2012 London Olympics as Docherty’s main priority for the year, a start at this race is not a guarantee. If his 1,500 points from his victory at Ironman 70.3 Panama prove to be enough to earn him a spot on the start line, he becomes an automatic favorite. His buildup to the Olympics coupled with his pure run speed may provide the perfect base for Docherty to come to Vegas and surprise some of the veterans of the distance.
Tim O’Donnell (USA): Redeeming himself at the Ironman World Championship in October (he DNF’ed in 2011) seems to be O’Donnell’s No. 1 goal for the year, but that doesn’t mean he can’t squeeze in a podium finish in Vegas. O’Donnell excels at the 70.3 distance and in April won Ironman 70.3 Texas, the second most competitive race on the circuit. Of all of the male contenders, O’Donnell is the most well-rounded athlete across swim, bike and run.
Greg Bennett (AUS): Bennett’s win at the 2011 Hy-Vee 5150 U.S. Championships earned him entry in three championship events (5150, 70.3 and Ironman) in 2012, and he intends to race all of them. How he handles the recovery after Hy-Vee (he finished third last week) and the buildup to Kona (five weeks after) will play a major part in his chance for success. Although the distance is fairly new to him, he has raced tough in 70.3 events against the likes of Craig Alexander and Lance Armstrong.
Sebastian Kienle (GER): Kienle is one of few athletes who has beaten a healthy Michael Raelert at the 70.3 distance (at 70.3 Wiesbaden in Germany in 2009), and that statistic alone makes him worthy of contender status. He is capable of biking and running with the top athletes, but he’ll need to make sure his deficit out of the swim isn’t too large.
Melissa Hauschildt (née Rollison) (AUS): The defending women’s 70.3 world champion has been plagued by a stress fracture in her fibula, but if healthy on race day could again run away with the title. Hauschildt, who seemed to come out of nowhere last year to take the Vegas win in 4:20:55, went undefeated in 2011 and was fourth at the 2012 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon in March. If she’s in usual form, the one-time steeplechaser has every chance of defending her Vegas crown.
Mirinda Carfrae (AUS): The double world champion (she won the 70.3 world championship in 2007 in Clearwater and the 2010 Ironman World Championship) has never raced on the Vegas course, but if she decides to toe the line—her Kona build is her primary focus—she’ll be a race favorite. Earlier this season Carfrae won Rev3 Quassy.
Leanda Cave (GBR): A formidable swimmer-cyclist, Cave will be looking to improve upon her sixth-place finish from last year’s 70.3 world championship. Following an illness she may have come down with while in Panama for a race, her season appears to be on the upswing, with a fourth-place finish at Wildflower followed by a win at Escape from Alcatraz. A resident of Tucson, Ariz., Cave has proven she can perform in tough, hot conditions—an asset on an unforgiving desert course.
Linsey Corbin (USA): A prolific racer, Corbin finished third at last year’s 70.3 world championship and is a podium favorite again this year. This season she’s notched recent victories in both the half-iron (Hawaii) and full-iron (Austria) distances, in addition to garnering multiple podium finishes. Corbin has improved her swim, her weakest leg, and transformed into one of the most well-rounded racers on the pro women’s circuit.
Jodie Swallow (GBR): Swallow, a 2004 Olympian, won the 70.3 world championship in 2010, when the race was still held in Clearwater, Fla., and has made Vegas her top priority this season. An early-season stress fracture didn’t keep her from a win at Ironman 70.3 Boise (on a modified course) and a second-place finish at Ironman 70.3 Syracuse a couple of weeks later. Although relatively quiet so far this year, an undeniable threat for the title.
Emma-Kate Lidbury (GBR): A strong start to the season (wins at Challenge Fuerteventura and 70.3 Mallorca, followed by a second place at 70.3 UK) was interrupted by a mid-year bike crash. A recent re-location to Boulder has seen her get some solid high-altitude (high-octane) training in, and the undulating / hilly course Las Vegas course should suit her style of racing.