We are getting closer to this year’s highlight of the long distance triathlon racing world. Over the past few years I have been following the scene closely and here are my evaluations of my top 10 contenders. As the pros always say before the race, there are 15-20 people who can win the race. I may not have listed some folks, but that is simply because they are not in my top ten :).
Will it be a close interesting battle again this year?
Can a 2nd year Kona athlete take the title? I think so, Kienle has improved his swim, has the benefit of having won 70.3 champs in Las Vegas and has been training in Kona since then. Looking at his pics on FB, he is getting down to his IM race weight, hopefully without compromising his bike prowess. It will be interesting to see how far he is behind in T1 and what happens on the way up to Hawi and from thereafter. We all know he can run a race home!!
Either this year or never! I think Andi has done some of the right things. He hired a coach and spent a lot of time in Boulder, CO. If he didn’t have such a horrible swim last year it would have been very close in the end. We will probably see some of the fastest run times in the top ten between him, Jabobs and Alexander. The biggest question mark for me is whether Andi has the mental strength, belief in himself, and the absolute desire to win. If yes, then I think he will win the race.
Can someone win the three best stacked IM races in one year? Theoretically yes, however I don’t think the other athletes were at the top of their game in Melbourne or Frankfurt. Listening to the race commentators at IM Frankfurt, it sounded like if someone wasn’t in shape by then, they would have a hard time catching up before Kona. I beg to differ, the bigger question to be answered is whether someone can peak again after being in prime shape in March and July and having gone through two IMs and still be mentally fresh in Kona. I think he will be a strong contender, but will not have the finishing kick to grab the title.
Listening to the interviews of his training companions talking about his training and talent is amazing. There are probably only a few athletes who can be this successful with relatively little but very effective and efficient training. After struggling with injuries, which is common for him early in the season, Pete had an intended walk of shame at IM Frankfurt. If he repeats his title in Kona, nobody will talk about it anymore. His training has been going really well according to his posts and blogs leading to a dominating performance at his Kona prep race at Sunshine Coast IM 70.3. Let’s hope his back will not be tight in Kona to see him fight for the title.
Dirk had the race of his career in July at Challenge Roth, winning in 7:52:01. It looks like he has been having some knees issues since, but one cannot really tell how serious, as he has also been posting plenty about training on his FB page. The past has shown that having record setting races earlier in the year make it tough to peak a second time again in October, both physically, but even more so mentally.
Timo is known for his meticulous approach to training and racing, he has continuously improved his Kona results over the past several years, which have direct correlation to the changes he has made to his training. If he can stay with the pack on the bike, he can do well on the run and make it close to the podium.
Faris has the most Kona appearances of the pro field; he has been very successful, especially in hot and windy conditions. Having placed in the top 10 many years it will be interesting to see if he can top his 4th place from last year.
Prep races going into Kona have been showing how Craig’s form is coming along in the past. He won Kona after winning the 70.3 WC in 2011. This year is hard to judge, since he got a penalty on the bike in Vegas. There could be many reasons for how the race unfolded after that, however I don’t think his run time from Vegas is an indication of what he is capable of at Kona. I have in the past discounted his abilities, but I think he has another chance at winning this year.
Frederik van Lierde
I am not sure what Frederik is able to do this year, mainly because I have not heard much about him this year. He won IM France and set a course record on a tough course in 8:08:59. Can he fly under the radar again and beat them all
He could be the big surprise of the year! I have seen him race in Roth, although he had to give away the win, he seems to have been doing a big build-up since then with a lot of training in the Swiss alps and winning the 70.3 in Cozumel, with a 1.15 run in hot conditions.
These athletes could have also been top 10 contenders, but will not be racing in Kona this year due to injuries: Andi Boecherer, Marino Vanhoenacker, Mike Aigroz, and Chris Mccormack.