Friday, 11 October 2013

Ironman World Championship 2013 - Pro Men

The Ironman World Championship goes off on October 12th.  My predictions last year were pretty bad, picking a Macca-Crowie-Michael Raelert podium (actual results: DNF-12th-31st pro/68th overall).  My biggest miss was not even including Pete Jacobs in the 'contenders' as I truly thought he didn't have the bike strength to hang with the front-pack cyclists, and he fully proved me and many others wrong.  For a numbers-based look at the race, check out the detailed analysis prepared by Thorsten Radde.  I like Thorsten's addition of a 'potential' calculation for each athlete this year, instead of just a straight Ironman average time as that provides a more refined analysis:

My analysis below is much more qualitative as racing fast and often may result in quantitative data that someone is primed to do well in Kona, but we've seen in the past that this can more often than not lead to burnout and DNF's on the big island.  Note that in the race last year, winner Pete Jacobs had a very average to below average season, but the only race he cared about winning was Hawaii and he got it done.

Executive Summary
There are two former champions in the field (Pete Jacobs '12, Craig Alexander '11,'09,'08) both looking on-form and in contention, as well as possibly the deepest field of challengers in the history of the race.  

Andy Potts has led out of the water every year he's raced here, often solo.  Last year he had Marko Albert on his feet, this year with Aussie fish Clayton Fettell as well as ITU'ers Bevan Docherty and Ivan Rana in the field, there is a chance that there could be a split in the front pack.  Jacobs beat Fettell out of the water at the Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast so if there is a break I think he's in there, some of the other favourites may miss the leaders.

A lead group out of the water can really change the dynamic of this race - Potts would really benefit instead of riding the first miles of the race solo, Jacobs is the big winner if he's in that group as it forces Crowie, Raelert and others to chase right off the gun.  Andrew Starykowicz will be close to the front on the swim, and he'll go off the front on the bike probably not to be seen again until mile 9-10 on the run, and as the lead group leaves the Queen K on the way to Hawi expect to see Kienle bridge up then leave the group in the dust on the climb.  I don't think Kienle and Starky ride together as Kienle will be a few minutes down on Starky out of the water and I doubt Sebi rides that much out of him.

Starky hits Ali'i Drive first, Kienle second, then a pack of contenders that could include Jacobs, Van Lierde, Bockel, Alexander, and Docherty.  Can Rana, Potts, O'Donnell and Dellow ride with these guys to come off close in T2?  Can Cunnama bridge his way up to this pack to give himself a chance?  Will be interesting to see how many guys are close starting the run.  I think we have a dogfight on the run that goes pretty late into the marathon, shedding guys one at a time.  The last five in reverse order I think will be Van Lierde, Crowie, Jacobs, Raelert with Docherty taking the win.

Here's a look at the full field:  

Happy To Be Here
There are 54 pro men on the start list with two so far confirmed as not starting (Chris McCormack and Andi Bocherer).  The 'happy to be here' crowd have raced hard and raced often to get here, and will enjoy the experience but won't factor much into the race up front.

Ben Cotter, 33, CAN: Fifth IM since December, PB of 8:48 on fast Western Aus course.
Petr Vabrousek 40, CZE: TENTH IM since November, fastest 8:26 at the fast Roth course.
Mike Schifferle, 40, SUI: Ninth IM since May, runs well but will be way back by T2.
Thomas Gerlach, 32, USA: Seventh IM since November, PB of 8:33 on fast Florida course.
David Plese, 30, SVN: Fifth IM since November, PB of 8:29 on fast Florida course.
Dominik Berger, 30, AUT: Sixth IM since April, PB of 8:32 on the fast Germany course.
Balazs Csoke, 30, HUN: Fourth IM since March, fast swimmer, not a great cyclist.
Christian Ritter, 30, GER: Will swim near the front and runs well, will fade on the bike.
Paul Amey, 40, GBR: Fifth IM since Nov and two in Aug for the 3x ITU world du champ.

The Comeback Kid
Chris Legh, 40, AUS: Forever known as the guy who lost part of his large intestine after a collapse at the 1997 Ironman World Championship, Chris is back in Kona racing for the first time since 2004.

The Young Guns
Talented youngsters that are here to get race experience and expect to be in the mix for years to come.
Stefan Schmid, 26, GER: Youngest in the field!  Runs well, will be behind after the swim.
Pedro Gomes, 29, POR: Won two IMs late in the season (Challenge Vitoria and Ironman Sweden).
Daniel Halksworth, 27, GBR: TBB'er who will be right up front on the swim, fourth IM of year.
Per Bittner, 28, GER: Another TBB'er who will be behind out of the water.  Runs well.
Maxim Kriat, 29, UKR: Has a nice bike-run combo but will be behind out of the water.
Igor Amorelli, 29, BRA: Best known for getting stiff-armed at the finish of Brazil 70.3 this year.
Tyler Butterfield, 30, BER: Solid across all three sports, a '12 Olympian for Bermuda.

Almost, but not quite
These guys can put together solid races but are a touch below the level required to be a player.
Ian Mikelson, 33, USA: Swimming better and ran 2:53 on a hard Lake Placid course in July.  
Cyril Viennot, 33, FRA: Solid bike-run, could be 4-5 minutes back out of the water.
Horst Reichel, 31, GER: Ran 2:50 in S Africa earlier this year, PB of 8:10 from fast Sweden race.
Bert Jammaer, 33, BEL: Best ever finish is third at Tremblant in August, fourth IM since Nov.
TJ Tollakson, 33, USA: Can ride really well, will be tough to make lead swim pack.
Matthew Russell, 30, USA: Weak swimmer but strong bike-run combo.  20th last year.
Jimmy Johnsen, 35, DEN: Won IMWA in December, solid runs but will be behind out of water.
Axel Zeebroek, 35, BEL: Was near the front for the swim and a decent piece of the bike last year.  
Ben Hoffman, 30, USA: Has won his last three IM starts, pack two swimmer with strong bike.
Jan Raphael, 33, GER: Won IMSWE in 2012 in 8:04, won't make front pack out of water.

The Fish
These guys swim really well, putting them in a nice position out of the water especially if they help create a breakaway out of the water.  Likely don't have the bike strength to be up front by T2.

Brandon Marsh, 38, USA: Had a great race coming second at the North America champs.
Marko Albert, 34, EST: Came out of the water second behind Potts last year.

The Aqua Bikers
These two guys will create a different type of race in Kona this year with their unique style of racing.

Clayton Fettell, 27, AUS: Swims at the front and may give it a go with Starky off the front.
Andrew Starykowicz, 31, USA: Swims well, likely first to T2, hasn't shown ability to run fast.

The Aquatically Challenged
These guys are formidable athletes, they just can't stay close in the water.  If they have a career day in Kailua Bay, they could set themselves up for a title shot.  They all would benefit from coming out together on the swim to put their bike strength to good use bridging up front.

Jordan Rapp, 33, USA: Dream day would be to come out of the water near Kienle.
Bart Aernouts, 29, BEL: ITU World Du Champ '10, has run 2:37 and has best run here last year.
Ronnie Schildknecht, 34, SUI: Seven time IMSUI champ, likely 4 minutes off swim pace in Kona.

The Players
Luke Bell, 34, AUS: Placed 7th in Kona in '06 at 27 years, didn't win his first IM until this year when he won twice (AUS and IM North American championship).  Solid across all three sports, potentially fatigued from Tremblant.

Luke McKenzie, 32, AUS: Top ten in 2011, back on form earlier this year with a win at IM Cairns. Will swim and bike at the front but hasn't run under 3 hours since IMBRA in 2010.  

Bas Diederen, 33, NED: The overall age group champ in Kona '11, has podiumed all four IM races he's done since Sept 2012 including third at the Ironman Europe championship.  First pack swim, great runs and solid bike.

David Dellow, 34, AUS: A quiet season for last year's 9th place Kona finisher with front pack speed on the swim and solid bike and run credentials.  If there is a decisive swim break this year, expect Dellow to be in it.

Faris al-Sultan, 35, GER: Fifth place last year was The Speedo's best result in Kona since coming third in 2006.  Had a nice win at Lanzarote this year, will be in the mix all day and knows what it takes to win here.

Timo Bracht, 38, GER: Last four years in Kona: 6,5,6 and 6.  Will have a deficit on the swim but is a rocket of a runner.  If he can bridge up with the second-pack swimmers on the bike he could make some noise on the marathon. 

The Contenders
Tim O'Donnell, 33, USA
Palmares: ITU Long Distance World Champion ('09)
2013 wins: Ironman Brazil.
TOinTRI flirted with the 8 hour barrier in Brazil this year.  After fighting sickness in the Kona '11 race and suffering some injury problems in the lead up to last year's race, Tim is on form and has the strength across all three disciplines to be in the mix all day.

Andy Potts, 36, USA
Palmares: Ironman 70.3 World Champion ('07), Olympian ('04).
2013 wins: Ironman Lake Placid, Ironman 70.3 Oceanside, Ironman 70.3 Eagleman, Ironman 70.3 Timberman.
Potts has led the race out of the water every time he's raced in Kona, though this year he may have some company for the early kilometers on the bike.  Has been top ten twice here before, with a best of 7th last year.  More focus on Kona this year could have him poised to be at the front until the final stages of the marathon.

Dirk Bockel, 36, LUX
Palmares: Challenge Roth champion ('13), Fourth at Kona 2011, Olympian.
2012 wins: Challenge Roth, HITS Half Naples
Dirk was in fine form last year, then broke his hand reaching for a bottle on a training run during race week.  A beautiful 7:52 race in Roth sent notice to the rest of the field, but he had some injury downtime after Roth and is working on a five-week build into Kona here.

Ivan Rana, 34, ESP
Palmares: ITU World Champion ('02), 4x ITU World Cup winner, 3x Olympian.
2013 wins: Ironman Cozumel, Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote.
Which Rana will show up in Kona?  The one who made his Ironman debut with a 2:44 marathon in Cozumel to destroy the field, or the one who has had trouble keeping up the pace on the bike in his races since?  Needs to be close off the bike to unleash his run.

James Cunnama, 30, RSA
Palmares: Challenge Roth champion ('12).
2013 wins: Ironman 70.3 Cozumel, 
James raced Kona in 2009 and vowed not to come back until he was ready to be a contender.  He started the year with three second-place finishes, and appears to be coming into form at the right time, winning the Cozumel 70.3 ahead of Terenzo Bozzone in Kona-like conditions.  His swim appears to be much improved and will be key to him cracking the top 10.

Sebastien Kienle, 26, GER
Palmares: Two-time 70.3 World Champ ('13,'12), twice raced sub 8 at the IM distance (Roth '10,'11).
2013 wins: Ironman 70.3 World Championship.
The season is already a success for Kienle after defending his Vegas title.  I expect him to ride through the main group, but won't have enough of a lead off the bike to hold off the horses listed below.

Eneko Llanos, 36, ESP
Palmares: ITU Long Distance World Champ ('03), three-time XTERRA World Champ ('03,'04,'09).
2013 wins: Ironman Asia-Pacific Champion, Ironman European Champion, Ironman 70.3 Mallorca.
Eneko has had a year for the ages, winning two of the three Ironman 'majors' outside of Kona, going sub-8 in Frankfurt and running a 1:08 half marathon to finish off Mallorca.  Under Dave Scott's watchful eye, if he can make the main pack on the swim he'll be up front all day.

Fredrik van Lierde, 34, Belgium
Palmares: Two-time Abu Dhabi Champ (2011), 3x Ironman France champ and course record holder.
2013 wins: Abu Dhabi Triathlon, Ironman France.
FVL broke through in Kona last year with a third-place finish, and has had a great season so far, beating Eneko in Abu Dhabi and destroying the field in Nice.  Expect him to be a factor during the marathon but could be crowded up front this year!

Craig Alexander, 40, AUS
Palmares: Three-time Ironman world champion (’08,’09,’11), two-time 70.3 world champion (’06,’11). 
2013 wins: Ironman 70.3 Hawaii, Ironman 70.3 Kansas, Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens.
Last year was a disappointment for the three-time winner, with nagging injuries affecting preparation and a long season taking its toll.  A drafting penalty in Vegas may have just knocked off enough effort there to save Crowie's best for Kona, but at 40 it may not be enough to hold off younger legs at the finish.

Pete Jacobs, 31, AUS
Palmares: Ironman world champion ('12).
2013 wins: Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast.
PJ put it all together last year, swimming near the front, biking with the pack and running away with the title on the marathon. Last year he almost won too easily, and wasn't pushed after the Energy Lab - how will he react if it's close in the closing miles?  He's had cramping issues in the past later in the race, and if it comes down to a multiple-athlete dogfight out of the Energy Lab, the cramps could end his chances to defend his title.

Andreas Raelert, 37, GER
Palmares: World record holder (Roth '11), 2 time Olympian, four-time Kona podium, silver at 70.3 Worlds.
2013 wins: Ironman Switzerland, Ironman 70.3 New Orleans.
Andi has been on the podium all four years he's made the trip to Hawaii, including last year where he had a disastrous swim, coming out four minutes down on the main contenders. While he may not be right up front on the swim I think he's closer than last year and could be poised for a late-race battle with Bevan, similar to his 2010 battle with Macca.

The New Boss is Kiwi
Bevan Docherty, 36, New Zealand
Palmares: Olympic silver ('04), Olympic bronze ('12), 2004 ITU world champion, Ironman 70.3 bronze ('12).
2013 wins: Iroman New Zealand, Ironman 70.3 Boise, Ironman 70.3 Vineman.
The last Kona 'rookie' to win the race was Luc Van Lierde in 1996, who set the course record.  This is only Bevan's second Ironman, he's a hard-nosed racer who commented that it was 'easy' to run 2:49 in New Zealand.  He's tough as nails, races well in the heat and is the 'purest' runner in the field.  I expect to be with the leaders on the swim, will be smart on the bike to be with the top run threats in T2, and use his ITU speed to run away with the title, the first for New Zealand.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Ironman World Championship 2013 - Pro Women

The Ironman World Championship goes off on October 12th.  My predictions last year were OK, picking two of the three medalists (Steffen-Ellis-Cave compared to an actual podium of Cave-Steffen-Carfrae).   For a numbers-based look at the race, check out the detailed analysis prepared by Thorsten Radde.  I like Thorsten's addition of a 'potential' calculation for each athlete this year, instead of just a straight Ironman average time as that provides a more refined analysis:

My analysis below is much more qualitative as racing fast and often may result in quantitative data that someone is primed to do well in Kona, but we've seen in the past that this can more often than not lead to burnout and DNF's on the big island. 

Executive Summary
There are three former champions in the field (Leanda Cave '12, Mirinda Carfrae '10, Natasha Badmann '98,'00,'01,'02,'04,'05) though Badmann at 46 is no longer a threat for the title and after an injury-ravaged season in '13 I can't see Cave competing for the title.  

Like last year there is a 5 minute male-female pro swim stagger.  This has been well-received to allow the women to have a 'fairer' race with less interference from the pro men in the swim and to minimize disruption from the slower pro men on the bike.  The biggest criticism was from Team TBB last year, as Caroline Steffen was pipped for drafting early on the bike after riding up into the back half of the men's race.  

The biggest change this year is that there are three legit super-stud swimmers in the field - Jodie Swallow, Haley Chura and Liz Blatchford.  These three will swim up and through many of the pro men, and could have 1-2 minutes on the next group of chasers (Amanda Stevens, Meredith Kessler, Leanda Cave and maybe Gina Crawford).  Another 1-3 minutes after them should be another group of favourites (Amy Marsh, Rachel Joyce, Anja Beranek, Caroline Steffen and potentially the fragile collarbone of Mary Beth Ellis).  If these first three groups all come together early on in the ride, that could be lights out for Mirinda Carfrae, Heather Wurtele, Yvonne Van Vlerken and Sonia Tajisch as they may not have enough horsepower to keep those girls close enough to run them down on the bike.

Expect Caroline to hit the bike hard and aim to bridge up to her teammate Jodie Swallow up the road.  Haley will definitely fade from the leaders and I expect Liz, Amanda, Gina and Anja to drop off the pace before T2.  I expect Caroline to be first into T2, Jodie either with her or close by.  Rachel Joyce could hang with Caroline all day if she has a day like she did in Texas where she rode 4:42, not far off many of the pro men that day.  I expect Amy, Meredith, Mary Beth and Leanda likely together as a group for most of the ride, and Heather Wurtele bridging up to make contact with them before Hawi.  I think Heather makes the pass on the way back to T2 so we have Caroline - Jodie - Rachel - Heather as the first four on the run, followed by the Amy-Meredith-Mary Beth-Leanda group.  With the depth of the women's field this year, I think Mirinda is too far back at T2 to challenge for the win.

Caroline's been here before, leading out of T2 only to surrender the lead down the road.  I see her and Rachel having a strong battle out to the Energy Lab, then Rachel bringing it home strong for the win, Caroline in second and Heather Wurtele rounding out the podium in third.

Here's a look at the full field:  

Happy To Be Here
With 37 pro women on the start list there’s invariably a collection of racers who have achieved their goal for the season just by earning a spot on the pier to rack their bike.  Of those 37, we know one for sure isn't starting (Camilla Pedersen recovering from a scary bike accident) and there's been rumours Erika Csomor isn't racing either, so there may be 35 starters.  These athletes tend to race numerous times just to qualify, and are relatively tapped out by the time October arrives.  This year’s ‘happy to be here’ crowd:

Eva Nystroem, 35, SWE - Fourth IM since November, weak swimmer.
Sofie Goos, 33, BEL - Fourth IM since November, lacks bike power to hang up front.
Sara Gross, 37, CAN - Fourth IM since November, made her Kona debut in 2004.
Ashley Clifford, 27, USA - Fifth IM since November, good swimmer weak cyclist.
Mirjam Weerd, 38, NED - Fifth IM since November, struggles on the run.
Mareen Hufe 35, GER - Fourth IM since November, PB of 9:38 in Germany.
Anna Ross, 31, NZL - Third IM of the year, no runs faster than 3:15.
Haley Chura, 28, USA - Could be up with Jodie on the swim, yet to run faster than 3:17.
Rebecca Hoschke, 36, AUS - Fourth IM since December, IMOZ winner in weak field.
Jennie Hansen, 29, USA - Won IMLP, strong run but will be far behind by T2.
Elizabeth Lyles, 35, USA - IMMOO winner against a weak field, good runner.
Britta Martin, 35, NZL - Won IMWA in December, PB of 9:37 at Sweden.
Kim Schwabenbauer, 34, USA - Fourth IM since November, had a strong run at Tremblant.
Jessie Donovan, 37, USA - Three IM wins since July 2012, weak swim and a strong bike.

The Old Guard
These women have been at the top of the game for a long time, hoping for another strong hit-out.
Erika Csomor, 39, HUN: Kona will be IM #5 for the year (with two wins) if she races.
Amanda Stevens, 36, USA: Was first out of the water last year, this year will be leading the chase pack.
Rebekah Keat, 35, AUS: Finished 13th last year, best placing since 7th in 2007.

The Young Guns
Talented youngsters that don't yet have the TSS or experience to be there at the end, but we'll see then progress in the years to come.
Michelle Vesterby, 30, DEN: Likes tough bike courses, has yet to run sub 3:14 in an IM.
Anja Beranek, 28, GER: Nice swim-bike combo but runs in the 3:18-3:23 range.
Kristin Moeller, 29, GER: Will be way back at T2 but has a deadly run with two sub 3 marathons this year.

The Players
Sonja Tajsich, 37, GER: Strong cyclist and great runner, ran herself into fourth last year.  Swim is a big weakness and she could be 15-20 minutes off the lead by T1.  Has been battling plantar fasciitis which will hamper her run strength. 

Linsey Corbin, 32, USA: Cracked the top 10 in Kona for the first time last year and followed that up with a win at IMAZ a few weeks later.  Solid but not spectacular across all three sports, knows the course well as this is her 6th time here.

Meredith Kessler, 35, USA: Won IMNZ and the Ironman 70.3 North American Championship - St. George.  Usually in the mix until T2 but hasn't run under 3:10 in an IM.  Have off the course distractions caused stress in the Kona build?

Caitlin Snow, 31, USA: Has a blistering run that has put her in the top ten in Kona the last three years.  Her bike is a huge liability though, if she loses 25 minutes to the top women on the bike again this year top 10 is best-case scenario.

Amy Marsh, 35, USA: Could compete for 'top American' honours, Amy has a great swim-bike combo but has yet to run sub 3:11 in an Ironman which won't get it done in Hawaii for the podium.

Gina Crawford, 33, NZL: Gina's raced four iron-distance races already this year, with a win and three seconds.  Strong swimmer, good cyclist and competitive runner looking to improve on her seventh place last year.

Natascha Badmann, 46, SUI: One of the biggest surprises in last year's race, the six-time champ put together the day's fastest ride and a solid run to come 6th, her best placing in Kona since '06.  Backed it up with a solid race at IMMELB in March.

Yvonne Van Vlerken, 34, NED: Twice a Challenge Roth winner and the runner-up in Kona in 2008, YVV has the skills to be in the mix at the end if she's on a good day and can limit her losses in the water.

Liz Blatchford, 33, GBR: Former ITU'er has front-pack swim speed and solid run legs but will likely fall a bit off the pace on the bike.  Won IM Cairns in her Ironman debut.

The Contenders - Women with a shot at the title
Leanda Cave, 34, GBR
Palmares: Ironman World Champion ('12), ITU World Champion ('02), Ironman 70.3 World Champion ('12).
2013 wins: Ironman 70.3 Miami.
This year has been injury-plagued for Leanda.  She has the experience to get the most out of her body so she could make noise on Saturday.  Most recently placed 13th at Ironman 70.3 Worlds.

Mary Beth Ellis, 35, USA
Palmares: Undefeated in IM outside Hawaii (8 wins), two-time silver at 70.3 Worlds ('08,'09).
2013 wins: Ironman North American Championship, Ironman France, Ironman Cozumel, Ironman 70.3 Florida.
Suffered a broken collarbone in early September, has the Honey Badger healed enough to be a factor?  Was right in the mix last year until fading to fifth during the second half of the marathon.  

Jodie Swallow, 32, GBR
Palmares: Ironman 70.3 World Champion ('10), ITU World Long Distance Champion ('09), Olympian ('04).
2013 wins: Ironman Sweden, Ironman 70.3 South Africa.
The fastest fish in the pond, she's raced sub-9 twice this year on fast courses.  Relatively new to the Ironman game, she's raced three this year with two marathon blow-ups - if she can pace this one effectively she could be there at the finish.

Mirinda Carfrae, 32, AUS
Palmares: Ironman World Champion ('10), Ironman 70.3 World Champion ('07).
2013 wins: Ironman 70.3 Muskoka.
In four races in Kona she's never been off the podium (2-1-2-3), but the quality of the cyclists up the road will make this a tough ask for Rinny to podium again on trip #5.  

Heather Wurtele, 33, CAN
Palmares: Five-time Ironman champion.
2013 wins: Ironman Coeur D'Alene, Ironman 70.3 Latin America Champion Panama, REV3 Quassy, Ironman 70.3 Calgary
Big wins in Panama and Quassy, a much easier Kona validation than last year and most recently 10th place at the 70.3 World Championship (behind 9 women not competing in Kona).  A strong season has this Canadian poised to snag a podium spot.

Caroline Steffen, 35, SUI
Palmares: Two-time ITU Long Course World Champ ('10,'12), twice Silver at IM World Champs ('10,'12).
2013 wins: Challenge Roth, MetaMan, Ironman 70.3 Philippines.
Xena has pulled back the racing a bit this year compared to last, which should have her cracking to finally top the podium in Hawaii.  Her swim looks to have improved over prior years, which gets her to the front faster but can she drop Joyce on the bike? 

The New Champ
Rachel Joyce, 34, GBR
Palmares: ITU Long Course World Champ ('11), Challenge Roth champion ('12).
2013 wins: Ironman Texas (course record 8:49).
After a dalliance with Matt Dixon and PurplePatch fitness in 2012, Rachel signed on with 'The Man' Dave Scott for the coming season.  She's raced twice (Oceanside 70.3 as well as Texas) yet destroyed the women and half the men in the Lone Star State.  No doubt piling on the TSS up in Boulder under The Man's watchful eye, her disappointment from being ill on the Big Island in 2012 will be washed away by becoming the third British woman to take the title in the last three years.
A second world title for RJ?