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.

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