Friday, 10 October 2014

Ironman World Championship 2014 - Pro Male Preview

The Ironman World Championship goes off on October 10th.  Last year I was way off, picking the race to unfold as a dominant swim group that paced smartly on the bike and ran away from the field with a top three of Bevan Docherty, Andreas Raelert and Pete Jacobs.  The first two DNF'ed and the third walked it in for a 3:30 marathon and a 78th place finish overall.  The combination of Andy Potts scratching on race morning and favourable currents had almost the entire field come out of the water together and the cyclists blew the race apart.  

2014 Executive Summary
This year with Potts back in the field and a slew of former ITU guys in the race, I'm doubling down on the fast front swim group playing havoc with the usual race strategy.  These guys get out front and are able to moderate effort through town and the first part of the bike as the other guys chase to catch up, which at the end of the day could save those thoroughbred legs for later in the run.

The top two swimmers from last year (Brandon Marsh and Clayton Fettell) are both at home, but no matter - Andy Potts, Harry Wiltshire, Marko Albert, Jan Frodeno, Ivan Rana, Igor Amorelli, Frederik Van Lierde, Tim O'Donnell, Pete Jacobs, Bevan Docherty and Dan Halksworth are all able to put a gap into guys like James Cunnama, Tyler Butterfield, Craig Alexander and others who were able to swim up front last year. Also bad news for the guys like Sebastien Kienle and Bart Aernouts who will for sure be off the front on the swim. 

The one certainty here is that Andrew Starykowicz goes to the front early and rides away solo.  If we get the truly hard bike day that people seem to think is in the forecast, there may be carnage on the return trip.  I expect the top runners to mark each other, and those that have great bike legs (Rana and Frodeno having shown great form this year) to take risks to go with the right guys on the trip home.  I expect Starky first into T2, with or without Marino and Kienle who will make a charge to the front.

I think Frodeno, Rana and Eneko can get some separation on the bike from the other super-runners (Docherty, O'Donnell) and it's then their race to duke out, with the Olympic Champ taking the title after reeling in the fading MVH late in the run.

Top ten prediction:
1. Jan Frodeno GER
2. Ivan Rana ESP
3. Eneko Llanos ESP
4. Bevan Docherty AUS 
5. Marino Vanhoenacker BEL
6. Tim O'Donnell USA 
7. Frederik Van Lierde BEL
8. Andy Potts USA
9. Bart Aernouts BEL
10. Tyler Butterfield BER

Ironman World Championship 2014 - Pro Female Preview

The Ironman World Championship goes off on October 11th.  Last year I picked three of the top four correctly (though not in the right order) with Mirinda Carfrae fourth - my belief then was that the women's game had changed and there would be a front-pack swim group that would transition into a lead bike group like the men, isolating Rinny and neutralizing her devastating run speed.  That did play out, with a nice group up front...who proceeded to not appear interested in pushing the pace (with the exception of Rachel Joyce near the end of the ride).  Carfrae then ran a course-record 2:50 to run them all down and won her second world title.

2014 Executive Summary
Conditions are ripe for the same predicted outcome to play out this year.  Last year the swim conditions were calm and the currents favoured the weaker swimmers, narrowing swim gaps and keeping the race relatively close out of the water.  This year there are forecasted swells and potentially nasty winds out on the bike course.

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.  Lead group swimmers that are back this year include Jodie Swallow, Leanda Cave, Meredith Kessler, Amanda Stevens, Liz Blatchford, Rachel Joyce, Caroline Steffen, Michelle Vesterby and Gina Crawford.  Add to them the Angry Bird Daniela Ryf as well as a healthy Mary Beth Ellis and there will be fireworks up front.  Last year Carfrae was over four minutes back out of the water, in a group with Heather Wurtele, Caitlin Snow and Linsey Corbin - look for that gap to be at least four minutes this year and likely more.  

All of those girls with lead-pack swim speed can ride a bike, I expect them to work better together than last year, and also expect Ryf to take a flier off the front at some point to gap them into T2.  I can't see Carfrae, Wurtele, Corbin and Snow being able to close the gap on the leaders so that 4+ minute swim gap could easily run out to 10-15 minutes by the end of the bike.

Rinny could run 2:50 and not make the podium.  I predict Ryf holds off the field on the run as she hasn't had to run close to full-out at any race this year (including her world championship in Tremblant), Rachel comes second again and Caroline Steffen rounds out the podium.

Top ten prediction:
1. Daniel Ryf SUI
2. Rachel Joyce GBR
3. Caroline Steffen SUI
4. Mirinda Carfrae AUS
5. Jodie Swallow GBR
6. Liz Blatchford GBR
7. Leanda Cave GBR
8. Mary Beth Ellis USA
9. Meredith Kessler USA
10. Michelle Vesterby DEN