By David StewartÂ
The Ironman 70.3 Series culminates this weekend with its world championship in Clearwater, Florida. More than 1,800 competitors have earntÂ the right to compete in the Foster Grant Ironman World Championship 70.3 by qualifying at an one of the nearly 50Â events held around the world. A professional prize purse totaling $100,000 is on offer together with Timex Ironman Watch Bonuses worth $10,000 along the bike and run courses.
After five years the of holding the event at Clearwater, WTC is moving the event next year to Las Vegas at Lake Las Vegas Resort on Sept. 11, 2011, and each age group winner in Clearwater will qualify for the event.
Saturday’s race will feature some of the world’s premier triathletes â€“ a stacked pro field along with age group stars who have earned their chance to compete.Â Among these pro’s are many of Australia’s finest. Included in the men hoping to take down last years winner Michael Raelert are Tim Berkel, Richie Cunningham, Joe Gambles, Leon Griffin, Pete Schokman and Chris Legh. The course is a fast one with a flat run and bike, and it is likely to be a runners race.
Despite the profile of the course Tim Berkel would have to be considered a long shot for this one,Â although he enjoyedÂ a strong season in the US, Europe and at home, he has not been well recently and this has severely disrupted his preparations. Another strong runner is Pete Schokman, but he is talking down his chances having also suffered from sickness over the last two months and expects Raelert to take it out again.
Leon Griffin is hoping to improve on his Gold Coast performance and reports feeling in good shape, but now that he is back working full time may be running a little short on training time in the bank. Richie Cunningham and Joe Gambles are both in good form and perhaps represent Australia’s best chance of a podium.
In contrast to many of the other Aussies racing Richie reports that the last couple weeks of training have gone really well. “Everything is on track for a good race. I haven’t had any problems. I finally turned things around after a bad start to the season. This is the key and final race for the year for me, so I’m hoping to finish on a high note.Â I think the key athletes to watch will be Michael Raelert, Philip Osplay, Tim O’Donnell and Matt Reed. I think the race is going to unfold a lot like it did 2 years ago where the bike broke up toward the end of the race into smaller groups and the winner will come from whoever survives and hangs in one of those groups the longest. There is only one way to attack this race: hard from the start and hope everyone else blows up before I do.”
In the womens race the only Australian racing is the US based Pip Taylor, and she will have her work cut out to beat last years winner Julie Dibbens.
Trizone will report back on all the details after the race.