A long list of professional athletes will toe the line this weekend to contest the tenth running of Ironman Arizona. In the twilight of the North American season, some 97 professionals are making the trip to Tempe for a chance take home valuable 2014 KPR points. Some 3000 Age-Group competitors will also be duking it out in the desert with the promise of fast times and a chance of a ticket to Hawaii.
Leading the men’s field will be 2009 Champion Jordan Rapp. When taking his win here, Rapp rode a stomping 4:22:35 bike split – the bike-course record which still stands. After a disappointing Hawaii campaign where he was forced to DNF after experiencing dehydration and increased core-temperatures, Rapp will be hungry to end his season with a big performance.
Jozsef Major pulled out of Ironman Florida earlier this month after completing the bike course well behind the race leaders, and he too will be looking for a positive race. Pedro Gomes showed he is good form with a 4:21 bike and 2:53 marathon at the same race, so he will be one to watch. Trevor Wurtele took his maiden Ironman title on a very tough course, proving he can race up front and close out wins in tough conditions.
US Olympian Matt Chrabot will be one to watch as he makes his Ironman debut. Chrabot has seen long-distance success this year, most-recently with a big win over the likes of Ben Hoffman and Richie Nicholls at Austin 70.3 in October where he ran a blazing 1:11 half-marathon.
Victor Del Corral is also on the startlist only weeks after running one of the best Ironman marathons in history to take the win at Ironman Florida. In one of the year’s best performances, Del Corral ran a 2:37 marathon to chase down a charging Andrew Starykovicz who rode a 4:02 bike split, breaking his own Ironman bike-split record.
Olympic Rower-turned-triathlete Todd Skipworth -who has been improving under the guidance of Brett Sutton- will be sole Australian competitor. Matt Russell, Matty Reed and Ritchie Nicholls will also be toeing the line, ready to take it to the field.
Meredith Kessler is the hot favourite this Sunday in Tempe. Kessler took second here last year behind Saucony team mate Linsey Corbin. Kessler took 7th on the Big Island last month, her best-ever Kona performance. Kessler reminded us of her good form with a win last weekend at Rev3 Florida, and we can expect the American to exit the water at the front with compatriot Amanda ‘Doc’ Stevens, and take the race up the road.
Stevens took 11th in Hawaii this year, knocking on the door of a Top-10 finish. She’ll be hungry for a win, after coming so close this year and playing the bridesmaid on more than one occasion.
Danish pro Michelle Vesterby is another favourite to challenge for the title on Sunday. Vesterby used a first-pack swim and bike to take 8th place in Hawaii, showing she has what it takes to race with the best in the game. She’ll be hot in the heels of the Kessler and Stevens out of the water, and we can expect these three girls to be in contention all day.
German Uli Bromme took out Ironman Canada this year, and is fresher than most of the contenders, not having raced Kona. Bromme will be chasing, though, as her swim isn’t the same calibre as Stevens et al.
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Athletes begin their day with a 3.8km swim in Tempe Town Lake before taking on a 3-lap 180km cycle leg through the Sonoran Desert and finishing with a 42.2km run around Tempe Town Lake and Papago Park. The course is considered to be fast and flat, but has the potential to be very tough should the conditions prove hot and windy.
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