We don’t know about you, but the team at Trizone is extraordinarily excited about this weekend’s Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. Arguably the most gruelling athletic event in the world, the race includes a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile of bicycle and a 26.2 mile run.
Suffice to say, it’s definitely not for the fainted hearted. The men and women who participate in this event are amongst the fittest people on the planet, and in celebration of their efforts we’ve decided to give you a guide to our top five male and female contenders for the big race.
Before we jump into the predictions, I also wanted to say a huge thanks to Thorsten Radde for his invaluable insights into the numbers – neck, I’m a numbers kind of guy as well. Thanks mate!
The 35-year-old German comes into this year’s World Ironman Championship as a raging hot favourite and deservedly so! Last year’s victory in Kona was extremely significant as it made Frodeno the only triathlete (male of female) to win both an Olympic Gold medal (Beijing 2008) and an Ironman World Championship. After finishing third in 2014, Frodeno started last year’s race in style, completing the swim in second place, before really asserting his authority during the cycling leg for a finishing time of 8:14:40. His form coming into this year’s race has been ominous to say the least. Last July he set a new world record for the fastest iron-distance triathlon time after clocking 7:35:39 for the 140.6 mile Challenge Roth in Germany. But what else do you expect? With a nickname like ‘Frodo’ it’s no wonder he’s champion at long journeys!
Kienle was only eight-years-old when he boldly declared to his third grade teacher that he wanted to be a professional triathlete. 2014 Kona champion is very much the baron of the bicycle, with the cycling leg often proving to be his strongest stage. In the 2012 World Ironman Championship he recorded the fastest bike time despite having a flat tyre, while his 2014 World Championship win was very built on his strong cycling – he was actually slower in the swimming legs than second placed Ben Hoffman and third placed Jan Frodendo. He will be buoyed by the fact that he comes into Kona after taking first place in Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt last March. A master of the 70.3 mile race, Kienle has twice been crowned World Champion in this category (2012 and 2013) and was the runner up in 2015 and 2016.
Frederik Van Lierde
The 2013 Ironman World Champion is being touted as one of the favourites this year. Although a picture circulating of him running this week in Kona shows him looking very lean. Maybe a bit too lean. We could be wrong and would be happy to be wrong but you need a bit of body fat to race this distance.
Missed in his first attempt. He is an enigma. He would have to be the one guy that all the other are male pros are watching. If he has got the recipe right he will be hard to beat. This guy does not seem to have a pain barrier. He will go deep to win this.
Although he has only been part of the Ironman Circuit for three years, McMahon has already had a pretty significant impact. In 2014 he announced himself to the world when he won his debut Ironman race in Arizona with a track record time and the fastest Ironman set by a rookie. McMahon made his World Championship debut last year coming in an impressive ninth place and if his recent form is any indication, he looks almost certain to better this in 2016. On May 29 he set the second fastest Ironman time ever when he racked up his second win in Brazil with a time of 7:46:10.
A former member of the USA national swimming team, Potts became a professional triathlete in 2003 and participated in the 2004 Olympics just 18 months after picking up the sport. In 2007 he won the Ironman 70.3 Championship, and currently has seven Ironman race wins to his name. At Kona last year, Potts was one of the pace setters during swimming stage (no surprises there), with his 00:50:56 was only bettered by Jan Frodeno (00:50:50) and Dylan McNeice (00:50:45) but he dropped off during the cycling stage. In terms of performances this year, Pott’s definite highlight was his win at Ironman Canada in Whistler. Potts registered a time of 8:20:23, more than seven minutes ahead of second placed Pedro Gomes (8:27:31).
We strongly believe that the men’s field will be flooded with the European’s with a sprinkling of Canadian and Aussie. First will be a toss-up between Jan and Sebastian. These two are the finest athletes going around over the last few years. Rounding out the podium will be Brent with a possibility of having an Aussie nudging the 3rd place on the podium. Both Luke and Tim will be there however we are unsure as to the depth in both of them right at this moment – we know that they have it, but did they bring it to Kona? Let’s hope they have both left last year’s performances in 2015 and it’s not playing with their heads.
- Jan Frodeno – Jan has just been too good in all the big races. Unless he has some bad luck (mechanical, stomach bug or so) I think he’ll be able to deal with everything his competition and the course throw at him.
- Sebastian Kienle – Putting Sebi in #2 is a bit tricky – I think he’ll risk a lot to win the race – even if that means he could struggle late in the run and finish in 8th as last year. But I hope Sebi will have a great race and it’ll take everything from Jan to run him down.
- Brent McMahon – Brent will have learned from last year’s slow (for him!) 3:06 marathon. He’ll take the next step in his Ironman racing and will finish on the podium.
After running second at Kona in 2014, Ryf went one better last year to take out first place. While she see posted a great time in the swim last year (00:56:14), her best stage was definitely the cycling leg. The Swiss native was far and away the fastest cyclist with her time of 04:50:46 more than four minutes better than Canada’s Angela Neath who registered the second best time for that stage. Throw in the fact that Ryf also won the 2015 70.3 World Championship and it will be hard for her to top last year’s effort. Ryf’s form has been decent this year. While she dropped out of Ironman Frankfurt with hypothermia, she bounced back strongly to take out the Ironman Switzerland with an awesome time of 8:51:50. She couldn’t defend her 70.3 World Championship title after coming fourth on the Sunshine Coast, but ‘Angry Bird’ is still expected to be among the top three at Kona.
To say Carfrae’s last outing at Kona was disaster would be an understatement. The Australian pocket rocket was hit by a car in the lead up to the race, but still participated, eventually withdrawing midrace with back pain. This year’s edition will be the Queenslander’s eight attempt at the gruelling race. She regularly finds herself on the podium at Kona having won the race in 2010, 2013 and 2014, while placing second twice (2009 and 2011), and third once (2012). In fact, the 35-year-old still holds the course record at Kona after completing the circuit with a time of 08:52:14 back in 2013. Carfrae has been performing strongly in the lead up to Kona. This year she broke the Ironman Austria women’s race record with an 8:41:17 time, beating Linsey Corbin’s previous record by one minute and 25 seconds!
Like Carfrae, Swallow is another athlete looking to put a disappointing Kona DNF behind her. Last year Swallow withdrew from the race during the early stages of the run, after pushing herself too hard in pursuit of the win. Swallow’s greatest strength is definitely her swimming. In her last two attempts at Kona she has been the first out of the water. She is also a strong cyclist, but she’s been known to run out of energy during the run. Her build up has been mixed. She didn’t finish Ironman South Africa after breaking her elbow mid race, but she bounced back to take out the Asia Pacific Ironman in Cairns. She also bought up her sixth straight South Africa 70.3 Championship.
Yvonne Van Vlerken
A veteran of the long distance triathlon circuit for close on 10 years, Van Vlerken has proven herself to be a worthy podium contender coming into her fifth race at Kona. Although she qualified for last year’s race, the 2008 runner-up decided not to participate so soon after racing in Roth, preferring to focus instead on this year’s World Championships. A strong cyclist, Van Vlerken generally loses time during the swim stage. That said, she often does well during the run too and is more than capable of running under 3:05. Her build up to Kona has been solid if not spectacular. She won Ironman Barcelona and the Challenge Wanaka but placed third in Ironman Western Australia and the Challenge Roth.
Jackson’s fifth place at Kona last year made her the top finishing American in 2015. A former Ice Hockey player, she picked up long distance triathlon racing while teaching English at a private school in Thailand. Since turning pro in 2009, Jackson has focused primarily on 70.3 races and was runner up in the 70.3 world Championships in 2013. The highlight of her 2016 season was definitely excellent performance at Ironman Lake Placid during which she registered a new course record (09:09:42). A consistent runner and cyclist, Jackson will probably need to improve her swimming if she wants to finish on the podium in 2016.
There’s certainly no safe houses in this field either. If Rinny has it dialed-in, then it will be game over for anyone who – go you Aussie pocket rocket! Dani will be good form this year and we believe she’ll be very hard to beat. The third place getter will be Mel, another hard hut Aussie.
- Daniela Ryf – Dani has been magnificent in Roth and also in Zurich just one week later. She and her coach are smart enough to pull that off while still preparing for Kona. She’ll run close to three hours and Rinny won’t be able to make up enough time on the run.
- Mirinda Carfrae – Rinny is probably as hungry as ever to show that the Ironman Hawaii title is hers. But to reclaim her title she’ll need a faster bike than ever, and that’ll probably take something out of her run legs. I’d love it if the race becomes close towards the end of the run, but I’m afraid Rinny will be too far behind in T2.
- Melissa Hauschild – Mel will hopefully be able to finally race Kona – and she’d be disappointed finishing “only” third. But if her two top competitors are in good shape and have a great race, Mel has to be content with gaining experience in the deep Kona field.