Preview: Ironman 70.3 St. George

The jam-packed pro list is thrilled to race the St George Ironman on May 6th; it was voted the best race venue and best host city experience by athletes in 2016. Trizone looks at the data to of the impending 70.3 North American Pro Championships.

Course review

Ironman 70.3 St George is incredibly tough. “The course and the competition here in St. George is just so incredibly tough and that’s a big part of the appeal of the race for me,” Heather Wurtele said after winning in 2016.

Swim

The swim will be held at the scenic Sand Hollow State Park in Hurricane Utah. The one–loop swim course will take place in the beautiful blue water of Sand Hollow Reservoir. The water temperature is expected to be between 60 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bike

After existing the water at Sand Hollow Reservoir, athletes will ride around the back side of the reservoir and into the City of Hurricane. Then they’ll enter State Route 9 and head back toward St George. The course is fairly undulating at first with stunning scenery, then the hills start.

Around 1:40 there’s a six mile climb through Snow Canyon. This gruelling climb is 4.36 miles long and gains just over 1,000 feet in elevation. Since last year though, the first eight miles up Snow Canyon have been repaved, making the course smoother and far more comfortable for athletes.

From there, there’s a very steep downhill, which allows the athletes a chance to top up on their nutrition.

Lionel Sanders, who won last year, said “once at the top of the canyon it is a pretty steep downhill, and I am not the greatest at holding high cadence, so I eased off a bit and tried to get some nutrition in.”

Run

The run course can only be summed up as tough. “The run is very challenging. The first three miles are all up hill. It was mentally very taxing,” said Sanders of the course in 2016.

T2 in St George’s Town Square feeds into the one-loop run course that starts in the town and climbs up Red Hills Parkway through Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. The finish line is located in the Main Street in the heart of St George so plenty of spectators can help encourage the athletes at the finish.

Who’s tipped to win

Mens’ Race

It could be another replay of last year’s event with a battle between Kienle and Sanders, although Sanders is tipped to win again, partly due to his new 2017 focus on shorter distance races. Kienle will likely make it to second place, but third place could be anyone’s game, with Tim Don the most likely candidate. Tyler Butterfield is in top form, but after his incredible second place finish at the North American Ironman Championships last weekend, he may be too busy recovering to make a podium finish.

  1. Lionel Sanders: 51% (1-1)
  2. Sebastian Kienle: 29% (2-1)
  3. Tim Don: 9% (10-1)
  4. Joe Gambles: 3% (28-1)
  5. Tyler Butterfield: 2% (53-1)
  6. Sam Appleton: 2% (63-1)

Before you ask about the somewhat new arrival of to 70.3 distance, Alistair Brownlee, we’ve considered this long and hard and we feel that the men mentioned above will push Ali a little far outside of where he is at right now, thus missing the top 6 list – plus we have no real data to work with. He certainly is a wildcard for this race and shouldn’t be underestimated. If anything, we feel that if he’s to get close to the sharp end of the race he’ll fall just short of a podium placing.

Who won last year?

Lionel Sanders won last year in 3:48:18 after a ferocious effort fighting off Sebastien Kienle in the gruelling run. Kienle came in second in 3:51:10 and Australian Joe Gamble finished third in 3:53:26.

Women’s Race

Holly Lawrence is the top pick for the win this year as she’s in the best form of her career, and has her sights set fiercely on the 70.3 distance this year. Lawrence may have to put up with another battle against Heather Wurtele, recreating the drama of last year’s event, although Lawrence may come out victorious this time. Aussie Ellie Salthouse is in with a strong chance after fierce performances in the last six months, but Canadian Angela Naeth will be ready to fight for a spot on the podium too.

  1. Holly Lawrence: 54% (1-1)
  2. Heather Wurtele: 18% (4-1)
  3. Angela Naeth: 11% (8-1)
  4. Ellie Salthouse: 7% (12-1)
  5. Alicia Kaye: 5% (19-1)
  6. Rachel Joyce: 3% (30-1)

Update: Heather Wurtle is not racing due to an injury.

Who won last year?

Heather Wurtele won last year in 4:16:48, with Great Britain’s Holly Lawrence coming in second in 4:18:04 and American Meredith Kessler coming in third in 4:22:02.

Who holds the records?

No course records have been set since 2014 when Jan Frodeno finished in just 3:45:21, and Meredith Kessler set the women’s record of 4:11:53. However! Lionel Sanders’ incredible bike leg last year was a new bike split record for the course, setting a new time of 2:03:57.

Kessler holds the fastest time for the women’s swim split in 2014, while Julie Dibens set the fastest bike time in 2014 of 2:22:15, and Rebekah Keat set the fastest run split in 2014 of 1:19:57.

Event Info

Heads up: It could be cold

Last year’s race saw athletes battling with frigid conditions that many of them hadn’t planned for, as the weather in the day’s prior to the event had been balmy. It will be interesting to see what Utah’s mountains have in store for the athletes this year, as the cold is only a battle for some.

Nutrition in the cold

Heather Wurtele said she worked hard to ensure she maintained her nutrition in the cold last year. “I gave myself some added calories on the bike, and added a bit of water to my First Endurance Liquid shot flasks so that if I couldn’t use my hands properly (it can be very hard to squeeze bottles when your fingers are frozen!) I could still get all of my calories.

“When it’s cold and you’re more on edge in the pouring rain it can be easy to forget to drink, but your body is burning so many calories to keep warm in addition to racing hard that it’s extra critical.”

– Data sourced with permission from trirating.com

Shawn Smith

A cyclist and tech geek at heart with a passion for new shiny things and a huge appetite for triathlon. I spend most of my time between managing two of Australia's best triathletes and a traditional corporate life.