All the Money is on Craig ‘Crowie’ Alexander to win the 2011 Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii

As always there are favourites for the Hawaii Ironman World Championship but the reality is that any of the five top guys could win. This year it is hard to go past Craig Alexander but Andreas Raelert and Marino Vanhoenacker have raced very fast this year. Can they peak twice in one year? Pete Jacob

All eyes and money are on Crowie this weekend.

Crowie is the man to beat.

He has improved his cycling (and has a sexy new Specialised mount to use) and he is running better than ever. Mentally, is there anyone that can match his focus in training or his determination when racing? Andreas Raelert will come close but has had a questionable race schedule this year and it’s rare that you would see an athlete pull off an incredible world record at the start of the season and then be able to return to that form late season.

Belgium’s Marino Vanhoenacker smashed Luc Van Lierde’s record (7:50:27) by over four minutes finishing in 7:45:59 at Ironman Austria in July this year. As with Andreas would it be possible for Vanhoenacker to peak again this year?

One of the world’s most naturally talented triathletes Pete Jacobs has the potential to win Hawaii but will it be this year? Last year he swam and ran faster than everyone. Including his four minute bike penalty he was around fifteen minutes off the pace overall. He has only raced a few times this year due to a stress fracture in his foot in May. Jacobs says he has addressed his bike weakness and will be able to run harder than last year. It could come down to him getting his nutrition right.

It’s really hard to separate top five men from top ten because there are so many great athletes that it will just depend on how they are feeling on the day and maybe how hot the mercury climbs.

The guys that have finished top ten in previous years are all likely to be there again. Not a lot to say there.

Last years men’s race report and results

1 McCormack, Chris 37/MPRO 0:51:36 4:31:50 2:43:31 8:10:37
2 Raelert, Andreas 34/MPRO 0:51:27 4:32:26 2:44:25 8:12:17
3 Vanhoenacker, Marino 34/MPRO 0:51:33 4:31:00 2:46:45 8:13:14
4 Alexander, Craig 37/MPRO 0:51:32 4:39:35 2:41:59 8:16:53
5 Tissink, Raynard 37/MPRO 0:52:25 4:30:47 2:52:44 8:20:11
6 Bracht, Timo 35/MPRO 0:53:52 4:29:42 2:53:18 8:21:00
7 Llanos, Eneko 34/MPRO 0:51:38 4:39:23 2:47:02 8:22:02
8 Bockel, Dirk 34/MPRO 0:51:12 4:35:47 2:52:01 8:22:59
9 Jacobs, Pete 29/MPRO 0:51:15 4:47:04 2:41:05 8:23:26
10 Al-Sultan, Faris 32/MPRO 0:51:25 4:32:40 2:55:28 8:24:04
11 Lieto, Chris 38/MPRO 0:52:23 4:23:17 3:06:00 8:25:5

It will be hugely interesting to watch the top 70.3 athletes that have made the step up. Our pick of the new crop for a top ten finish are:

Frederik Van Lierde, winner of Abu Dhabi Triathlon, proved that he can handle the heat and wind amongst one of the best fields assembled this year.

Tim O’Donnell. Top performer at every distance structured his whole season around peaking for this race.

The race will be very different tactically this year due to the number of weaker swimmers / strong bike riders. In previous years if you missed the swim pack you were working very hard the entire 180kms. Now with the likes of Tom Lowe, Michael Weiss, Ben Hoffman, Joe Gambles and TJ Tollokson there could be a second pack out of the water that will have no problem riding down the front group.

Points of interest:

People that could dominate or disintegrate:

Matty Reed, Tom Lowe and Michael Weiss. All big, tall guys who on a cooler day could surprise a lot of people.

Dark horse for the win:

Eneko Llanos if Crowie falters.

Dark horses for a podium:

Timo Bracht

Dark horses for top 5:

Tim O’Donnell – Perfect season planning with Texas IM as a debut showing how good he is

Cam Brown – If it comes down to a running race.

Dark horse for top 10:

Andy Bocherer- European 70.3 Champ and has proven he can perform in brutal heat winning Cancun 70.3 just a few weeks previously.

Australia Pros on this years race at Kona…

Speaking to some our top triathletes to see what their thoughts are on this weekend’s race Crowie is the overwhelming favourite with the obvious choice of Chrissie Wellington to take out the women’s race. This is to not take anything away from the amazing ability of Mirinda Carfrae and many of the other top female pros.

Joe Gambles, racing in the Ironman World Championship for the first time is picking Craig Alexander and Marino Vanhoenacker to take out the men’s race with Chrissie Wellington and Mirinda Carfrae the two likely winners in the women’s race.

Gambles himself could be up there as well. As mentioned earlier he could very well end up in amongst the leaders on the bike. Unknown will be how he handles the run in Hawaii. Over 21.1kms there is no doubt he is one of the fastest.

Racing for the first time also in the Ironman World Championship is Matty White. White has never had a better preperation in a lead up to an ironman with a great eight week training block in Boulder. “I got straight down to business as soon as I got there after flying in from Yeppoon 70.3 and hit the ground running. My sponsor, Altitude Training Systems put me on a six month acclimitisation program which enabled me to not have to adjust to the altitude for the first few weeks. This helped immensily as I didn’t lose two weeks of quality training”. White has been consistently punching out about 100km run weeks with 500-600km of hilly biking and about 16km of swimming. “I am happy with my preparation, especially now I am at sea level!”

“My main thoughts on Hawaii which I am sure are the same as other top athletes is that this year the big battle will be just getting to the start line healthy uninjured and fresh. With the new qualification system this is half the battle with a lot of athletes only just qualifying in races like Ironman Canada etc so I really think the freshest guys on the start line will have a good day and with the field smaller than previous years I think the person who races smart will win.”

Matty’s pick for the win is Crowie again. “No doubt! Unless the gods are not smiling he will win easily”.

Not racing at Kona but always happy to share a few thoughts, Tim Berkel is also picking Crowie and Chrissy for the wins! “I think guys like Dirk Bockel, Micki Weiss and Marino Vanhoenacker will fill the podium spots. I also think Smokin Joe Gambles and Tim O’Donnell will go very well in their first crack at Kona”.

“It would be great if Australia could get a similar result to the 70.3 World Champs by having 5 guys and 2 girls in the top ten. We have a good chance with guys like Luke Mckenzie aka Mr Vegas, Crowie, Smokin Jo Gambles, Matt candle guy White, Lucky Bell, Pete Jacobs and the girls with Carfrae and Bevilaqua.”

“Good luck to all the Aussie age groupers”. (Thanks Tim)