Everything You Need to Know About the 2023 Ironman 70.3 World Championships Pro Races

The favorites and top challengers size up the tough Lahti course, their preparation and each other ahead of Saturday and Sunday's iconic world championship pro races.

Everything You Need to Know About the 2023 Ironman 70.3 World Championships Pro Races

The premier middle distance triathlon showcase takes place this weekend, with the women's race on Saturday 26th August and the men's on Sunday 27 August at the 2023 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Lahti, Finland.

With defending champions like Kristian Blummenfelt and Taylor Knibb leading incredibly deep pro fields, it promises to be an epic battle for world supremacy over the 1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run.

At the pre-race press conference, the top contenders provided some insights into how they are approaching their preparation along with how the tough Lahti course could unfold the pro races.

Women's Race: Knibb and Ryf Clash for Crown

In the women's race, American Taylor Knibb returns as defending champion but will face a fierce challenge from Daniela Ryf of Switzerland, seeking her sixth 70.3 world title. When asked about repeating, Knibb downplayed comparisons: "Each race is different, each course is different, each year is different...you really can't compare."

However, Knibb did hint she is still improving: "I still have a lot I want to improve on and work on...you just can't improve [much yet] in [only] two years." With her swim prowess likely putting her near the front and renowned cycling strength ready to "power away," could Knibb be warning of a changing of the guard?

Ryf admits dealing with pressure is "definitely some days challenging" but draws motivation from having another chance "to just show my or try to show my best." She tailored her season to peak for this European race, maximising recovery unlike the globe-trotting Kristian Blummenfelt.

While Knibb is strong across the board, Ryf's strategy mirrors her previous wins - excel in the swim, then build an unassailable bike lead. Their clash could define an epic generational showdown.

Other top challengers include Canadians Paula Findlay and Tamara Jewett, who hope to use their running strength to overcome deficits from the swim and bike. Findlay said the cool conditions suit her and she feels "relaxed" after a month training in Finland. Meanwhile, Jewett's stellar run splits continue to belie her reputation as a weak swimmer and cyclist.

Great Britain's Holly Lawrence and Emma Pallant-Browne also hope to crack the podium, with Lawrence saying the hilly run suits her and Pallant-Browne's run strength overcoming her bike weakness. Laura Philipp of Germany admitted her focus is still on Kona, but couldn't pass up the 70.3 Worlds opportunity.

Men's Race: Blummenfelt Faces New Challengers

In the men's race, Norway's Kristian Blummenfelt seeks to repeat as champion but has been racing extensively in August including the PTO Tour. Yet he brushed off concerns, saying the travel from Singapore to Finland meant "collecting a couple of mileage on the planes" but physically he feels recovered.

Others hope to take advantage if Blummenfelt finally shows signs of fatigue. Lionel Sanders should be closer after the swim, saying this course suits weaker swimmers. The Canadian quipped "I understand the game now, I understand it's a very tough game for a weak swimmer."

American Sam Long is another swimmer who relies on his cycling strength to overcome deficits. Meanwhile, Jason West has established himself as the best runner across formats and hopes to be within striking distance off the bike.

Ben Kanute of the USA also aims to improve on his runner-up showing from last year. Two Europeans vying to mix it up are Daniel Unger of Germany and France's Mathis Margirier, who impressed with his cycling at the PTO US Open.

Frederic Funk has worked extensively on his run and hopes to best his top 5 finish from last year. The massive travel required to race in Europe and then Finland may hamper Blummenfelt and others who raced PTO events in late August if they didn't recover fully.

Pros Size Up Deceptive Lahti Course

A common theme among the pros was wariness about the difficulty of the Lahti course given the relatively flat profile shown on paper.

Holly Lawrence stated: "The profile doesn't look too hilly but everyone's saying there's way more elevation gain. I'll probably be taking one of those city bikes and doing the run course to see if it's as hilly as Laura [Philipp] is making out!"

On the bike, Mitch Kibby warned: "It makes for a brilliant championship course and fortune will favour the brave. The bike course will begin to bite around 60km and the hills on the run will break up the field, both up and down."

Lionel Sanders said the course is "a great, good all-around strong person course", which could be to his advantage against swimmers like Blummenfelt. But for weaker cyclists and runners, the hidden climbs could dash podium hopes if they lose contact with the leaders.

Experience Could Be Decisive Factor

Multiple veterans pointed to how experience on the big stage of Ironman World Championships could be a key determinant.

Daniela Ryf explained: "The more you win, the more people think you will win again...I try to use that expectation and also my lengthy experience to my advantage."

"I still have a lot I want to improve on and work on...you just can't improve [much] in [only] two years," noted Taylor Knibb.

Ben Kanute said he doesn't "forget that, especially at a World Champs" when discussing what it means to represent the USA.

Lionel Sanders described previously being "so bitter" about 70.3 Worlds but now understanding "it's a very tough game for a weak swimmer."

The veterans know what it takes to peak at the right time after a long season. Newcomers seeking a podium will need to quickly adapt to the pressure of the massive stage.

Ben Kanute said he loves hearing home crowd cheers from fellow Americans, as the largest country contingent. "Whenever I step on the start line I don't forget that, especially at a World Champs," he remarked.

The massive travel required for athletes from so many nations underscores the premier status of Ironman World Championships on the calendar. Both pros and age groupers alike have the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream on the Ironman stage.

Preparing for Kona Showdown

Finally, several pros hinted at how Ironman 70.3 Worlds fits into their preparation for October's finale in Kona. Laura Philipp said she is prioritising Ironman Worlds but wanted to practice elements of her race approach like swimming aggressively.

After his disappointment last year, Kristian Blummenfelt said Kona fuels his motivation "...after the Olympics next year" to return and win. Daniela Ryf explained that maximizing recovery between training and racing helps her performance more than others who can handle frequent travel.

So far their strategies appear sound as both have delivered stellar results in the Kona build-up races they targeted. Will recovery or fatigue be a bigger factor in determining if Blummenfelt and Ryf can achieve the mythical Kona-Lahti double?

Prediction - Knibb and Blummenfelt Defend Crowns

After breaking down the pro insights ahead of race day, here are my podium predictions:


  1. Taylor Knibb
  2. Daniela Ryf
  3. Paula Findlay


  1. Kristian Blummenfelt
  2. Lionel Sanders
  3. Jason West

Knibb showed last year that the vocal home crowd support can help propel her to victory, while I expect the hilly course will limit Ryf more than it will hinder Knibb. Findlay should have no trouble securing third if she runs as well as she can.

On the men's side, I believe Blummenfelt's sheer talent will overcome any fatigue from his busy racing schedule. Meanwhile, the weaknesses of Sanders and West will be mitigated on the Lahti course. Overall, the 2023 Ironman 70.3 World Championships will be must-see viewing as legends seek to cement their legacies but rising stars could also announce themselves on triathlon's biggest stage.