Preview: Ironman Mont-Tremblant North-American Championship – The race for Kona

The final 4000-point KPR Ironman race of 2013 at Mont Tremblant will be crucial for athletes seeking Kona slots, featuring strong fields in both men's and women's races.

Preview: Ironman Mont-Tremblant North-American Championship – The race for Kona

Well folks, the final 4000-point (KPR) Ironman race for 2013 has arrived. Ironman Mont Tremblant will host the 2013 North-American Ironman Championship this forthcoming Sunday and with it, two quality fields set to do battle. For many, this will be the final push for KPR points, after the initial slots were allocated at the end of July. Assuming all slots were accepted, there is room on the Kona pier for another ten professional men and seven professional women, respectively, at the final slot allocations on August 25th.

Many of the athletes who hit the waters of Lake Tremblant on Sunday morning are on the verge placing themselves in contention of a Kona slot, pending their placing. Consequently, the KPR will in the back of the pros’ minds and, in all likelihood, a key motivation behind moves on the race course.

In the men’s field, Frenchman Romain Guillaume, a favourite amongst the locals, is back in La belle province to defend his title. Guillaume won both the 70.3 and the Ironman here in 2012. In 2013 however, with the North American Championships in town, he will be dealing with an entirely new field as his wire-to-wire win last year demonstrated the effects of the KPR on low-point late-season races with a very small and shallow field.

Here to challenge Guillaume for the title, will be a number of quality racers. Ironman Australia Champion Luke Bell is currently sitting in 81st on the KPR rankings as the win in Port Macquarie was only worth 1000-points. A finish at the pointy end should see Bell through to Hawaii. Bell has been in fantastic form so far this year with five podiums from five finishes, including three wins.

Luke Bell celebrates his maiden Ironman win in Port Macquarie earlier this year
Luke Bell celebrates his maiden Ironman win in Port Macquarie earlier this year

Fellow Australian Paul Ambrose will be wearing the number-6 bib on Sunday, and finds himself in a similar predicament. Not having an Ironman finish to his name so far this year, Ambrose currently sits just outside the top-100. A top finish should see him through, however. Ambrose is coming off a solid 4th place at Boulder 70.3, suggesting he is in good shape and once down from altitude, should be ready to rumble.

Cagey veteran Paul Amey collected his first Ironman title earlier this year in Texas on a very hot day. Currently 92nd on the KPR with those 2000-points in hand, Amey would need a very high placing on the weekend should he desire to have a crack in Hawaii, given he has few other points collected from 70.3 racing. Consequently, I suspect many pros will be looking over their shoulders for the Brit once out on the bike and run courses.

Add the likes of Matty Reed (who took the opportunity to train on the course earlier this year) who is still chasing a quality Ironman performance, Jozef Major, 10-time Ironman champion Viktor Zyemtsev,American Brandon Marsh and Italian Daniel Fontana, fresh off a second place at Ironman Lake Placid, and we will have a pretty good race on our hands.

The women’s race will see the defending North American Ironman Champion* Mary-Beth Ellis take on a very talented field. Ellis has won every Iron-distance race she has started, with the exception of Hawaii, making her a formidable favourite. In winning Ironman France (Nice) earlier this season, Ellis proved she likes the hills and should feel right at home on the +2000m of climbing on the Mont-Tremblant course.

Rebekah Keat running herself in to 2nd at the 2012 North American Ironman Championship
Rebekah Keat running herself in to 2nd at the 2012 North American Ironman Championship

Aussie Rebekah Keat will be looking to have a good hit out after missing the start at Ironman Frankfurt in July due to a niggling injury. Keat is in 37th position at the moment, on the back of her 2012 Kona finish and her second-place in Bussleton in December. As a result, there isn’t a massive amount of pressure on her shoulders, but she will want a steady race nevertheless to get some racing in her legs ahead of Hawaii. As one of the fastest women in Ironman history, there’s no doubt she will be marked by the others.

Just behind Keat on the KPR rankings sits British star Liz Blatchford, in 40th. Blatchford has had an amazing entry into the world of long-distance racing with wins in Huskisson Long Course, Bussleton 70.3 and Ironman Cairns, and a second place at the hot and humid Samui Long Course Triathlon. In Cairns, Blatchford took her maiden Ironman title in a tough duel against Kiwi Gina Crawford which came down to the final miles of the marathon. We can expect Blatchford to have learned a lot from that race, and be even stronger this forthcoming weekend.

Hillary Biscay is set to race her 62nd Ironman here on Sunday. That’s not a typo. Biscay has already raced this year in both Ironman Brazil and Ironman Austria, however still remains just outside the Top-50. Fellow Americans Sarah Piampiano, Jennie Hansen, Haley Chura, April Gellatly and Bree Wee also all sit in or around the KPR Top-50 and, as a result, will be chasing a top finish here on Sunday. Chura has had a good rookie year so far, and will lead the race out of the drink and look to disappear on the rolling hills early in the bike leg.

Veteran Hungarian Erika Csomor is in great form also this year, with wins at Challenge Rimini, Ironman Los Cabos and Ironman Austria in another sub-9 hour performance, and will challenge for a podium spot, no doubt.

With the dynamics of the KPR at play this close to the Ironman World Championship, it will be interesting to see how both races unfold with many athletes pushing for points, but not wanting to go too deep ahead of the World Champships.

Mont Tremblant (‘Trembling Mountain’), situated in the Laurentides Mountains of Québec just north of Montréal, has become a triathlon mecca in the last 18-months. Dominique Piché, the Race Director, has brought WTC to town in a big way. Last year, in the races’ first year of running, Mont-Tremblant hosted a 70.3 and an Ironman race. Next year, the resort town will be hosting a the 70.3 in June, Ironman in August and the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in September. There are also rumors suggesting a local Olympic-distance triathlon held a few weeks prior to the 70.3, in early June, will become a licensed 5150 event.

The village and ski resort of Mont Tremblant, QC, Canada. Photo: Author
The village and ski resort of Mont Tremblant, QC, Canada. Photo: Author

Pro Men:

1 Romain Guillaume 28 FRA
2 Paul Amey 39 GBR
5 Jozsef Major 34 HUN
6 Paul Ambrose 28 AUS
7 Bryan Rhodes 40 NZL
8 Luke Bell 34 AUS
10 Bert Jammaer 33 BEL
11 Matt Reed 37 USA
15 Brandon Marsh 38 USA
16 Mike Schifferle 39 CHE
17 Dominik Berger 30 AUT
18 Jerome Bresson 30 CAN
19 Simon Cochrane 28 NZL
20 Trevor Delsaut 28 FRA
21 Logan Franks 25 USA
23 Adam Jones 30 CAN
24 Greg Kopecky 28 USA
25 Michael Louys 26 BEL
26 Arland Macasieb 37 PHL
27 Brendan Naef 36 CAN
28 Stefan Schmid 26 DEU
30 Nigel Gray 42 CAN
31 Swen Sundberg 39 DEU
33 Daniel Halksworth 27 GBR
34 Sean Bechtel 29 CAN
35 Daniel Fontana 37 ARG
36 Wolfgang Guembel 34 CAN

Pro Women:

42 Mary Beth Ellis 35 USA
44 Rebekah Keat 35 AUS
45 Hillary Biscay 35 USA
46 Erika Csomor 39 HUN
47 Bree Wee 33 USA
50 Morgan Chaffin 30 USA
51 Haley Chura 27 USA
54 Marie Danais 42 CAN
55 April Gellatly 30 USA
56 Annie Gervais 38 CAN
58 Amanda Kourtz 29 USA
59 Molly Roohi 32 USA
60 Kim Schwabenbauer 33 USA
61 Jessica Smith 31 USA
62 Jennie Hansen 28 USA
63 Nina Pekerman 35 ISR
64 Keiko Tanaka 28 JPN
65 Sarah Piampiano 33 USA
66 Olesya Prystayko 28 UKR
67 Anja Beranek 28 DEU
68 Liz Blatchford 33 GBR
69 Jackie Arendt 28 USA

* the Championship was renamed the North American Championship this year when moved to Mont-Tremblant after the Ironman New York US Championship was not continued due to logistical challenges.