Thursday, October 3, 2013

Kona Preview & Predictions: Men's Race

October is here, and with the 36th annual Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona a week away, I thought it only appropriate to do a preview. Up until a few years ago, any and all professionals were welcome at Kona, and as you might expect, most showed up. Just like any sport, however, you’ve got your “all-stars” and your “benchwarmers.” The dynasty Bulls teams of the 90's had Michael Jordan of course, but they also had Jud Buechler, Stacey King, and Bill Wennington to name a few. All professionals are really talented, but not everyone can be in that upper echelon with the all-stars.

Over time, the increasing number of pros at Kona started clogging up the course, making it more difficult to avoid drafting, among other issues. In response, the governing body that runs Ironman (the World Triathlon Corporation or WTC) decided to change up the game, limiting the pro field to 50 men and 30 women (whether you agree or not, the claim is that the men's field is deeper than the women's). At every Ironman and Ironman 70.3 race throughout the year, pros compete for prize money as well as pre-determined points to be earned based on placing. The top 50 men and 30 women on the points list at the cut-off date earn a coveted spot on the Kona start line.

Here’s the breakdown by country of the 50 men’s pros who made the cut:

Germany: 9
USA: 9
Australia: 6
Belgium: 4
Switzerland, Spain, UK: 2
Austria, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Hungary, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, South Africa:1

Amazingly, The thunder from Down Under has captured the last six World Championships: Chris McCormack (2007 & ’10) Craig Alexander (2008-09, ’11) and Pete Jacobs (2012). Before that, Germany had a 3-year run with the combination of Normann Stadler (2004, ’06) and Faris Al-Sultan (2005). Those two countries will definitely be in the mix again, with Alexander and Jacobs back, along with Germany’s Sebastian Kienle and Andreas Raelert to name a few. I’d actually really like to see Raelert win it… he’s placed 3rd, 2nd, 3rd, 2nd the last four years, and he’s known for being a really classy dude. Last year sponsor K-Swiss offered Andreas and his brother Michael (2x 70.3 World Champ) a $1 million bonus if they finished 1-2, but unfortunately Michael was hampered with an injury.

would like to see Andreas (right) take the title

Here’s a quick summary of who I’d like to see win:

  • Andreas Raelert (Germany): as mentioned, has been close in his first four attempts... would like to see him pull off the win
  • Tim O'Donnell (USA): US Naval Academy grad a long shot, but could be in the mix
  • Andy Potts (USA): met him at St. George and he was really cool to talk to… former all-American at the University of Michigan and 2004 Olympian will be first out of the water as always - hopefully can put it together on the bike/run
  • Luke Mckenzie (Australia): known for going all-in on the bike, usually either has a great race or blows up
  • Craig Alexander (Australia): how can you ever cheer against Crowie? Would be great to see him prove the naysayers wrong at age 40

Andy Potts

Prediction for the men’s podium:

  • Sebastian Kienle (Germany): defended as Ironman 70.3 World Champion in Vegas last month; fastest biker in the field flatted last year, dropping him from a sizable lead to 4th at the finish
  • Eneko Llanos (Spain): mild-mannered guy is always seemingly under the radar, but has been dominant this year
  • Pete Jacobs (Australia): few expected him to win last year, and most probably don’t expect him back on the podium… we’ll see if he’s spent the last 12 mos. partying or training!

Follow live coverage of the race Saturday, Oct. 12th on!

can Kienle pull off the double?

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