A preview of the women’s race field for this Saturday’s Ironman World Championship 70.3 triathlon in Clearwater, Fla.
The women’s race at this year’s Ironman World Championship 70.3 will be interesting, to say the least. Defending champion Julie Dibens of Great Britain is the only woman racing who has experienced victory at this event. Most of the sport’s top female competitors at the half-Ironman distance are either choosing not to race or are dealing with injuries at this late point in the season. Despite a lack of depth on the start list, Saturday’s women’s race will likely be close and exciting to the finish.
Julie Dibens (GBR): Although Dibens has clearly not made this race her top priority for the 2010 season, she still has a serious chance at defending her title. Because this will be her third effort in a world championship race in the span of just over a month it will be a matter of how fresh her legs feel at this point in her season. Dibens is coming off of a third-place finish at the Ironman World Championship (Oct. 9) and a second-place finish at the Xterra World Championship (Oct. 24). The confidence and momentum after those two events may be all she needs to defend her title. The lack of depth in the women’s field means that if Dibens can gain a large enough lead on the bike, she may be able to cruise through the half marathon for her second straight victory in Clearwater.
Magali Tisseyre (CAN): Not only does Tisseyre’s third-place finish from a year ago make her a top contender, but she is also one of the only women on this list who planned her season around this 70.3 world championship race. She’s focused on this distance throughout the season, with several wins and podium finishes to show for her efforts. Tisseyre posted the fastest run time in this race last year and likely has the freshest legs heading into this year’s race. As long as she doesn’t let the others get away on the swim or the bike, she has a legitimate shot at taking the world title.
Lesley Paterson (SCO): Paterson is a fairly unknown athlete at this distance. Although she spends a lot of her time on trails in Xterra races, she did compete in April’s Ironman 70.3 California race. In that race, Paterson ran her way from seventh off of the bike to second at the finish line with a 1:18 half marathon. Paterson has the ability to run past every other woman on this list. It will be a matter of where she stands after 1.2 miles of swimming and 56 miles of biking.
Leanda Cave (GBR): Cave is fresh off of a 10th place finish at the Ironman World Championship and a win at the Ironman 70.3 Miami (Oct. 30). She’s also on the start list for Ironman Arizona, set to take place one week after the Clearwater race. Take away her heavy racing schedule and Cave has what it takes to fare well on this course. She’s got a powerful swim/bike combo and can run with most of these athletes. She’s also two for two in 70.3 races held in Florida this year.
Amanda Stevens (USA): Stevens finished eighth last year at this race and has had a great 2010 season. She was the first American across the finish line in April’s Ironman 70.3 Texas race, making her the 2010 70.3 U.S. Pro Champion. She then went on to win her first 70.3 at Ironman 70.3 Cancun. Stevens is a well-rounded triathlete, bringing a balanced arsenal on the swim, bike and run. She struggled on the run last year in Clearwater and will have to turn in a stronger half marathon this year to earn a podium spot.
Jodie Swallow (GBR): Although she focuses mostly on short course draft-legal ITU racing, Swallow was the 2009 ITU Long Distance World Champion, which shows she can shine at these longer distance events. She competed in Clearwater in 2009 but failed to finish the run. Her ITU speed may be enough to get her on the podium this weekend.
Angela Naeth (CAN): After sitting out all of 2009 with an injury, Naeth has come back stronger than ever in 2010. Like Tisseyre, she has focused on the half-Ironman distance and has the accolades to prove it. Although she hasn’t earned a 70.3 victory yet this season, she has six podium finishes at 70.3 races this year. Naeth can cycle with the best, but her lackluster swim often leaves her chasing the leaders from the beginning of races. If she can minimize the damage on the swim, she is a definite contender for a podium spot on Saturday.
Pip Taylor (AUS): Taylor has been under the radar for most of the 2010 season. She split her time racing half-Ironman and non-drafting Olympic distance races. She will have a strong swim and will need to stay close on the bike to have a chance to run her way onto the podium.
Melanie McQuaid (CAN): McQuaid is known more for her Xterra accomplishments than her ability to race on the roads. She has experienced success at the half-Ironman distance this year, including a victory at Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens. She’s a well-rounded triathlete capable of doing well at this race, as long as her legs have recovered from last month’s Xterra World Championship.
Amanda Lovato (USA): Lovato opened her season on the right note with a win at January’s Ironman 70.3 Pucon triathlon. She can bike and run with most of the women on this list, and will likely be looking to minimize the amount of time between her and the leaders after the 1.2-mile swim.
Nina Kraft (GER): Although the 41-year-old is on the tail end of her career, she is still capable of finding her way onto the podium at a world championship caliber race. The German is a strong swimmer and cyclist and could fare well if she’s near the front of the pack heading onto the run.