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The men’s pro race at the 70.3 World Championships in St. George is full of good storylines. Can Norway’s Gustav Iden defend his 70.3 title only three short weeks after his win at the Ironman World Championships in Kona? Will countryman Kristian Blummenfelt be able to take him down? What about American Sam Long, who has made it clear that his goal for this year is to get on the top podium step at this very race? We’re just getting started, as just about every name on the pro start list holds potential for being a major factor in the race. Take a look at our top contenders for the 70.3 crown in St. George, then read on to see the credible podium threats. Tomorrow, we’ll also have a play-by-play prediction of how things could shake out in the men’s race – check back to our 70.3 World Championships hub for all the latest coverage and analysis from St. George.Section divider
26 years old, Norway
|Winning Odds||40% (3 to 2)|
Is anyone willing to bet against the reigning 70.3 and Ironman World Champion? Whenever Iden has been on the start line of the big races, he’s pulled off the win. Maybe there is something to the lucky hat after all?
All joking aside, Iden has been impressive in his racing – he was able to step it up when needed, regardless of the distance raced. Last year at 70.3 Worlds, he rode away from the field in Snow Canyon and the descent back into town; at this year’s Ironman World Championships in Kona, he increased his run speed after the Energy Lab to drop Kristian Blummenfelt and overtake long-time leader Sam Laidlow.
One thing that might raise doubts about Iden’s ability to defend his 70.3 title is that this race is only three weeks after he had to dig deep to win in Kona. He’s never raced so close after an Ironman before, but that doesn’t mean much, since technically, he’s only raced two full Ironman events: Florida and Kona. Is there a limit to what the Norwegians can do? We’ll find out on Saturday.Section divider
28 years old, Norway
|Winning Odds||30% (2 to 1)|
After winning the St. George Ironman World Championship in May, Blummenfelt was the undisputed number-one triathlete in the world. He continues to be first in the PTO World Rankings (even if only by 1.6 points) but he has had a few disappointing “head-to-heads” with Iden. In Kona, Iden ran away from Blummenfelt after the Energy Lab; before that, in Edmonton, Iden ran away when Blummenfelt struggled with cramps; and last year at 70.3 Worlds in St. George, Blummenfelt wasn’t even a factor in the race after technical issues on the bike.
If it wasn’t for Iden, Blummenfelt would probably be the top favorite for St. George. He’s shown he knows how to race the course and that he knows how to save his legs on the bike for the fastest run split. He’s also shown that he can race well after a hard Ironman – last year, Blummenfelt won Clash Daytona just two weeks after his crazy-fast Ironman debut in Cozumel.
Unless he’s distracted by the World Triathlon short-course races still on his schedule after St. George, Blummenfelt likely wants to show that he can win on the half-distance as well. We also have to look at perhaps the most powerful motivator of all: Beating Iden is mandatory if he wants to hold on to the #1 spot in the PTO World Rankings this year.Section divider
26 years old, USA
|Winning Odds||5% (25 to 1)|
Sam Long finished in second place at last year’s 70.3 Worlds. By not racing in Kona this year, he made it clear that his main target race this year is once again in St. George. What will it take Sam to be the first U.S. athlete to beat both Iden and Blummenfelt in the same race?
Clearly, Long’s main challenge is the swim. Last year in St. George, he lost two minutes to Blummenfelt and one minute to Iden in the swim, and there were only three athletes behind him in T1. Sam had a great bike ride last year (only Iden and Magnus Ditlev rode faster), but after losing time in the swim he had to spend most of his bike leg to put himself back into the race.
Is Long going to be able to swim well enough? Will he exit the water close to someone willing to work with him to bridge the gap to the front? If not, his hopes of winning the race may be over in T1. But even then Long will be working hard to at least repeat his second-place finish from last year. Once on land, he was the second-fastest of the St. George field – only Iden was quicker.Section divider
24 years old, Denmark
|Winning Odds||7% (14 to 1)|
In earlier years, Magnus Ditlev was known as a bike powerhouse, but in 2021 and 2022 he has shown that he can run as well. On the half distance, he won his Collins Cup match against Rudy von Berg and Max Neumann, then outran Long for second place at the PTO U.S. Open. Ditlev is also racing three weeks after Kona, where he finished eighth despite a bike penalty.
Similar to Iden, Ditlev should be about 90 seconds behind the leaders after the swim, but his bike legs make it possible to quickly bridge up to the front – if needed with a huge surge to drop anyone trying to ride with him. Even though he is only 24 years old, he has a good grasp of racing tactics and how to read a race so he can make the most of his bike strength.
Last year in St. George, he was second off the bike – a minute behind Iden but two minutes ahead of the chase pack. In Dallas, he ran almost 30 seconds quicker than Long, instead of losing four minutes to him as in St. George. After Dallas, there won’t be too many athletes who will have the confidence to start the run two minutes behind Ditlev if they want to beat him.Section divider
25 years old, Germany
|Winning Odds||2% (50 to 1)|
At last year’s 70.3 World Championships in St. George, Frederic Funk was in a great position in the lead group on the bike – and then he hit a pothole, causing his seat post to drop by a few inches. Being forced to stand up for the rest of the bike ruined his legs, making a DNF the inevitable conclusion to what could have been a great race.
Funk is another of the young, hungry athletes looking for his first big title. In recent years, he has gained some experience in big races, and was often in the mix on the bike. This year, he could very well be one pushing the pace in the second half of the bike in St. George. Is he going to have enough power to achieve more than just weeding out competitors for Iden? Perhaps Funk can work with Ditlev to create a dangerous breakaway.
Based on Funk’s run times so far, Iden or Blummenfelt can run about four minutes into him. That makes it unlikely for Funk to be a title contender, but a podium finish would be another step forward for him. His coach, Dan Lorang, knows how to get his athletes ready for big races, and this could be a great breakthrough for the young athlete.Section divider
Wild Card: Aaron Royle
32 years old, Australia
Aaron Royle is probably going to be the fastest swimmer on race day, and he’ll want to continue pushing the pace on the bike to keep the chasers away for as long as possible. If he rides well, he could still be in a good position in T2. With a good run (as he had at the PTO Canadian Open), he might end his season with a top-5 result.Section divider
Wild Card: Rudy von Berg
29 years old, United States
Rudy von Berg is another athlete who had a Kona focus in 2022, but after a somewhat disappointing 20th-place finish there, he’s probably looking for a more satisfying season finish. In his third-place finish at the 2019 70.3 Worlds in Nice, France, he had a solid swim and a great bike to start the run in the lead. Will he be fresh enough to show a similar performance in St. George?Section divider
Wild Card: Miki Taagholt
28 years old, Denmark
In last year’s 70.3 Worlds in St. George, Taagholt was an ecstatic fourth after a great race in all three legs. After a second place in his “home race” at 70.3 Elsinore, he crashed while training for the PTO U.S. Open and didn’t recover in time to race in Dallas. Now he’s back at 100%, and seems ready to repeat – or even improve on – his great 2021 race.
Wild Card: Ben Kanute
29 years old, United States
Usually, Ben Kanute is one of the candidates for a podium in any race he’s lining up. But in the 2022 season, he hasn’t yet had the results he’s been looking for. Most recently, he was outside the top 20 in the PTO Open races in Edmonton and Dallas. Can he turn things around in St. George?Section divider
Wild Card: Mika Noodt
22 years old, Germany
After winning in his debut 70.3 race just two months before, Mika Noodt finished in eleventh place to become the top (male) German finisher in St. George 2021. He missed the first half of the 2022 season with an injury, then had a great return to racing with a 9th place at the PTO U.S. Open in Dallas. Can he crack the top 10 in St. George?Section divider
Wild Card: Jackson Laundry
29 years old, Canada
As a fifth-place finisher at 70.3 Worlds last year, Jackson Laundry will be looking for another great finish this year. His season started well with a win at 70.3 California in April, but he hasn’t been able to bag another great result over the summer. But if anyone can pull off a surprise in St. George, it’s him.
Free live coverage of the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in St. George will air exclusively on Outside Watch October 28 and 29. Outside+ Members will also be able to watch the race coverage on demand after the conclusion of the event. (Not an Outside+ member? Become one now for only $2.49 per month!)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Thorsten Radde runs Trirating.com and is one of the top experts in the sport for analyzing triathlon finishes and results.