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2022 Ironman 70.3 World Championships: The Women’s Contenders

Our up-to-date breakdown of the top contenders for the podium at this year’s St. George 70.3 World Championships women’s event.

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2022 has been an abundance of good racing, with just about every event boasting a stacked field. But the women’s pro race at the 2022 Ironman World Championships tops them all – with such a deep field of talent racing in St. George, Friday’s race is a must-watch for any fan of triathlon.  Take a look at our potential contenders for the 70.3 crown in St. George, then read on to see the credible podium threats. We’ve also got a play-by-play prediction of how things could shake out in the women’s race – read it here.

Looking for the men’s contenders? We’ll unveil Thorsten Radde’s top picks and expert analysis on the men’s race tomorrow! Check back to our 70.3 World Championships hub for all the latest coverage from St. George.

RELATED: The 2022 Ironman 70.3 World Championship Start List

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Lucy Charles-Barclay

29 years old, Great Britain

Ironman World Championship 2022 Women's Race
(Photo: Brad Kaminski/Triathlete)
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Winning Odds 40% (3 to 2)

As the defending champion, Charles-Barclay is the obvious first choice for the female favorites, especially since her 2021 victory at 70.3 Worlds was especially impressive – not only did she win by more than eight minutes, she also posted the fastest times in all three disciplines. After she struggled with an injury at the start of 2022, she wasted no time getting back on the podium: a win at ITU Long Distance Worlds in her “comeback” race in August, followed by a third-place finish at the PTO U.S. Open in Dallas, then second place at the Ironman World Championships Kona. The last time she was not on the podium was when she took fifth at 70.3 Worlds in 2019 – where she had to serve a five-minute penalty on the bike.

Charles-Barclay’s win in St. George 2021 was a sign that she had become a well-rounded athlete who is great in all three legs. She can still build a good gap in the swim (last year she was 90 seconds ahead in T1), but now she’s also a force on the bike and the run. In Dallas, she lost 3:50 to Taylor on the bike but still had the second-fastest bike split, even after losing some time when an empty battery kept her from shifting and needed to be replaced. On the run, she just posted her fastest Kona marathon by about three minutes – so clearly she’s been able to overcome any setbacks from her injury earlier this year.

What can stop her from defending her title in St. George? Racing only three weeks after Kona might be an issue, and some of her Kona rivals decided against racing in St. George. As any lingering fatigue is more likely to show up towards the end of the race, the competition will work hard to keep the pressure on until the absolute last inch of the course. As we’ve seen in Edmonton, Dallas and Kona this year, a great run is required to win the big races. It’ll be interesting to see what Charles-Barclay can show at the end of her short 2022 racing season.

RELATED: Lucy Charles-Barclay is Rewriting the Rules of Ironman Racing

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Taylor Knibb

24 years old, USA

(Photo: Donald Miralle/Ironman)
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Winning Odds 20% (4 to 1)

Every time Knibb toes a half-distance start line, she does extremely well: In 2021, she won her Collins Cup match and was third at 70.3 Worlds. At the start of 2022, she won 70.3 California and was second at the recent PTO US Open in Dallas. That second match, in particular, showcased her strengths: A good swim on the heels of Lucy Charles-Barclay, followed by a dominating bike (her 1:56 was the only sub-2 bike split for the female pros). After a mid-season injury break, her Dallas run wasn’t yet good enough to hold off Ashleigh Gentle (who is not racing in St. George), but Taylor’s third place at WTCS Cagliari in early October was an indication of her continued progress.

Last year in St. George, Taylor lost 90 seconds to Charles-Barclay. This year, she will try to swim closer to the front, then take the lead on the bike (as in Dallas) or at least close the gap. The dynamics between these two at the front of the race will be interesting to follow as Taylor will likely want to build a gap to Charles-Barclay into T2. Will she then be able to hold her off on the run?

RELATED: Triathlete Hour Podcast: Taylor Knibb’s Having Fun with A Plan

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Paula Findlay

33 years old, Canada

(Photo: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
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Winning Odds 15% (6 to 1)

Findlay was disappointed that she wasn’t able to race St. George last year due to a ligament tear in her ankle. This year, she looks forward to being a contender, possibly building on her second places at 70.3 North American regional championships in Chattanooga and at her emotional “hometown race” at the PTO Canadian Open in Edmonton.

Findlay will likely be two minutes behind in the swim, but then she’ll be one of the strongest women on the bike. Even if she’s unlikely to make it all the way to the front, she’ll want to lay the basis for a podium finish by putting time in on the rest of the contenders. When she’s on form, she’s always running well. While she won’t be going for the fastest run split, it’s unlikely that the other podium contenders can gain more than a minute on her in the run. With a good race in all three legs, Findlay is a solid podium contender in St. George – and if others are not having their best days, she may even have a chance to go for the win.

RELATED: The Cooldown Podcast: Growing in the Sport with Paula Findlay

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Holly Lawrence

32 years old, Great Britain

(Photo: Sean Jefferson)
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Winning Odds 5% (20 to 1)

The 2016 70.3 World Champion may not have won a big race recently, but she’s always in the mix. At last year’s 70.3 Worlds she was eighth, this year she had two third places (at 70.3 California and at 70.3 Chattanooga) and a fourth and a fifth at the PTO Tour events.

Lawrence’s swim, bike and run are among the best overall, only a bit slower than the very best. This means she’s never too far behind the leaders, but without a clear “weapon” it’s hard for her to make it all the way to the front. She’s often overlooked as a title favorite, while in fact she’s only one great bike and run away from her next big title. And even if she doesn’t find some extra speed to race for the title on October 28, she belongs in the conversation about podium contenders.

RELATED: The Triathlete Hour Podcast: Holly Lawrence on Coming Back from Injury

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Emma Pallant-Browne

33 years old, Great Britain

A woman in a wetsuit exits the San Francisco bay.
(Photo: San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images)
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Winning Odds 2% (50 to 1)

Clearly, Pallant-Browne is one of the strongest athletes on the half-distance Last year’s fifth place at 70.3 Worlds in St. George was the last time she finished off the podium. Since then, she has scored five wins and three second places. How does she do it? After a solid swim and bike, she typically uses her run strength for a good position across the finish line.

Pallant-Browne has struggled in some hot, humid races (such as Clash Miami or the PTO Canadian Open in Edmonton), but that is unlikely to be a major factor in the cold, dry air of St. George this weekend. The wetsuit swim might help her to limit the time she loses in the water, and a good swim would let her ride with a stronger group. She can probably run 90 seconds into other podium contenders such as Lawrence, so if she’s within two minutes in T2, she may be able to repeat her second-place finish from 70.3 Worlds 2017 in Chattanooga – or maybe even take the win outright.

RELATED: Emma Pallant-Browne’s Alcatraz-Winning Workouts

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Wild Card: Flora Duffy

35 years old, Bermuda

Flora Duffy races as she prepares for 70.3 Worlds in St. George
(Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Winning Odds 2% (50 to 1)

The Olympic Gold Medalist hasn’t had much luck on the half-distance yet: She missed 70.3 Chattanooga with Covid and then wasn’t able to start 70.3 Mont Tremblant when her bike didn’t make it to the race venue. She was thrilled to receive a wild card entry into St. George from Ironman, even if it’ll create a busy end her 2022 season, with WTCS events in Bermuda two weeks after St. George and the Grand Finale in Abu Dhabi on November 25th.

One should never discount an Olympic gold medalist, but so far Duffy has not been able to transfer her Olympic-distance dominance to longer distances. Losing her Collins Cup match to Daniela Ryf by seven minutes and a sixth place at the PTO US Open weren’t disappointments, but it did make things clear that she’ll have to step it up if she wants to become the 2022 70.3 World Champion.

Duffy probably won’t be able to swim with Charles-Barclay and Knibb (she was just over a minute behind in Dallas) but look for how she swims and bikes in comparison to Lawrence – both were within seconds of each other for the first two legs in Dallas. Is she able to ride away from Lawrence, and is she able to make up time to the front? Once on the run, is Duffy finally able to dominate the run in a similar way to the shorter distances? A good race in St. George would be a great statement on the 70.3 Worlds stage.

RELATED: Recalled: Flora Duffy’s World Championship Trifecta

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Wild Card: Tamara Jewett

32 years old, Canada

Tamara Jewett
(Photo: FinisherPix)
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Winning Odds Unlikely

Jewett is known for her blistering run legs – she consistently posts sub-1:15s in her half marathons at the end of 70.3s. At the Collins Cup, she was a surprise in the first two legs when she was able to swim and bike with Anne Haug and Jackie Hering, but going maybe a bit too hard in the first two legs meant she wasn’t able to run at her normal level.

Nonetheless, that Collins Cup performance may help her find a 70.3 pacing that works better for her. Typically, she loses about two minutes in the swim, followed by at least another eight minutes on the bike. If she can limit her loss in the first two legs to around five to eight minutes to strong runners like Pallant-Browne and ten to twelve minutes to the front, a top-ten or maybe even a top-five finish could be possible for her – and certainly an improvement over her 13th place at 70.3 Worlds last year.

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.