2023 70.3 World Championships Men’s Preview

With the men’s Ironman World Championships just around the corner, the podium in Lahti, Finland, has the possibility to feature a few new names. We dig into the depth charts of the 70.3 World Championships men’s field.

Photo: Professional Triathletes Organization, Patrick McDermott, Octavio Passos/Getty Images

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

In recent years, 70.3 World Championships were often five or six weeks before Kona – an almost ideal position in the race calendar to race both events. For the women, 2023 fits this established plan, but with the men’s race in Nice on September 10, 70.3 Worlds is only two weeks earlier, making it hard to target both events. Among the top favorites on the Lahti start list, only reigning 70.3 world champion Kristian Blummenfelt would be able to race in Nice (but has already indicated that he won’t race there), and a lot of the Nice contenders have decided to skip Lahti.

The half-distance specialists form the bulk of the Lahti contenders, but there were also two PTO Tour races and the Paris test event in the last three weeks before Lahti. It’s unclear who has been able to recover well from these races and the travel required. As such, we’ve added new statistics to the preview below highlighting when the contender last raced—as it’ll likely have an impact in Finland. Who can be at his best at the 70.3 World Championships in Lahti when it matters?

The race will be livestreamed exclusively on Outside Watch. For details: How to Watch the Free Ironman 70.3 World Championship Livestream

70.3 Worlds Women’s Preview

How the 2023 70.3 Ironman World Championship Men’s Pro Race Might Unfold


There are a lot of fast swimmers on this year’s start list for the men’s 70.3 World Championship. The fastest of them is probably Richard Varga, who typically leads any triathlon he starts, but then often doesn’t finish (three DNFs in his last three races). If Varga tries to save some energy for the bike and run, almost the whole field could be in one large group, and we may have 30 athletes within two minutes at the start of the bike. Almost all of the top favorites should be in that group. With such a large pack, the three turns in the Lahti swim course are critical: Each one requires a lot of focus to stay on the feet of the athlete in front, as a small gap can quickly grow around a buoy.

Among the favorites, there are two likely stragglers in the swim: Sam Long and Lionel Sanders could easily be more than three minutes behind after the swim. Can they benefit from a bigger number of starters and find some good feet to limit their loss in the swim? Or will the huge pack of fish get away?


Last year in St. George, the pace was “on” as soon as the lead men were on the bike. We may see a similar dynamic this year, the start of the bike leg could be very hectic, especially with a big lead group. Everyone will want to ride close to the front of the group, but overtaking one athlete often means having to pass the whole group to avoid a drafting penalty. It’ll be hard work for the referees when the race dynamic makes it tricky to ride legally.

In St. George, Kristian Blummenfelt led the group for most of the bike, and you can expect him to push the pace in Lahti as well. Ben Kanute, Frederic Funk, and maybe Miki Taagholt could join him – in St. George all of them laid the foundation for a good result on the bike. Mathis Margirier rode very well at the PTO U.S. Open in Milwaukee, so he may be a “new face” at the front of the race.

A lot of athletes will fall out of the lead group during the 90k ride through the Finnish countryside. Watch out for how long Jason West is able to stay with the leaders and how much time he will eventually lose. He probably wants to stay within four to five minutes of the podium contenders – is the large field going to help him (more chances to find someone to ride with) or will it make things more frustrating because so many people overtake him?

Finally, have a look at the tracker for Sam Long’s and Lionel Sanders’ progress. The time gap to the front may not get much smaller than after the swim, but they should be able to move into the top 10 towards the end of the bike. But maybe no one at the front of the race wants to drag others along, and Long or Sanders (or even both?) can catch the leaders on the bike?


With the defending 70.3 world champion in the field, the most likely scenario is that Kristian Blummenfelt has the best run of the day to win the 2023 race as well. But with his crazy schedule of racing and flying around the World (in the last two weeks he’s raced the Paris Test Event, then the PTO Asian Open in Singapore less than 72 hours later), it’s also possible that fatigue catches up with him in Lahti – and with the strong field, being at 99% might not be enough for the title.

If Blummenfelt struggles towards the end of the race, a battle for second could quickly turn into the title tussle without an obvious favorite. Was Sam Long forced to invest too much on the bike to still run well? Will super-runner Jason West finally be able to run his momentum all the way to the front in a big race? Will a well-rounded 70.3 Worlds rookie such as Mathis Margirier be able to snatch the title? And what about athletes such as Ben Kanute, Frederic Funk, or Miki Taagholt who placed well in last year’s race but may not be satisfied with their 2023 half-distance results? If Blummenfelt somehow falls out of contention, the 2023 70.3 World Championships could be wide open until the finish line.

2023 Ironman 70.3 World Championship: Men’s Contenders

Section divider

Kristian Blummenfelt

29 years old, Norway
Bib #1

Blummenfelt PTO Asian Open
(Photo: Professional Triathletes Organization)
Swim ★★★★
Bike ★★★★★
Run ★★★★★
Overall ★★★★★
Winning odds 50% (1 to 1)
70.3 Worlds 2022 Winner (3:37:11)
Last races Aug. 4, PTO U.S. Open (3rd)
Aug. 18, Paris Test Event (5th)
Aug. PTO Asian Open (winner)
Nice 2023 Qualified, but unlikely to race

Kristian Blummenfelt is the defending champion, and he is also the clear favorite for Lahti 2023. In St. George 2022, he was leading a small front group for most of the bike, and only Ben Kanute was able to stay with him at the start of the run. In the second half of the run, he slowly built a lead and won by 50 seconds, posting the fastest run split.

If Blummenfelt has a good day, he might be as dominant this year. In preparation for Paris 2024 his swim improved, and he hasn’t missed a front pack in any of his races this season. If anyone rides strong and tries to build a T2 lead, he’s unlikely to match Blummenfelt’s speed on the run.

Everyone will be talking about the one big question mark around Blummenfelt’s Lahti performance: His recent crazy schedule. He raced the PTO US Open in Milwaukee three weeks before Lahti, and his previous weekend saw the Paris Test Event on Thursday, an overnight flight to Singapore and then the PTO Asian Open on Sunday followed by another trans-continental flight to Finland. Even writing about this schedule is exhausting, but Blummenfelt can feel good about his results so far, especially his first PTO Tour win in Singapore. Can he close off his whirlwind tour with another 70.3 Worlds title?

Section divider

Sam Long

27 years old, USA
Bib #8

Sam Long triathlon aid station
(Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Swim ★★
Bike ★★★★★
Run ★★★★
Overall ★★★★
Winning odds 10% (9 to 1)
70.3 Worlds 2022 19th (3:52:14)
Last races Aug. 4, PTO U.S. Open (5th)
Aug. 20, PTO Asian Open (5th)
Nice 2023 Not qualified

Sam Long has also raced a fair bit in August, but his “main life event” was the birth of his first child, Leonardo, two days before the PTO U.S. Open. He’ll want to get back home to “little unit” and his partner Lara Gruden as soon as possible after the trip to Singapore and Finland. He’ll look for a better result at 70.3 Worlds than his disappointing 19th place at St. George last year, when a much-discussed penalty on the bike took him out of contention.

Long has used his “dad strength” for two fifth places at the PTO Tour events recently. The main thing holding him back from bigger results is his swim: He is often three to four minutes behind the leaders in T1, and it’s very hard to work his way to the front of the race in deep fields. He might be the fastest bike rider in the field, but some better swimmers won’t be much slower than him on the bike. Even if he has a good chance to win the “most overtakes on the bike” competition, he probably won’t be able to significantly close the gap to the leaders. Will he gain even more spots on the run? His best result at 70.3 Worlds so far was a second place behind Norwegian Gustav Iden in 2021. Will he have a similar result in Lahti, possibly behind another Norwegian?

Section divider

Jason West

30 years old, USA
Bib #9

(Photo: Professional Triathletes Organization)
Swim ★★★★
Bike ★★
Run ★★★★★
Overall ★★★★
Winning odds 5% (20 to 1)
70.3 Worlds 2022 27th (3:55:38)
Last races Aug. 4, PTO U.S. Open (2nd)
Aug 20, PTO Asian Open (3rd)
Nice 2023 Not qualified (no Ironman yet)

In almost all his races, Jason West has the best run split, and in his most recent races in the PTO Tour he was able to limit the time he lost on the bike to run himself onto the podium. Can he achieve a similar result in Lahti at 70.3 Worlds?

West should be able to swim with the lead group, but as that group might consist of 30 athletes, he may start the bike a minute behind the leaders. His bike splits are often five minutes slower than the leaders. Maybe there will be someone in the big Lahti field who swims about the same but is slightly faster on the bike? A solid bike without technical problems (as in Milwaukee) or a tumble (as in Singapore) would keep him in the mix even if he might reach T2 outside the top 20.

West hasn’t had a good result at 70.3 Worlds yet (his best so far is an 18th place from 2021), but in 2023 he has shown that he can place well in deep fields. If he can start the run within four minutes of the podium spots, a top-three finish seems possible.

Section divider

Mathis Margirier

26 years old, France
Bib #33

Mathis Margirier IRONMAN 70.3 Portugal Cascais
(Photo: Octavio Passos/Getty Images)
Swim ★★★★
Bike ★★★★
Run ★★★
Overall ★★★★
Winning odds 2% (50 to 1)
70.3 Worlds 2022 Not qualified
Last race Aug. 4, PTO U.S. Open (4th)
Nice 2023 Not qualified (no Ironman yet)

At the start of the year, not too many triathletes knew the name Mathis Margirier, and the usual problems of pronouncing French names didn’t help. But his courageous race at the PTO U.S. Open has shown that he is ready to race with the very best. Other than his fourth place in Milwaukee, the young Frenchman has already won two Challenge races this year and finished second in two early-season half-distance races.

Margirier is likely to swim with the front group in Lahti, and as in Milwaukee he could push the early pace on the bike with Kristian Blummenfelt. How many athletes will be able to stay with them? In Milwaukee he out-biked Sam Long and was part of a four-person lead group, and only Jason West was able to overtake him on the run.

Margirier hasn’t raced since Milwaukee, and maybe the extra rest will give him a slight edge over others who also raced in Singapore. It won’t be a surprise at all to see him in the mix in Lahti as well, and he is almost certain to “beat his bib.” Will he be able to contend for the podium in his first 70.3 World Champs?

Section divider

Wildcard 1: Ben Kanute

30 years old, USA
Bib #2

(Photo: Daniel Karmann/Getty Images)
Swim ★★★★★
Bike ★★★★
Run ★★★
Overall ★★★
70.3 Worlds 2022 2nd (3:38:00)
Last races Aug. 4, PTO U.S. Open (23rd)
Aug. 20, PTO Asian Open (13th)
Nice 2023 Deferred to Kona 2024

Ben Kanute was superb in last year’s 70.3 Worlds, staying with Kristian Blummenfelt for the swim and bike, and pushing the pace at the start of the run. He came close to breaking Blummenfelt, and second place was the well-earned reward for a great performance. This season, Kanute set a new U.S. record for the Iron distance with a 7:37 at Challenge Roth, but his half-distance results since then were not up to that level. Can he bounce back to deliver a similar result to last year at 70.3 Worlds?

Section divider

Wildcard 2: Frederic Funk

26 years old, Germany
Bib #4

(Photo: Simon Hoffman/Getty Images)
Swim ★★★★
Bike ★★★★★
Run ★★
Overall ★★★
70.3 Worlds 2022 5th (3:42:33)
Last race Aug. 4, PTO U.S. Open (13th)
Nice 2023 Not qualified (no Ironman yet)

After a fifth place at last year’s 70.3 Worlds in St. George, the young German would love to take another step forward this year. He won Challenge Walchsee but has not fared well in the stronger fields at the PTO Open races in Ibiza and Milwaukee. He and his coach Dan Lorang have cautiously built his run volume. Will he be able to show progress in Lahti and swim, bike and run onto the podium?

Section divider

Wildcard 3: Miki Taagholt

29 years old, Denmark
Bib #5

Miki Taagholt of Denmark competes in the run section of Ironman 70.3 Luxembourg.
(Photo: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)
Swim ★★★★
Bike ★★★★
Run ★★★
Overall ★★★
70.3 Worlds 2022 6th (3:42:44)
Last race Aug. 4, PTO U.S. Open (24th)
Nice 2023 Not qualified

Miki Taagholt is another athlete who was almost on the podium in the last two 70.3 Worlds: He was fourth in 2021 and sixth in 2022. Last year, he was in the lead group for most of the bike and also ran well. He had a bad result in Milwaukee after stressing about his bike that almost didn’t make it in time for the race. This shouldn’t be a problem for the short trip from Denmark to Finland—can he be in a better mindset and stay in the mix until the very end of the run?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Thorsten Radde runs Trirating.com and is one of the top experts in the sport for analyzing triathlon finishes and results. 

Jan Frodeno Reflects on His Final Ironman World Championship

Immediately after finishing 24th place at his final Ironman World Championships, the Olympic medalist (and three-time IMWC winner) explains what his race in Nice meant to him.