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70.3 Worlds St. George 2022: Women’s Race Preview

Can Lucy Charles-Barclay defend her title three weeks after Kona, or will she be caught by the likes of Taylor Knibb, Paula Findlay or Holly Lawrence? Trirating expert Thorsten Radde predicts how the women's pro race will play out at 70.3 Worlds in St. George.

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We already know the women’s start list for this weekend’s Ironman 70.3 World Championships in St. George is full of podium contenders (you can see our analysis here), but the configurations of how these contenders might land on the podium are virtually endless. As we’ve seen in St. George before, just about anything can happen on race day, and we expect the latest chapter in St. George to be just as wild and unpredictable. One thing is for certain, however: you won’t want to miss watching it, either in person or on the livestream.

In addition to streaming the free live coverage on Outside Watch, you should also follow the race with the Ironman Athlete Tracker app. That way you can keep track of how far back athletes are that are not (yet) at the front of the race.

We can expect some fast action in St. George, so let’s break down what this weekend’s race could look like, and what to look for as the race progresses. (And if you’re looking for the men’s race preview, never fear – we’ve got that coming tomorrow. Stay tuned to our 70.3 World Championships hub for all the latest news and analysis from St. George.)

Conditions and Course

(Photo: Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

The average race day conditions in St. George are quite nice with a colder sunrise shortly before the 7:30 a.m. MT swim start, rising temperatures in the morning, and comfortably warm conditions for the run. But it can get hot, and it can get very windy – and sometimes it can get nasty as well, such as last year when the run was impacted by wind and heavy rain.

The 1.2-mile swim will be in Sand Hollow Reservoir, the same location as for last year’s 70.3 Worlds and this year’s Ironman World Championships. With colder water temperatures it’s practically assured to be a wetsuit-legal swim for the Pros and age-groupers. Usually, this makes swim times a bit quicker, but doesn’t change the gaps between athletes too much. For the pro race, the main difference is usually slightly bigger groups, as some athletes might manage to hold on to a group in a wetsuit swim that they would lose in an ocean swim with bigger waves.

There will be a lot of ups and downs on the 56-mile bike course, which is much the same as last year’s race. There are small changes in the out-and-back sections but the total elevation gain is still almost the same (3.291 feet this year, compared to 3.442 last year). There is hardly a flat section on the bike, and a lot of short, steep climbs create a lot of chances for groups to break up and for stronger riders to launch an attack. The highlight of the course comes towards the end: the 8-mile climb through Snow Canyon shortly after mile 40. This will be the last chance for the slightly weaker swimmers to bridge up to the front group – or for stronger bikers to increase their gap to the faster runners.

The 13.1.-mile, two-loop run course avoids last year’s hilly section on the Red Hills Parkway. But with 704 feet of elevation gain and an off-road section on the Dixie Red Hills Golf Course, it’s still a tough course that will demand strong running to place well.

2022 70.3 Worlds Women’s Race Preview: How It Could Play Out

The Swim

70.3 World Championship St. George Swim
(Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

With Lucy Charles-Barclay in the race, it’s easy to pick her as the T1 leader. Will she be able to build a gap, and how large is it going to be? At the PTO US Open in the Dallas heat, she might have started a bit more cautiously, and Taylor Knibb was just two seconds back. Another factor in Dallas might have been that Lucy decided to race without a swim skin. For St. George, all athletes will be wearing a wetsuit, so it’s going to be a level playing field.

If Charles Barclay’s gap to other contenders like Holly Lawrence is similar to last year, it should be about 90 seconds. Flora Duffy should be close to Lawrence in T1. In 2021, Knibb was also in the chase group, and after her Dallas swim she probably hopes to swim closer to Charles-Barclay and start the bike ahead of Duffy and Lawrence.

Paula Findlay should end her swim about two minutes behind Charles-Barclay. The faster runners may be further behind, and they will be happy if they have a smaller gap than the calculated three minutes for Emma Pallant-Browne and Jackie Hering, or four and a half minutes for Tamara Jewett.

The Bike

70.3 World Championship St. George Bike
(Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

On the bike, there are likely going to be a couple of loose groups.

Charles-Barclay and Knibb should be ahead of the rest of the field. In the event Knibb hasn’t been able to swim away from the chase group, she might drag others with her to the front. The question then becomes: Who is willing to take the risk of maybe riding a bit too hard? The lead group is where the winner of the race should be determined, and Knibb should be the strongest bike rider in the field. She should ride away from the chase group and up to Charles-Barclay, but she will also need to create a gap before T2 if she wants to win the race.

Behind the leaders, there is probably going to be a chase group with Findlay, Lawrence and Duffy, roughly two to three minutes back after things settle down. A few other strong swimmers, such as Ellie Salthouse or Imogen Simmonds, will want to have a gap to the stronger runners behind them. Therefore, they may try to stay as long as possible in the chase group.

The strong runners such as Pallant-Braone or Hering are likely about eight minutes behind the leaders in T2, about four to five minutes behind the chase group. Again, you’ll probably need the tracker to determine if Jewett is able to stay somewhere close to Pallant-Browne or Hering, or if she’s losing too much time to be a factor in the run.

The Run

70.3 World Championship St. George Run
(Photo: Nils Nilsen)

Last year, Charles-Barclay had a commanding five-minute lead in T2 – how many athletes will still be within striking distance this year?

On paper, the defending champ should be the better runner than Knibb. Dallas may not have been Knibb’s best run, and she may not have given 100% after she was caught by Ashleigh Gentle. But Charles-Barclay also put 1:43 into her in the 18k Dallas run. At the 2021 70.3 Worlds, Charles-Barclay was more than 3 minutes faster than Knibb. But is Charles-Barclay going to run as well this year, only three weeks after Kona?

The chasers, Findlay and Lawrence, are unlikely to run faster than both Charles-Barclay and Knibb. We also haven’t seen a great 70.3 from Duffy – maybe she can step it up in St. George? Anyone else who may have stayed with them on the bike, such as Ellie or Imogen, is probably going to fall back in on the run.

On a good run day, Pallant-Browne and Hering might be able to put time into the leaders – but it’s unlikely to be by more than a minute, so they need to be close to the front in T2. If they are less than two minutes behind Findlay and Lawrence, one of them could be able to run onto the podium.

The fastest run split of the day is likely to come from Jewett – but what will that mean for her overall result? She’s able to make up five minutes to most of the chase group athletes and could move up from around 25th place in T2 into the Top 10 at the finish line.

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