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With two vikings, two defending champions and too many contenders to write anybody off, the 2022 Ironman 70.3 World Championship races on Friday and Saturday are sure to deliver some of the most exciting performances of the season. Contrasting the cauldron of the Ironman World Championships in Kona three weeks ago, the weather in St. George, Utah looks more likely to provide an icy blast come race morning – but whether it’s enough to cool the jets of the red-hot Norwegian favorites or front-running Lucy Charles-Barclay remains to be seen.
Calling the outcome is never going to be easy, so we’ve called on the experts. And who better to take us through what might happen than two previous winners? Mirinda Carfrae might be best known as a three-time Kona winner, but she also won this title in 2007, beating reigning champion Sam McGlone in the process. Likewise, Craig Alexander is most famous for his own triple success on the Big Island, but he also has two 70.3 crowns to his name – in the inaugural world championship, also in Clearwater, in 2006 and in 2011 in Henderson, Nevada.
We’ve assigned Rinny the women’s race, and Crowie the men’s. Here’s what our two legends of the sport think might happen.
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70.3 Worlds Pro Women: Rinny’s Predictions
It’s always hard to pick when the field has this much quality, but I’m taking Taylor Knibb to win. I think Taylor is an even better 70.3 athlete than she is an Olympic distance athlete. Already a star, and will be an even brighter star in the future.
Last year, she came into this event completely spent. She’d raced all over the world in the Olympics, World Triathlon Series, the Collins Cup, and a 70.3, and arrived here exhausted and still hung on for third. After a foot injury ruled her out for much of 2022, she’s still fresh, and Taylor raced extremely well to blow the field away on the bike in the PTO US Open in Dallas last month. Lucy Charles-Barclay had a couple of mechanical issues with her bike in that race, but still Taylor was phenomenal. She blew on the run with the heat, but that’s not going to be a factor here.
Less than three weeks ago she also ran 33:01 over 10 kilometers in a World Series race in Italy. If she’s healthy, I don’t think anyone can beat her. After that it’s tricky. Lucy is the defending champion, but she’s coming off of Kona and it’s going to be hard for her to have the same leg speed as Taylor. I think she’s looked after herself and went straight to St George from Hawaii, so she clearly has her head in the game.
But then you have the likes of Holly Lawrence, Emma Pallant-Browne and Paula Findlay who are all targeting this event – and Flora Duffy is a not-so-dark horse too.
How might it play out? I think the weather is going to play a big part in this race. It’s going to be extremely cold in the morning, probably sub 40 degrees when the gun goes off. I think it’ll warm up fine, but there has to be question marks over how athletes – many of whom are used to living and racing in hot climates all year – will perform.
Taylor was able to hang with Lucy on the swim in Dallas, but even if she can’t do the same here, I think she can bridge up quickly on the bike. I expect Flora, Holly, Paula and possibly Ellie Salthouse to be riding together behind those two and I think Emma will be in the second chase group and looking to bridge up. Jackie Hering is on my list of ones to watch, but has been struggling to get her early season form back after illness, so it will be interesting to see if she can be in the mix..
It also makes a huge difference if you’ve been targeting this race. It’s almost a November event, and it’s hard to hold on to form for athletes who started racing early in the year. But if you’ve had this on your calendar and have tried to peak for it, you should be in a better position. I think Holly and Paula have done that, and Emma, who raced a lot from May to August, but then went back to South Africa to really target this. Flora is a phenomenal talent and you can never discount her, but to have a big performance here – given the year that she’s had – will be tough. I see Ellie as an outside shot. I don’t know if she has the run pedigree of the girls ahead, but she’s been based in St George all year and will know this course inside out.
Rinny’s Podium Picks
- Taylor Knibb
- Lucy Charles-Barclay
- Holly Lawrence
70.3 Worlds Pro Men: Crowie’s Predictions
I think Gustav Iden will win. I’ve been on the hype train for a couple of years now, and I’m not going to jump off just yet.
There are always question marks when you’re backing up from an Ironman, but there are two things in play. The first is that the Norwegians are high volume guys, and when you regularly do a lot of volume you tend to recover well. The second thing is how they monitor everything. Having spoken to their coach [Olav Aleksander Bu] ahead of the Ironman worlds here in May, I was even struck by how they monitored their sickness in the lead-up. Both were sick, but Gustav didn’t race, yet Kristian [Blummenfelt] did race – and won. They know their recovery inside out. Given it’s less than a week out and we haven’t heard anything to the contrary, if they’re on the start-line they’ll be in pretty good nick ready to go.
Will they be perfect after Kona? Maybe not. Will they have to be? Probably not.
I’m picking Gustav because I think Kristian might be a little over-raced from earlier in the year. Only their coach really knows – he’s the one doing their blood work and measuring lactate thresholds. But I also have a sense that Gustav is full of confidence, fresher, and has won this title before. So I’m going with him, with Kristian to finish second.
As for the challengers, I feel this race may play out exactly how the PTO Canadian Open played out. We’ll have a little group at the front after the swim including Ben Kanute, Aaron Royle and Frederic Funk. If those boys are paying attention, their modus operandi should be to go warp speed from the gun and close the door early. I’m going for Royle to hang on for a podium again – the same as we saw in Edmonton.
I think Freddy will be in the top five as well. He’s a superstar in the making. Consistent, aggressive and I think he and Aaron will ride well together. Ben can be in the mix along with a few others. At this point in his career, Magnus Ditlev is better at the full distance than the half, but he can change the race and could potentially be an unwitting ally for Kristian and Gustav on the bike in catching the front pack. The swim should be another level up from Kona with Royle in there, so it depends how much Magnus is on the back foot and how quickly he can get to the front and disrupt things.
I’m not discounting Sam Long. He had a great race in Dallas and his swim isn’t as much of a weakness as it used to be, but you’re playing with fire giving too much up out of the water too often. He’ll be a bit on the back foot but I expect him to come through for the top five, especially if it’s super tough conditions.
As for the rest. Jason West is an incredible runner. If he’s within two minutes off the bike, that kid can run. If Jackson Laundry turns up in the sort of form we saw him in Oceanside he could also be in the mix. I don’t think that race was an illusion, but it’s hard to be in that form all year. He’s also got good memories of this course having finished fifth here twice last year.
But what tends to happen in the bigger races that have so much depth is allegiances of convenience form – and they usually form at the front end of the race. Who is going to want to work with Jason on the bike? Nobody. While at the front they believe it’s all in their mutual interest to work, so agree to take turns.
Crowie’s Podium Picks:
- Gustav Iden
- Kristian Blummenfelt
- Aaron Royle
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