Leanda Cave on the run in last year's race. Photo by Robert Murphy.

Written by: Liz Hichens

Online editor Liz Hichens previews the professional field for the Ironman 70.3 Florida, set to take place Sunday, May 17.

The Ironman 70.3 Florida event in Orlando, Florida comes with a few guarantees: Hot and humid conditions will plague the race, the fast course will offer a great chance to set a PR and you’ll see a few Disney characters en route to the finish line. Defending champs Paul Amey and Leanda Cave, both of Great Britain, are returning after winning this fast and fun course last year.

While most athletes look to improve on the previous season’s portfolio of work, Cave will be looking to replicate it this weekend. So far Cave has had a déjà vu-like season with her third place finish at Ironman 70.3 California and her second place finish at the Wildflower Long Course Triathlon both duplicating her 2008 performances at those events.

Cave’s attempt at her first win this season will come from challenges by last year’s runner-up Nina Kraft of Germany, as well as Joanna Lawn of New Zealand and Lisa Bentley of Canada. The win will likely come down to who has the freshest legs as all four competed in long distance races two weeks ago. With the leading contenders racing on tired legs, look for a possible upset from a few up-and-comers racing on Sunday.

The men’s field runs deeper with more than 30 pros on the starting list. The flat, fast course favors those who specialize in shorter distances, as shown by Amey’s win last year. Last year’s runner-up Santiago Ascenco of Brazil and Fraser Cartmell of Scottland have had impressive performances in the half-ironman distance and will likely contest for podium spots. The remaining field is made up of athletes specializing in ironman-distance races, including New Zealanders Bryan Rhodes and Cameron Brown, Australian Luke Bell and the Czech Republic’s Petr Vabrousek.