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Bella Bayliss battles the climbs at Ironman Lanzarote. Photo: Ironman
Bella Bayliss battles the climbs at Ironman Lanzarote. Photo: Ironman

Written by: Liz Hichens

We look ahead to this weekend’s racing, which will feature the Ironman 70.3 St. Polten and the Ironman Lanzarote Canarias.

While Americans will be barbequing and lounging poolside this Memorial Day weekend, athletes from across the world will meet up in Spain for Ironman Lanzarote and Austria for Ironman 70.3 St. Polten.

Ironman Lanzarote, Saturday, May 23

While the debate over which ironman-distance race deserves the title of most difficult race in the world will continue for years to come, one of the races up for contention, Ironman Lanzarote, will take place this weekend. The event, which takes place on the Canary Islands in Spain, is inarguably the toughest Ironman-sanctioned event in the world, thanks to the tough climbs and constant heat that plague the course. The tourism-nature of the region brings athletes from across the world out for the event. This year’s race will feature competitors from 41 different countries.

Both of last year’s champions, Belgium’s Bert Jammaer and Great Britain’s Bella Bayliss, will be back to defend their titles. Jammaer’s biggest competition will come from names like Estonia’s Ain Alar Juhanson, Spain’s Teemu Toivanen and Great Britain’s Stephen Bayliss. Lanzarote’s tough course could produce a surprise win from someone like Germany’s Olaf Sabatschus, Portugal’s Sergio Marques or Great Britain’s Scott Neyedli.

For the women, 2008 Ironman Arizona winner Heleen Bij De Vaate and 2008 Ironman Wisconsin winner Hillary Biscay will likely be the toughest challenge for Bella Bayliss. While these three are the favorites, don’t be surprised if one of several up and coming European triathletes walks away with the win.

Ironman 70.3 St. Polten, Sunday, May 24

Competitors prepare for the first Ironman 70.3 St. Polten. Photo: Ironman
Competitors prepare for the first Ironman 70.3 St. Polten. Photo: Ironman

The 2009 Ironman 70.3 St. Polten will bring over 2,400 athletes from 39 different countries to St. Polten, Austria. The race will be wide open this year with an impressive pro field toeing the line.

The clear favorite for the men is Australia’s Chris McCormack, who will be looking for his second 70.3 win of the season after taking the title at Ironman 70.3 China. Three-time Ironman Austria winner Marino Vanhoenacker is also likely to contend for the title. Last year, age-grouper Massimo Cigana of Italy blew away the pro field and walked away with the title. He will be back this year to give the pros a run for their money. Austria’s homegrown athletes will also look to take the title on their home turf. Austria’s Norbert Langbrandtner, Alex Fruhwirth, Peter Schoissengeier, Michael Weiss and Daniel Niederreiter will all be racing.

Last year’s women’s winner, Erika Csomor of Hungary, will be back to reclaim her title. Csomor struggled through illness at Ironman 70.3 California and battled bike troubles at the Wildflower Long Course triathlon, so she will be looking for a strong performance. Germany’s Sandra Wallenhorst will be looking to win. Her star is on the rise after finishing third at the Ironman World Championships last year. The Czech Republic’s Lucie Zelenkova already has both 70.3 and Ironman titles for 2009, and she will be racing on Sunday. Finally, New Zealand’s Gina Ferguson already has three ironman wins in less than two years and will also be looking for the title in Austria.