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UPDATE: 6:15 a.m., Sunday, Oct. 24
With a weather storm known as a “bomb cyclone” colliding with an atmospheric river to deliver extreme rain and wind starting early Sunday morning and expected to get worse all day, the much-anticipated showdown in Sacramento was canceled about 45 minutes before it was scheduled to start. “We can not keep you safe in these conditions,” race officials announced over the loudspeaker in transition as athletes prepared amid heavy rain and wind.
The race had previously been shortened to a 56-mile one-loop bike the night before for the age-groupers, in an attempt to get athletes off the bike course before the heaviest rain was expected. But with trees and debris already coming down on the road and in the river in the early morning hours on Sunday, and flash flooding occurring in low-lying areas, it was determined the inaugural event could not go on.
“As you can see inside the stadium it’s pretty nuts, and out on the course it would have been pretty hairy. Tough call from the organizers, but they’ve done a great job,” said Jan Frodeno in a video on Instagram, standing in the rain as the announcement was made—after first having some stronger swear words for the unfortunate turn of events. “It sucks for all of us, except for California, I think they’re pretty happy to have some rain.” He then joked about meeting up against Lionel Sanders on Zwift.
More details from Ironman are expected to be shared with athletes.
There are just a few races left on the calendar this year, but with so many pros looking to boost their rankings (and their year-end bonuses) there are a couple of barn burners left in the season. And with no Kona in October, quite a few pros opted to take their Ironman fitness to the other fall options. That’s at least partially why the inaugural Ironman California, slated for Sacramento this Sunday, seems to have become the pseudo de facto men’s Ironman race of the year.
Most notably, reigning world champ Jan Frodeno has made his way back over to the states for his first official iron-distance race of the year. (That 7:27 world-leading performance back in July was an exhibition.) He’ll be joined by his challenger from that two-man match, Lionel Sanders. And, all eyes will be on the recently re-crowned 70.3 world champ, Gustav Iden, who is making his Ironman debut.
Plus, it’ll all be in a pouring rain. Here’s how to watch the action.
How to Watch IM CA
As it has done for its marquee races for the last few years, Ironman will broadcast the event on Facebook Live via the Ironman Now channel. Comprehensive coverage of the entire race will begin at 6:30 a.m. PT/9:30 a.m. ET. The commentators haven’t been announced, but the team is typically made up of former pro triathletes and triathlon commentators in the booth and out in the field.
For live athlete tracking, you can follow both the professional and age-group athletes on the Ironman Tracker app or online at Ironman.com/LIVE. (Pro tip: All athlete tracking links for a weekend’s Ironman-brand races are available during the race weekend at that link.)
The Ironman California Course
It’s supposed to be a fast one—but there’s one major wrench getting thrown into that plan: the weather.
The inaugural Ironman California course is making its debut in Sacramento, and appears picked specifically for fast times. The 2.4-mile swim will be a downstream wetsuit-legal swim in the American and Sacramento rivers before athletes exit by the iconic Tower Bridge for fairly long run up to the minor league baseball stadium and T1. The bike will then head south for a fast and flat two-loop course around the Delta wineries, with just 700 feet of elevation gain in 112 miles. The run will then head back the way athletes swam, for a first lap along the popular bike path, before doing two loops around the Capitol to finish. Again, elevation gain is virtually nonexistent.
While the course is designed for speed, there’s one factor that may prevent any records: a large storm that’s blown into the region. With rain already soaking the area and expected to last on-and-off through race day, roads will be wet and slippery and there are likely to be large puddles and some flooding in places. The current weather forecast is also predicting a 100% chance of rain and high winds during the race itself.
Who to Watch
Ironman California is a men’s only pro race, with the women’s pro race slated for Ironman Florida on Nov. 6.
Most eyes will be on the three athletes mentioned earlier: Jan Frodeno, who it has been hinted may be going for an official world record to cap off his unofficial world record from earlier this summer; Lionel Sanders, whose FOMO got the best of him and delayed his off-season a bit longer; and Gustav Iden, who is making his Ironman-distance debut after an impressive performance in St. George, Utah back in September. Iden is currently ranked #1 in the PTO standings, while Frodo has been pushed down to #2. One can only imagine they both have feelings about that.
Of course, there are a number of other men who could unseat any of these three. Australian Cam Wurf, the super-cyclist-turned-triathlete, will be coming off a third place at Ironman Mallorca last weekend—and, yes, he has said he will be racing. He’ll be joined by another Aussie, 2016 70.3 World Champ Tim Reed. Also expected to start: Justin Metzler (USA), Rasmus Svenningsson (SWE), Arnaud Guilloux (FRA), and Pedro Gomes (PRT). You can see the full start list here.