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2015 Ironman 70.3 World Championship Preview: The Women

We look at the strengths, season highlights and more of defending 70.3 world champion Daniela Ryf and nine other top competitors.

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The Ironman 70.3 World Championships head to Europe for the first time this weekend in Zell am See. On the women’s side, the reigning champion, Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf, is the heavy favorite to defend on Sunday. Who do we think could knock her off the top of the podium? Here we take a look at the strengths, season highlights and more of Ryf and nine other women on the start list. Preview the men’s race here.

Daniela Ryf (SUI)

Best 70.3 worlds result: Champion (2014)
Racing Kona: Yes
Notable: Her only second place in a race in the last two years was Kona 2014 (she won every other race).
Fun fact: Ryf trains in nearby St. Moritz, Switzerland, giving her the extra altitude and convenience factor.
Strengths: Sheer grit as a racer, with dominant bike prowess and confidence to execute on all three disciplines.
What it’ll take to win: Doing what she does best—crushing everyone on the bike and holding her own out of T2. Barring no nutrition mistakes or mechanical issues, she’s hard to vote against for the title.

Jodie Swallow (GBR)

Best 70.3 worlds result: Champion (2010)
Racing Kona: Yes
Fun Fact: “Never let anyone beat you because they have outworked you” is a favorite quote.
Strengths: Front of the pack swimmer and cyclist

What it’ll take to win: A healthy training block coming into the race. Swallow has not had the season she likely hoped for after starting with her fifth-straight win at Ironman 70.3 South Africa and a Kona-qualifying victory at Ironman South Africa. After battling health issues a good chunk of the season, it’s hard to know what form the 2010 70.3 world champ is in. A quieter racing season coupled with her all-around talent could translate to success on the tough Zel Am See course.

Heather Wurtele (CAN)

Best 70.3 worlds result: 3rd (2014)
Racing Kona: Yes
Notable: Wurtele had the fastest run split at last year’s 70.3 Worlds (1:22).
Fun fact: She was a scientist for Natural Resources Canada before turning pro.
Strengths: Podium consistency; fighting her way through the field on the run
What it’ll take to win: Not letting Ryf put in too much time on the bike. In 2014, she ran two minutes faster than Ryf, so if there’s not too big of a gap and she’s one of the first off the bike, she could chip her way into the lead.

Magali Tisseyre (CAN)

Best 70.3 worlds result: 3rd (2009, 2010)
Racing Kona: No
Notable: Since switching to coach Paulo Sousa, Tisseyre has turned in some of her most impressive performances.
Fun fact: Tisseyre trains in the same squad as Wurtele, along with her boyfriend, ITU athlete and Olympic hopeful Eric Lagerstrom.
Strengths: Strong all-rounder and extra confidence from her new coach and squad this season
What it’ll take to win: First, a string of better luck—she had a mechanical at Oceanside 70.3, a crash at St. Anthony’s that led to pulling out of St. George 70.3 and a DQ
from the swim course at 70.3 Calgary. Next, sticking to her plan and executing a great race. When she has a good day, she’s within reach of all the top contenders in each discipline.

Alicia Kaye (USA)

Best 70.3 worlds result: Never raced
Racing Kona: No
Notable: Won six of seven Life Time Tri races in 2013 and took home $100,000 for winning the overall Life Time Tri Series and the Toyota Triple Crown, making her one of the highest paid triathletes of that year.

Fun Fact: Co-owner of Endurance Shield, an athlete-inspired skincare product line
Strengths: Pure short-course speed, capable of dominating the bike
What it’ll take to win: With the non-drafting, Olympic-distance prize money opportunities nearly disappearing, the American shifted her focus to 70.3 this year and has seen success— though not as quickly as she’d like. Kaye is a unique name on this list in that—especially on the women’s side—there are very few on the start list that have targeted the Ironman 70.3 World Championships as the “A” race of the season. She will need to put down the efforts that saw her dominate short-course races over the past few years and hold them for just over four hours to have a chance to win.

Heather Jackson (USA)

*Updated 8/27: Jackson will not be racing*


Best 70.3 worlds result: 2nd (2013)
Racing Kona: Yes
Notable: Has won four Wildflower Long Course triathlons in a row
Fun fact: Played field hockey at Princeton University
Strengths: Stellar biker and runner
What it’ll take to win: On the heels of her impressive performance at June’s Ironman Coeur d’Alene, Jackson’s focus is surely on turning in a strong race at October’s Ironman World Championship. That said, she has been a consistent top finisher at the 70.3 World Champs—finishing fifth (2010), fourth (2011), third (2012) and second (2013)—and has the bike and run strength to again be competitive against this tough field. To win she’ll have to mitigate the time lost out of the swim.

Meredith Kessler (USA)

Best 70.3 worlds result: 4th (2014)
Racing Kona: Yes
Notable: Seven Ironman or 70.3 victories in the last year
Fun fact: Leads weekly spin classes in San Francisco
Strengths: Strong swim-biker
What it’ll take to win: With more than 50 Ironman races and dozens of 70.3 races under her belt, Kessler is as experienced as they come when it comes to racing long-course. However, she’s had more than her fair share of bad luck, especially in championship races—in recent years she’s had crashes, concussions and struggled in the Kona heat. She’s had a great 2015 season so far, with six 2015 victories, including Ironman New Zealand and Ironman 70.3 Vineman, plus an Ironman Arizona win late last year after a Kona DNF. Kessler has won races in very deep fields and can hang with the very best in the sport, especially on the swim and bike. She finished just off the podium last year at 70.3 worlds, and with a little good luck, perhaps this will be the year she collects her first world title.

Radka Vodickova (CZE)

Best 70.3 worlds result: 6th (2014)
Racing Kona: No
Notable: 2014 Rev3 Series champion
Fun fact: Did 33 races in 2013
Strengths: Top run splits
What it’ll take to win: The former ITU athlete, who finished 20th at the 2012 Olympic Games, has now committed to racing non-drafting and has had success the last two years, with multiple 70.3 wins, including 70.3 Port Macquarie this year, plus several 70.3 podiums (Sunshine Coast and Norway in 2015). The 70.3 specialist and former Rev3 Series champion posted a top-10 result at her first ever Ironman 70.3 World Championship last year with a fifth-fastest swim time (24:32) and sixth-fastest half-marathon (1:23:33). In order to improve on that finish, she’ll have to minimize the time lost on the bike in Austria.

Camilla Pedersen (DEN)

Best 70.3 worlds result: Has not raced
Racing Kona: Yes
Notable: 2014 ITU Long Distance World Champion
Fun fact: Was once a member of the Danish hockey team
Strengths: Fast bike splits, strong motivation
What it’ll take to win: This has been Pedersen’s first full season of racing since suffering a serious crash in late 2013 that left her in a medically induced coma for almost a month. Doctors told her she wouldn’t walk again, but she’s defied the odds and come back to win the 2014 ITU Long Distance World Championship as well as several other long-course races in 2015. She’s won three 70.3 races this year, including the Ironman 70.3 European Championship in Weisbaden this month. She also earned a fourth-place finish at the Ironman African Championship in South Africa earlier this year. She frequently posts top bike splits in her races, so a position at the front out of T2 in Austria will set her up for a top 70.3 worlds result.

Mary Beth Ellis (USA)

*Updated 8/27: Ellis will not be racing*

Best 70.3 worlds result: 2nd (2008 and 2009)
Racing Kona: Yes
Notable: Switched back to coach Brett Sutton in May
Fun fact: Has degrees in economics, industrial engineering and marketing
Strengths: 
Scrappy, hold-nothing-back racer
What it’ll take to win: A former Team TBB athlete, Ellis switched to coach Siri Lindley for her 2014 season but didn’t earn the results she was hoping for. She switched back to coach Brett Sutton a few months ago and is already starting to see better results, including an ITU Long Distance World Championship title. The nine-time Ironman champion (who actually just added Ironman Mont-Tremblant to her list of wins two weekends ago, four weeks after a runner-up finish at Ironman Switzerland) is a prolific racer, a hallmark of Sutton’s coaching style. Ellis is known for her swim and bike strength, building large enough leads out of T2 that no one can catch her, and she may employ that strategy in Austria this weekend. However, with two Ironmans under her belt since mid-July and Kona only five weeks later, her legs won’t be as fresh as fellow competitors.

Though the women’s start list is fairly short considering this is a championship-level event, there are still several names in addition to those already mentioned who could fight their way on to the podium. Look for Anja Beranek (GER), Svenja Bazlen (GER), Lauren Barnett (USA), Rachel McBride (CAN), Emma-Kate Lidbury (GBR), Holly Lawrence (GBR), Nikki and Rebekah Keat (AUS) to mix up the top 10 with strong performances.

2015 Ironman 70.3 World Championship Start List: Pro Women

101 Daniela Ryf SUI
102 Meredith Kessler USA
103 Heather Wurtele CAN
104 Jodie Swallow GBR
105 Magali Tisseyre CAN
106 Radka Vodickova CZE
107 Alicia Kaye USA
108 Anja Beranek GER
109 Susie Cheetham GBR
110 Camilla Pedersen DNK
113 Mary Beth Ellis USA
115 Laura Philipp GER
116 Svenja Bazlen GER
117 Lauren Barnett USA
119 Kristin Moeller GER
120 Parys Edwards GBR
121 Alexandra Tondeur BEL
122 Kirsty Jahn CAN
123 Katy Duffield AUS
124 Julia Gajer GER
126 Rachel McBride CAN
127 Emma-Kate Lidbury GBR
128 Holly Lawrence GBR
129 Sue Huse USA
130 Natascha Schmitt GER
131 Rebekah Keat AUS
132 Ricarda Lisk GER
133 Nikki Butterfield AUS
134 Eva Wutti AUT
135 Emma Bilham SUI
136 Erika Csomor HUN
137 Lauren Brandon USA
138 Mareen Hufe GER
139 Anna Halasz HUN
140 Tine Deckers BEL