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2016 Ironman 70.3 St. George Key Match-Ups: Pro Men

A small town in southern Utah will be the hottest spot in multisport this weekend.

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An exceptional field in the men’s professional race will feature several key matchups.

A small town in southern Utah will be the hottest spot in multisport this weekend as a deep professional field will vie for an automatic spot at the 2016 Ironman 70.3 World Championship and a share of the $100,000 prize purse.

St. George, which plays host to the Ironman 70.3 North American Pro Championship, is an ideal venue for a championship event, with unrelenting climbs on the bike requiring solid race strategy and a judicious expenditure of energy.

Last year’s winner, Tim Don, will not return to defend his title. Instead, an exceptional men’s field will line up on Saturday morning to battle for the top spot. Key matchups of the day (read the women’s preview here):

Youth vs. Experience

28 year-old Lionel Sanders will provide a thrilling challenge to Brent McMahon, who has almost as many years of racing triathlon as Sanders does of age. McMahon, a two-time Olympian, won the 70.3 North American Championships in 2013 and is eager to regain his title. Sanders, who has racked up 12 70.3 wins in only three years of professional racing, could make that prospect difficult.

RELATED: Brent McMahon On Staying Inspired After 25 Years Of Racing

Kienle vs. Sanders

Sebastian Kienle, the two-time Ironman 70.3 world champion and 2014 Ironman world champion, is known for being a beast on the bike. Sanders has that exact same reputation. On a difficult bike course like St. George, which features steep climbs and more than 2,500 feet of total elevation gain, it will be thrilling to watch the battle of the bikes.

Hoffman vs. Fatigue

“I wouldn’t normally race a half-Ironman so soon after a hard effort at Ironman, but I couldn’t miss this event,” Ben Hoffman said in an interview with Triathlete this week. Fresh off a hard-fought win at Ironman South Africa last month, Hoffman admits he’s going into this weekend’s race with four weeks of recovery, not build, under his belt. Hoffman is a fixture in the St. George community, having trained in the area since his collegiate days on the University of Montana triathlon club and racing every incarnation of Ironman St. George since its inception in 2010.

RELATED: Ben Hoffman: Ironman 70.3 St. George “Is My Baby”

Raelert vs. Reputation

Michael Raelert, a two-time Ironman 70.3 world champion, chose St. George as his season debut to set the tone for a banner year. He’s said his pre-season preparation for 2016 season is his greatest yet, and he’s determined to prove it by besting this high-caliber field. Look for him to unleash an intense effort from start to finish.

Dye vs. The Distance

There is no doubt Cameron Dye is talented: the Colorado native has won almost every short course, non-drafting race there is. That success, however, has not translated to long-course racing. Though Dye has had some promising showings at Ironman 70.3 races, he’s yet to assemble a strong enough race to take the top podium spot. Will things finally “click” for Dye in St. George?

O’Donnell vs. The Unknown

The giant question mark at this year’s race is Tim O’Donnell, who will be racing St. George for the first time this weekend. He’s been sitting on his enthusiasm for this particular competition for a year, as a bout of pneumonia caused him to pull out of last year’s event. No one knows how he’ll affect the race this year, but if he races as aggressively as he did in Kona last October (where he took third place and top American honors), O’Donnell’s entry will be a game-changer.

The race begins at 7 a.m. MST on Saturday, May 7. For the full roster of professional triathletes racing in the 70.3 North American Championships, click here.

Video: 4X World Champion Mirinda Carfrae Makes Her Picks for 70.3 Chattanooga

Carfrae and former pro Patrick Mckeon break down the iconic course in Chattanooga, who looks good for the pro women's race, and their predictions for how the day will play out.