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A breakdown of key matchups in the women’s professional race at Ironman 70.3 St. George.
A small town in southern Utah will be the hottest spot in multisport this Saturday 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 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.
The women’s field is particularly stacked this year, with several marquee names appearing on the start list. The caliber of athletes in St. George will create one of the most competitive races of the year.
Key matchups in this weekend’s competition (read the men’s preview here):
Wurtele vs. Kessler
Meredith Kessler lost her crown to Heather Wurtele at last year’s race, and she’s ready to take it back. Both athletes know the course very well, having raced every incarnation of Ironman St. George since its inception in 2010 (when it was a full Ironman). In fact, Kessler and Wurtele have a monopoly on victories in St. George, each with three wins to their credit—will one make it four, or will a new victor emerge this year?
Wurtele vs. Jackson
It’s always a delight to watch a “Battle of the Heathers”—the two have faced each other in many races, and this pairing always seems to elevate the competition. This year will be the first time they have shared the course at St. George, however—Jackson, who typically races Wildflower, is taking on St. George for the first time.
Carfrae vs. “Kona’s Little Sister”
Most know her as the three-time Ironman world champion, but Mirinda Carfrae is no stranger to the top step of the 70.3 podium. The Australian has more than 20 wins at the half-iron distance, including a World Championship title in 2007. She raced in St. George for the first time last year, crossing the finish line in eighth place and dubbing the event “Kona’s Little Sister” in reference to St. George’s heat, hills and wind. Now that she has experienced the course once, she has a better understanding of what to expect—and how to win.
Mary Beth Ellis vs. The Comeback
After a bike accident in 2013 necessitated shoulder and collarbone surgery, Ellis struggled to return to the top step of the podium. Last year’s seventh-place finish at Ironman St. George was a tipping point in making a change to her routine, she shared in an interview with Bob Babbitt: “I finished 70.3 St. George and had to take a look in the mirror, the girls are ahead of me are all amazing athletes… It wasn’t a bad race, it just wasn’t what I thought I was capable of doing.”
The discontent spurred a coaching change from Siri Lindley to Brett Sutton, and it seems to have done the trick—she went on to win both the ITU Long Distance World Championship and Ironman Mont-Tremblant. Look for her push the pace in an attempt to redeem last year’s performance.
Linsey Corbin vs. Ironman St. George
In an interview with Triathlete this week, Corbin said she had a score to settle with the race:
“So far the score has been St. George: 2, Linsey: 0. At last year’s event, I broke my femur. The year before I just got my butt kicked. I would love to get a bit of redemption this year.”
Corbin is slowly but surely coming back from a difficult 2015, which included a severe respiratory infection in addition to the aforementioned femur injury. In her first three races of 2015 (70.3s in Panama, San Juan, and Brazil), Corbin has progressively demonstrated a return to fighting form. Going into this weekend’s race, the American has her biggest and most solid training block of the year under her belt and is excited to face this course once more.
The Underdogs vs. The Top Dogs
With so many big names racing this weekend, it’s easy to assume we’ve already listed all potential winners for this weekend. That’s not the case. The field is stacked with talented women, many of whom are flying under the radar: 17-time 70.3 winner Magali Tisseyre, rising star Holly Lawrence and 2015 Ironman Arizona runner-up Amanda Stevens all possess the talent to shake up the women’s race.
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.