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Texas always likes to go big and this weekend’s Ironman 70.3 Texas in Galveston is definitely no exception with a stellar pro start list that should yield some exciting racing.
Often a popular season opener for many North American-based athletes, 70.3 Texas this year boasts a field deeper than it’s ever seen before, due, of course, to the limited racing opportunities currently available. For the tri fans, it means we’ll get to see some head-to-head racing of some big-name athletes that we might typically only see a couple of times a year.
Texas is a fast, flat course so will favor the strong time trialists with great aero positions, as well as those runners who can stay in contention on the bike. A one lap 1.2-mile saltwater swim is followed by an out-and-back 56-mile bike course. The route hugs the Texas coastline heading south for the opening half before simply turning and returning towards T2. Being on the coast means that although it’s flat and fast, the course can be windy, which could play into the race dynamics. The 13.1-mile run is also flat, but not entirely straightforward with many out-and-backs, dead turns, loops, and corners to navigate.
Jeanni Metzler is the defending champion from this race in 2019 (the last time it happened). Metzler won two of the PTO-supported races in 2020, the Huntington and Great Floridian Triathlon. She will have her work cut out with the other women lining up, but that’s not to say Metzler still can’t podium or win.
Jackie Hering finished third in 70.3 Texas in 2019, and more recently showed great run form finishing third at Challenge Miami, only being out split on the run by winner Jodie Stimpson. This Texas course suits Hering and she’ll be dangerous coming off the bike onto the run. Skye Moench is another athlete to watch having finished sixth at the PTO Championships at Challenge Daytona in December, and then one place higher with fifth at Challenge Miami. She is more than capable of bettering this in Texas on Sunday. Heather Jackson didn’t have the race she wanted at Challenge Miami, so expect her to come into this race all guns blazing. She’s one of the best in the business and always a danger for the win.
Also worth keeping an eye on is Australian Sarah Crowley. She seems to have been training well and is likely coming into some fine form for this race—and we know how good she can be when this happens. Galveston’s bike course most definitely suits the time trialing prowess of Brit Kimberley Morrison, so you can expect to see her at the front of the race coming into T2. Another dark horse is fellow Brit Simone Mitchell. Mitchell, the reigning Ironman Wales champion, has yet to really race overseas so will sneak under the radar onto this start line, but she might not be so unknown by the finish line.
The big guns are certainly out in the men’s race—and while the smack talking has most definitely already begun on social media, the athlete wearing the #1 bib for this race—Matt Hanson—will certainly let his racing do the talking, not his Instagram. Hanson finished second in this race in 2019, and since setting the run course on fire in Daytona he’s definitely a marked man as soon as he racks his bike. This course suits him which could mean we see him unleash his full run potential come Sunday. Those ahead of him at the start of the run better watch out.
The battle on the bike will be an interesting dynamic to watch with the uber bikers looking to claim their territory. The likes of Lionel Sanders, Joe Skipper, Sam Long, and Magnus Ditlev will certainly be applying the pressure to the rest of the men’s field. Ditlev actually had the fastest bike split at Challenge Miami (and Challenge Daytona, just ahead of Long). Ben Kanute proved he’s in great race shape in Miami last month, finishing third, and he could certainly be a threat for the podium here again this weekend.
There’s a larger-than-usual European contingent at this race and they will want to make their presence felt—Andreas Drietz and Bart Aernouts are two in particular who should do well on this course. Aussie Sam Appleton is also due to race and his all-around strength and speed over this distance could very easily put him at the business end of this race and on (or very close to) the podium.
RELATED: See the post-race photo gallery