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The action to watch in the women’s race this weekend
This Sunday, Sept. 4 a stellar women’s professional field will line up on Australia’s Sunshine Coast to compete for top honors at the marquee event in the Ironman 70.3 race series. Stars of women’s long-course triathlon will tackle a tough race that includes a 1.2-mile ocean swim, an undulating 56-mile bike course, and a challenging 13.1 mile run with several steep hills.
The race is sure to be a thrilling one, with several prominent storylines to track within the women’s professional field.
Can Ryf Be Stopped?
Daniela Ryf is on a roll. She’s on her way to earning a spot as one of the greatest triathletes in history and the Swiss star is poised to defend her title at the 70.3 World Championships for the third year in a row. But dominance comes at a cost—in July, Ryf took back-to-back wins with an 8:22 Challenge Roth and 8:51 at Ironman Zurich. Is she fully recovered from that effort? Will she hold back on this race to save some juice for the Ironman World Championships in October? We’ll find out.
Hauschildt Wants Her Title Back
Mel Hauschildt is hungry for a big win. After a string of difficult injuries, including a rib injury in 2014 and a sacral stress fracture in 2015, we’re betting the two-time 70.3 world champion has set her sights on regaining her title in her home country. She’s mounted a strong comeback in 2016 with four wins at the half-iron distance and would make a huge statement if she can outpace Ryf. Like many athletes on this list, she’ll compete in Kona in just over a month, but unlike the others it will be her rookie Ironman World Championship race. Will her first-time Kona prep take priority, or will Hauschildt again shine on the 70.3 world stage?
Wurtele’s Time to Shine
We could see either Ryf or Hauschildt take home a third 70.3 World Championship title this weekend. We also could see a new champion—and that champion could very well be Heather Wurtele of Canada. Though most people assume a race with Ryf is a race for second place, Wurtele has spent 2016 proving to be one of the greatest 70.3 athletes in the world. With five half-iron wins this season, including the North American title, Wurtele has shown she’s certainly capable of bringing it.
Steffen’s Eggs in One Basket
Citing burnout at the full Ironman distance, Caroline Steffen decided earlier this year to shake things up with a new coach and new philosophy—one that doesn’t include the Ironman World Championship. After choosing not to qualify for Kona, Steffen announced she would eschew traveling for the fall and instead focus on the 70.3 race at her training base on the Sunshine Coast. Will a well-rested Steffen reap the rewards of her decision?
The Wild Card
Holly Lawrence exploded onto the pro ranks this year, inciting shock and awe from her fellow competitors. Some thought her fourth-place finish at Oceanside was a fluke—then she followed it up with a second-place finish at the 70.3 North American Championships and wins at Vineman and Mont Tremblant. Because the Brit is so new, it’s hard to predict just how she’ll do—and that should incite some fear into her competitors.
In the four years since Leanda Cave pulled off and Ironman and 70.3 double victory, she’s kept a fairly low profile, racing only a small handful of events each year. Though her last 70.3 win took place in Cozumel in 2014, a strong race from the British athlete could place her solidly in the mix this weekend.
Annabel Luxford is also one to watch this weekend. The Australian star is consistently a factor in every race she enters, frequently placing in the top three. However, Luxford has said that Kona is her priority this year—will her preparations for that race impact her performance this weekend?
The Ironman 70.3 World Championship begin at 6:15 a.m. Queensland time (4:00 P.M. Eastern U.S. time). For race day coverage, visit Ironman.com.
See the complete start list here and check back for a preview of the men’s race.