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Deep Pro Field To Race Ironman North American Championship Texas

Kona slots are on the line this Saturday at The Woodlands, Texas.

This Saturday, top pros will battle for the title at the Ironman North American Championship in The Woodlands, Texas. For the first time, the male and female winners will each earn an automatic start at the 2015 Ironman World Championship. They’ll also be vying for their share of a $150,000 professional prize purse, which pays 10 deep.

The course features a swim in Lake Woodlands, a bike course through the rolling farmland of East Texas concluding with a marathon and finish on Waterway Ave. It usually sees moderate air temperatures but very humid conditions. According to Weather.com, The Woodlands has a 40 percent chance of precipitation on Saturday with a high of 88 degrees and a possibility of scattered thunderstorms.

In the men’s race, American Ben Hoffman, the 2014 Kona runner-up, highlights the start list. The multiple Ironman champion is known for his bike strength and likely won’t be deterred by tough weather conditions—he won the infamous 2012 Ironman St. George (the final year it was a full Ironman—choppy, windy conditions caused it to have a 27 percent attrition rate). He’ll face tough competition from fellow Americans Justin Daerr, the 2014 Ironman Boulder champion, and Jordan Rapp, the 2012 Ironman Texas winner and another strong cyclist. Canadian Lionel Sanders, the 2014 Ironman Florida champ, is quickly making a name for himself on the long-course scene and has a great shot at a podium spot. Some veteran pros, including German and 2005 Kona champ Faris Al-Sultan, multiple Kona podium finisher Andreas Raelert of Germany and seven-time Ironman Switzerland champ Ronnie Schildknecht will all be contending for the crown. Also watch for a speedy marathon from Spaniard Victor Del Corral.

The women’s race features an even deeper field, with American Kelly Williamson, who lives and trains in nearby Austin, Texas, returning to defend her title against 2013 Ironman Texas champ and 2014 Kona runner-up Rachel Joyce of Great Britain. They’ll be facing off against Canadian Heather Wurtele, fresh off an impressive win at the Ironman 70.3 North American Pro Championship in St. George, and American Heather Jackson, a three-time Wildflower Long Course champ. Other top competitors include 2012 Ironman and Ironman 70.3 world champion Leanda Cave of Great Britain, fellow Brit Corinne Abraham, who won the 2014 Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt, and 70.3 star Angela Naeth of Canada.

RELATED PHOTOS: 2014 Ironman Texas

See the complete professional start list below.

Pro men:
Jordan Rapp (USA)
Faris Al-Sultan (GER)
Justin Daerr (USA)
Ben Hoffman (USA)
Chris McDonald (AUS)
Andreas Raelert (GER)
Matthew Russell (USA)
Ronnie Schildknecht (SUI)
Victor Del Corral Morales (ESP)
Lionel Sanders (CAN)
Pedro Gomes (POR)
Blake Becker (USA)
Raymond Botelho (USA)
Barrett Brandon (USA)
Patrice Brisindi (CAN)
Timothy Clarke (USA)
Matthew Curbeau (USA)
Trevor Delsaut (FRA)
Matt Hanson (USA)
Jarmo Hast (FIN)
Chad Holderbaum (USA)
Jeremy Jurkiewicz (FRA)
Peter Kotland (CZE)
David Plese (SVN)
Mario Radevic (GER)
Mike Schifferle (SUI)
Jonathan Shearon (USA)
Joe Skipper (GBR)
Todd Skipworth (AUS)
Jorge Vazquez (MEX)
Patrick Wheeler (USA)
Patrick Schuster (USA)

Pro women:
Kelly Williamson (USA)
Rachel Joyce (GBR)
Leanda Cave (GBR)
Corinne Abraham (GBR)
Heather Wurtele (CAN)
Bree Wee (USA)
Linsey Corbin (USA)
Heather Jackson (USA)
Camilla Lindholm (SWE)
Angela Naeth (CAN)
Sofie Goos (BEL)
Corrie Kristick (USA)
Rebecca Preston (AUS)
Sarah Piampiano (USA)
Kaitlin Anelauskas (USA)
Anne Basso (FRA)
Katy Blakemore (USA)
Katharina Grohmann (GER)
Tamara Kozulina (UKR)
Danielle Mack (USA)
Caroline Martineau (CAN)
Jocelyn McCauley (USA)
Jessica Meyers (USA)
Samantha Morrison (USA)
Olesya Prystayko (UKR)
Keiko Tanaka (JPN)
Natasha van der Merwe (USA)
Tami Ritchie (USA)