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Kansas doesn’t rank very high on a list of the greatest places in the U.S—and rightfully so. Kansas, as a whole, is kind of boring. I’ve never spent more than a night in the state that stands between the Midwest and West, but I’ve driven through it a number of times and that’s enough to know that Kansas lacks metropolitan bling. Lawrence, Kansas, however, has all the bling necessary to entertain even the most slick of city slickers. It’s like San Francisco tossed in the middle of nowhere. It’s like Bend, Oregon, only it rains considerably less. It’s like Austin, Texas with a lot more tornados. On Sunday the eclectic college town will host the second annual Ironman 70.3 Kansas, and some big-time names will be in attendance.
Headlining the women’s field is the one and only Chrissie Wellington. The two-time reigning Kona champ, who now trains in Boulder, Colo., is headed to Lawrence for the first time and we expect her to beat all the women and most of the men. That said, there are some legit contenders in the women’s field, which means Chrissie won’t be able to put on the cruise control until at least T2. Keeping Wellington honest will be Canadian Angela Naeth, who is one of the strongest cyclists in the sport and has shown some serious promise at the 70.3 distance. Also in contention for a podium spot is Aussie Pip Taylor, who has made Lawrence her training hub this summer and is no doubt very familiar with the course. Lastly, there’s long-course specialist Kim Loeffler, who is coming off one of the best years of her career in 2008.
The men’s field lacks a clear cut favorite, and given the depth of the field, we expect a tight race for the podium. Pint-sized Aussie Leon Griffin gets our nod as the race favorite on the men’s side, but he’s going to have his work cut out for him. Fellow-Aussie Luke Bell has shown good form thus far in 2009, and Griffin will no doubt have to play catch up to Bell after the first two legs. We’ll also have our eyes on Aussies Simon Thompson and Stephen Hackett, especially on the run. The top American in the field is recent 70.3-convert Timothy O’Donnell , who has shown some serious speed at this distance after a stellar ITU career. A somewhat last-minute addition is American Tim DeBoom, and you can never count out a guy with two Kona titles to his name.
Our Podium Picks
1. Chrissie Wellington (GBR)
2. Pip Taylor (AUS)
3. Angela Naeth (CAN)
1. Leon Griffin (AUS)
2. Luke Bell (AUS)
3. Tim DeBoom (USA)