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Torbjørn Sindballe: Picking The Ironman Winners

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Last year’s bike leader Torbjørn Sindballe gives his take on who will claim the men’s and women’s titles on Saturday.

Early in my career I always used a lot of prerace energy trying to anticipate the outcome of a race. I often had specific goals for my outcome and visualized specific race scenarios. Communications with friends, fans and the media often lead to my thoughts on the outcome of the race. “How do you think you will do?” or “Will you win it?” are classic pre-race questions. 

Later in my career I developed a more pragmatic approach. While outcomes or results are always attractive, they are at the same time difficult to handle emotionally, because they are basically out of your own control. You never know if someone on the line is stronger and you can’t do anything about it if they are. There are always a thousand ways for a race to pan out and it is impossible to predict the actions of others, the weather etc.  Instead I shifted focus to the things I could control. If I executed my race strategy perfect and gave absolutely everything I had in me, feeling completely empty at the finish I would have succeed no matter the outcome.

Standing on the other side of the fence obviously makes predictions into a more fun puzzle, so here is my take on the favorites and what they have going for and against them on Saturday.

The Women

Chrissie Wellington is the talent of the century in triathlon and if she is on, no one will come close. However she has shown signs of weakness in her lead in, losing to Julie Dibens in Boulder and “only” winning by two minutes over Catriona Morrison at Timberman.

Miranda Carfrae is my pick for second. She has the capability and has followed the very successful path of Craig Alexander and Sam McGlone by making the Ironman world champs her first Ironman and people always do well in their first – it is number two through seven that can get you into trouble.

Rebekah Keat came within eight minutes of Chrissie in Roth and is the only one except Sam McGlone and Kate Major to do so in an Ironman distance race. If she can translate that into the heat she will be on the podium together with the two above.  She has stayed out of the spotlight focusing on her preparation in the past months, which is usually a good sign.

Behind these three are many more names that have more than a good chance of making the podium.  It will be most interesting to see if Tereza Macel can back up her amazing races in Lake Placid and Canada and ride away from Chrissie. Catriona Morrison is also a newcomer in Kona and will be in the mix together with last year’s podium placers Yvonne Van Vlerken. and Sandra Wallenhorst

The Men
Craig Alexander is the obvious favorite. He is classy and super consistent in what he does and the other guys need to take it up a notch to pass him. He has a slight weakness on the bike and a hard windy bike ride is the only thing that might get him into a little trouble.

Eneko Llanos might be the only one with the weapons capable of threatening Crowie. If the bike is tough, he might add to his advantage in T2 from last year and make Crowie hurt on the run. However, he has yet to display the killer instinct that puts him in number one instead of the perfect second place. He has placed second in all major races for the past year and I hope he can find his inner warrior on Saturday.

Rasmus Henning has the body and skills to win in Kona. However, a broken hand has derailed him. While that will make it hard for him to challenge for the win, I have seen people race like demons from situations like this. He can race with no pressure and had his big prep camp in the bag before the accident. If he makes it through the swim and bike in contention he will torch the run

The men´s field is deep and many other have a chance. Chris McCormack will be up there as well, but he is showing definite signs of weakness for the first time in many, many years. He is troubled in the heat as well and this might be too much to overcome no matter how amazing his killer instinct is. To me it will also be interesting to watch the young talent and those who step up from ITU racing. Terenzo Bozzone made probably the greatest triathlon performance ever when he blasted Wildflower in 2006. If he can stop the burnout tendencies he is showing, he will be a huge factor later on. Andreas Raeleart had health problems leading into Frankfurt and still came within minutes of the win. If he is healthy, he will be up there and might duel Crowie on the run. Phil Graves might not contend this year, but has the talent to ride like thunder and will be fun to watch for the future. Andy Potts has the same class as Crowie, but is troubled by his crash, lack of long miles and a size that will make him cook trying to run sub 2.45. There are many more to mention with names like Timo Bracht, Chris Lieto and Normann Stadler all set to race. But, then you’d still be sitting here reading after the race has already started. After all that’s what is so fascinating about this race. Everyone is here and everyone has a chance.

Video: 4X World Champion Mirinda Carfrae Makes Her Picks for 70.3 Chattanooga

Carfrae and former pro Patrick Mckeon break down the iconic course in Chattanooga, who looks good for the pro women's race, and their predictions for how the day will play out.