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The action to watch in the men’s race this weekend
This Sunday, a strong men’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 men’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.
Last year’s champion, Jan Frodeno, will not return to defend his title. In his absence, an exciting race will unfold for the top spot.
Kienle vs. Sanders
A battle of the superbikers is the marquee story, as two-time 70.3 world champion and 2014 Ironman world champion Sebastian Kienle of Germany faces Canadian powerhouse Lionel Sanders. It will be a rematch of this year’s North American 70.3 Championships in St. George, where the two threw down on one of the most difficult 70.3 bike courses in the world. Sanders emerged victorious, clocking a staggering 2:03:57 bike split on his way to the win.
Can Crowie Get Another World Title?
At 43 years old, Craig Alexander is by far the most seasoned athlete of the men’s pro field. The Aussie has been keeping a low profile lately, especially compared to his 2006-2011 heyday, where he racked up three Ironman World Championship titles and two 70.3 World Championship victories; however, his 2016 wins at Subic Bay and Putrajaya, where he bested young guns like Josh Amberger and Tim Van Berkel, tells us he could still land on the podium.
The tempo of 70.3 racing has been altered significantly by former ITU stars, who have brought blistering speed in all three disciplines. Two names in particular have impacted the scene: Great Britain’s Tim Don and Canada’s Brent McMahon. Both are well-rounded athletes with multiple podium performances at the 70.3 distance. Look for them to push the race—and each other—with fast swims and strong runs.
A Reed Breakthrough
Australian Tim Reed has been on a steady upward trajectory this year, consistently finishing on the podium in every race he’s entered. His win at the 2016 Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championships was one of his best performances yet, as Reed knocked off a strong field that included Alexander and McMahon. If he can keep that momentum going, he’ll be a thrilling contender to watch this weekend.
The Sleeper Agent
People rarely talk about Joe Gambles before most races—but his name certainly comes up once the starting gun goes off. The 70.3 distance is the unassuming Aussie’s strongest event, with dozens of top-three finishes under his belt. At this year’s Ironman 70.3 North American Championships, Gambles demonstrated supreme patience and tenacity to secure a third-place finish in an incredibly stacked men’s field.
The men’s field has a slew of variables that will make for an unpredictable day: Germany’s Andreas Dreitz, Switzerland’s Ruedi Wild, Bermuda’s Tyler Butterfield and New Zealand’s Terenzo Bozzone (the 2008 70.3 world champ) can mix it up with the best. Eager to not miss a chance to race a world championship event on home soil, several top Australians—in addition to the ones listed above—have chosen to compete including Luke McKenzie, Josh Amberger, Sam Appleton and Brad Kahlefeldt. The event’s honest course and strong cast of characters all but guarantee a constantly-changing leaderboard on the bike and run.
The Ironman 70.3 World Championship begins at 6:15 a.m. Queensland time (4:00 P.M. Eastern U.S. time). For race day coverage, visit Ironman.com.