Stellar Field Heads To St. George For 70.3 U.S. Champs

With the 70.3 and Ironman World Champs months away, several pros have chosen to make this the priority race for the front half of 2013.

Photo: Eric Bakke

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Americans Ben Hoffman and Meredith Kessler head to St. George as the defending champions, but they’ll take on half the distance of a year ago (more on that here) and one of the most competitive 70.3 professional fields of 2013. With the 70.3 and Ironman World Championships still months away, several athletes have chosen to make this their priority race for the front half of the season. The difficult course, tough competition, high prize purse and offering of KPR points make this race attractive enough for nearly 90 pros to make the start.

RELATED: St. George’s Shift From Ironman To 70.3

Men’s Preview
On the men’s side, reigning 70.3 world champion Sebastian Kienle of Germany comes in as the easy favorite. After destroying the field on the bike at the 2012 70.3 world champs on a bike course similar to this one, the others will be sure to be aware of his positioning out of T1 and beyond. Kienle has had a quiet start to the year and his fitness is unknown coming into this race. He’ll face another former 70.3 world champion (2007) in American Andy Potts. Potts is five weeks removed from his thrilling 70.3 California victory and will be looking to add the title of Ironman 70.3 U.S. champion to his resume.

Two Olympians could make the race interesting after already showing they’re capable of performing well against the best at longer distances. Bevan Docherty (NZL) finished third on the 70.3 world championship podium last year and seems to be finding his groove at long course. His dominant victory at Ironman New Zealand in March stands out as one of the top performances of the year so far. Spain’s Ivan Rana also has a long history of ITU racing, but showed potential for non-drafting success with a win at Ironman Cozumel last November.

American Andrew Starykowicz has been on a tear since his unfortunate start to 2012 in Abu Dhabi. Starkowicz isn’t afraid to take chances on the bike, and that could pay off on Saturday. Other strong cyclists to watch for include Jordan Rapp (USA), Luke McKenzie (AUS), Mathias Hecht (GER, the 2011 Ironman St. George winner), Tyler Butterfield (BER) and TJ Tollakson (USA).

Hoffman doesn’t have amazing results against superstars like this at the 70.3 distance, but his strong cycling skills and knowledge of the St. George course and conditions could play in his favor on Saturday.

Other athletes with podium potential include Filip Ospaly (CZE), Greg Bennett (AUS), Paul Amey (GBR), Matt Reed (USA), Trevor Wurtele (CAN) and Paul Matthews (AUS).

Women’s Preview
Unlike the men’s race, it’s hard to say there is a clear favorite heading into Saturday. Reigning Ironman 70.3 world champion Leanda Cave (GBR) will no doubt be near the front out of the swim and all of the other athletes will try to keep her within their sights on the tough 56-mile bike ride. Canada’s Heather Wurtele may be a quiet favorite to take the title in St. George. Wurtele spends several weeks a year training in St. George and knows the terrain well. She also won the Ironman version of this race in 2010 and 2011, and has shown vast improvements on her run this year. She ran her way up to second position against a competitive field at 70.3 California thanks to a 1:19:50 half-marathon.

While Kessler is the defending champion on this course, fellow American Kelly Williamson is the defending 70.3 U.S. champion and is capable of outrunning anyone on this start list. Will she be able to keep pace with the super cyclists on this tough course? That will be the difference for her on Saturday.

The major question mark for the women’s field will be the strong field of 2012 London Olympians headed to St. George. Olympic silver medalist Lisa Norden (SUI), Laura Bennett (USA) and Barbara Riveros Diaz (CHI) will all make the start. Norden would, under normal circumstances, be considered the heavy favorite for a race like this, but after she pulled out of the run at last weekend’s St. Anthony’s Triathlon with an injury, her health is a big question mark.

Scotland’s Lesley Paterson is also somewhat of a question mark. She’s had success at this distance in the past, but her enthusiasm for off-road triathlon and mountain bike racing (she won the Whiskey 50 less than a week ago) this year could mean some fatigue.

Other women to keep an eye on include Emma-Kate Lidbury (GBR), Annabel Luxford (AUS) and Sarah Piampiano (USA).

RELATED: St. George Travel Guide For Triathletes

Professional Start Lists

1 Ben Hoffman
2 Jordan Rapp
3 Sebastian Kienle
4 Andy Potts
5 Bevan Docherty
8 Ivan Rana
9 Andrew Starykowicz
11 Luke McKenzie
12 Mathias Hecht
13 Greg Bennett
14 Paul Amey
15 Filip Ospaly
16 Paul Matthews
17 Matt Reed
18 Jordan Jones
19 TJ Tollakson
20 Chad Holderbaum
21 Derek Garcia
22 Ruedi Wild
23 Brian Fleischmann
24 Swen Sundberg
25 Heath Thurston
26 Trevor Wurtele
27 Dorian Wagner
28 Christian Brader
29 Matthew Pellow
30 Sam Betten
31 Victor Del Corral
33 Damon Barnett
34 Kirk Nelson
35 Kevin Collington
36 Joel Jameson
37 Felipe Van de Wyngard
38 Braden Currie
39 Thomas Gerlach
40 Barrett Brandon
41 Christian Ritter
42 Christian Kemp
43 Ben Collins
44 Jesse Vondracek
45 Denis Vasliiev
46 Branden Rakita
47 Joe Umphenour
48 David Kahn
49 Ivan Vassiliev
50 Mitch Robins
51 Tyler Butterfield
52 Lewis Elliot
53 Brent McMahon

60 Meredith Kessler
61 Heather Wurtele
62 Leanda Cave
63 Kelly Williamson
64 Lisa Norden
66 Lesley Paterson
68 Laura Bennett
69 Sophie De Groote
71 Annabel Luxford
72 Emma-Kate Lidbury
73 Sarah Piampiano
75 Barbara Riveros
76 Uli Bromme
77 Miranda Tomenson-Bharadwaj
78 Margie Shapiro
79 Terra Castro
80 Beth Shutt
81 Malaika Homo
82 Julia Gajer
83 Jessica Smith
84 Svenja Bazlen
85 Charisa Wernick
86 Ali Black
87 Lisa Mensink
88 Danielle Kehoe
89 Amber Ferreira
90 Whitney Garcia
91 Lindsey Jerdonek
92 Mackenzie Madison
93 Trish Deim
94 Beth Walsh
95 Jeanni Seymour
96 Heather Leiggi
97 Katy Blakemore
98 Kathleen Calkins
99 Christine Fletcher
100 Christine Anderson
101 Kat Baker

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