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On May 7, we’ll have our first Ironman World Championship race since 2019—on a new, first-of-its-kind course in St. George, Utah. Some defending champions are back, some are out with injuries, some new names have come to the front. (Check out our running list of the pros dropping out.) So who will win? Will we have a new world champion?
But who knows better than the people who have been on that podium before? We went straight to the pros not racing and the former champions to find out what they think will happen. We asked them to open their crystal balls: many time Kona winners Mark Allen and Dave Scott; two-time Ironman world champ Patrick Lange; former Ironman world champion Leanda Cave; perennial first out of the water and Ironman champ Lauren Brandon; Ironman World Champion podium finisher Sarah Crowley; Ironman champ and Ultraman world record holder Dede Griesbauer; and top 10 at Kona Sarah Piampiano.
Whew, that’s a lot of wisdom. Here’s what they think could happen.
Top picks: 1. Laura Philipp, 2. Kat Matthews, and 3. Anne Haug.
I just have a feeling that we are going to see a new world champ in two weeks and I believe Laura Philipp can take the win. I think there’s going to be a large front group with some super strong cyclists, including Laura Philipp and Kat Matthews, who will ultimately run faster than the rest of the group. Anne Haug will be coming from the back a bit, but I think she will out run a lot of the women and get on the podium. Should be an exciting race and I’ll be there cheering these amazing woman on.
On the men’s side, I would put Gustav Iden on top of the podium with Kristian Blummenfelt in second. Even though I feel Blummenfelt is the stronger of the two, Iden has already performed well on this course, winning in St. George at 70.3 Worlds last year. Sam Long and Lionel Sanders will be in a battle for third place—however I’m betting on Long to be the stronger of the two, as he has the benefit of youth on his side.
For the women I feel Anne Haug will be repeating her 2019 victory on top of the podium. Haug has been quiet on the scene since winning in Kona, but she fits the profile of an athlete who can perform very well on a hilly course, and her run is hands down the best in the woman’s field. Laura Philipp is improving every year and I can see her having a breakthrough performance this year to come in second. And I’m rounding out the podium with Daniela Ryf. Despite not showing her true form over the 70.3 distance recently, she is a force never to be overlooked in the full Ironman.
The top three women: Haug, Ryf, Philipp—and also adding Katrina Matthews. The men, I’ll give you four: Iden, Blummenfelt, Brownlee, and Long.
I go on past eight months of racing and also if they’ve got good running legs. The race will come down to the run. The bike is brutal, with 7,000ft of climbing. If they override, the legs will be shot for the run.
I’m lucky enough to have spent a solid amount of time training in St. George, so can totally appreciate the differences between it and Kona and how we may see St G play out.
Firstly, it’s a wetsuit swim, it’s at 800m of altitude, and it’s cooler and dryer. It’s also way earlier in the season for athletes to be at peak performance. We haven’t seen a lot of racing yet, which is important for athletes to use to measure themselves and make calculated improvements. I know from my own training cycle that it will be very difficult for some athletes to be properly ready like they would be in October, and despite having a few good sessions it could be a shot in the dark for some. I think the European athletes, who have had a few early season races and the luxury of Spanish isle camps, will excel.
The wetsuit will be advantageous to some athletes who would ordinarily struggle without buoyancy and will keep the field closer together. Take Lucy out of the mix and I think the bike will group up. I think the key to this race is to be strong enough on the swim and bike to be in the mix but it will be won on the run. I think there are eight or so women who will all be there in the mix off the bike but there are only a few who will be capable of running exceptionally fast off a hard bike. Look out for Annie Haug and my personal pick, Laura Philipp.
For the woman I predict a close race at the front with a huge gap to the other girls chasing. In this front pack I see Laura Philipp and Katrina Mathews as the absolute race favorites! Daniela Ryf will try everything to get away on the bike and hold on during the run, while Anne Haug will be hanging on for the bike and then smash out the fastest run of the day. If that’s enough to beat Kat or Laura, that’s the exciting question!
For the man it’s a very different race with many favorites and one stand out battle in my opinion between the two Scandinavians Gustav Iden and Daniel Baekkegard. That’s my duel for the win with a slight advantage for Gustav. He may have to earn some more credits on long course racing but St. George is the place where he won the 70.3 Worlds, which gives him a mental advantage. Sam Long and Lionel Sanders are in the mix if they are able to bridge up on the bike and maybe take some time with them on the run. Another cool battle will be the battle of Olympic champs between Alistair Brownlee and Kristian Blummenfelt. Here I see a little edge for Kristian, but time will tell. In the mix I see Kristian Hogenhaug, Jan van Berkel, Florian Angert, and Kyle Smith, who are capable of a top five. It’s going be an epic race and hard for me to stand on the sideline.
Women: Kat Matthews, Anne Haug, Laura Philipp.
Men: Gustav Iden, Lionel Sanders, Sam Long.
I realize Kat is a bold pick for the win, but this is a strength athlete’s course and she can be so strong. The British athletes are well used to handling—and racing well—in the cold too. I think we might see Anne struggling with the colder temperatures. I think a big question mark remains over Daniela Ryf. She should be good in St George, but after Oceanside I’m not so sure.
With Lucy Charles out of the race, on the women’s side my bet is on Kat Matthews for the win, and Laura Philipp and Anne Haug on the podium. My dark horse picks are Fennella Landgrige and Heather Jackson. I also think Linsey Corbin could do very well on this course. She is a strength athlete and thrives on really really hard course, and where other people fall apart she seems to get stronger.
On the men’s side my picks are: Gustav Iden for the win, followed by Kristian Blummenfelt, and Cameron Wurf to round out the podium. Other people who I think will be in the mix: Lionel Sanders, Sam Long, and Ben Hoffman.
I just think the Norwegians are on a roll and are coming into this race seemingly with a lot of confidence. Cam has a lot of bike miles under him in these last couple of years being on Ineos and that will likely play to his favor on a course like St. George. And while he may not be the fastest runner of the bunch, I think his legs may hold up better than others on what won’t be that fast of a run. Lionel has been training hard and seems to have his nutrition in a better place, not to mention a lot of work on his run. Ben is always strong for championships races and he has raced the full at St. George before (and won), so he knows what this course is about over the long distance. And I think Sam is just young and vibrant and a bit more ballsy than some of the older, more calculated athletes, and while he may blow up, that could also play in his favor and he could have an awesome race.
Tune in on Wednesday for our pre-race Triathlete Hour podcast show, where Mark breaks down all the top contenders and a world champion’s perspective on the last two weeks before the big day.
The guy who seems to be the smartest is Gustav Iden. He’s for sure a top three contender. I would also say that Lionel Sanders is. You saw how well he ran in Oceanside; seeing him get the fastest run on a day like that, he’s fit. And he’s changed coaches and approaches. Another one, who probably not a lot of people put as a real threat, is Sam Long. Remember: Sam got second to Gustav Iden on the St. George course last September. He can race on that course. Where’s Kristian Blummenfelt in this? You have to put him in as someone to keep an eye, however he had somewhat of a slow start to the year. The last guy I think should be highlighted, just because of where he’s at and who he is, is Sebastien Kienle. He’s said this is his last world championship year. And if Cam Wurf decides to race, if he’s in there, it’ll change the mix and the dynamic. He races with gusto, he doesn’t hold back. If he’s in there, the whole field could blow up.
For Daniela, it’s been a minute. Can she find that form? Regain that confidence? We won’t know until the race goes off. If she’s on it, she’ll be tough to beat. Anne Haug definitely would like to defend her title and she raced well last year at Challenge Roth, but didn’t have the day she wanted at 70.3 Lanzarote last month. The woman that beat her at 70.3 Lanzarote, Kat Matthews, she’s been building and building and building. But how will Sub7/Sub8 affect her race in St. George? My pick is Laura Philipp. She ran a 2:44 Ironman marathon—let’s take a moment for that to sink in. She’s got a great attitude and I think she could be the one.
Excited? Here’s how to watch on May 7.