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Your Guide to the 70.3 World Championship Men’s Contenders

We rate six of the top contenders in the men's 70.3 World Championship race so you can follow along.

On Saturday, the 70.3 World Championship race will go off in St. George, Utah, on a hilly and typically hot course. While the women’s field remains deep, the men’s start list has seen a number of the biggest names drop out because of other commitments, injuries, or last-minute COVID change of plans. Because of these recent shifts in the lineup, the men’s field could have some new faces at the front of the race, and it’s crucial to read up and learn about some of the maybe-unfamiliar names who won’t be unfamiliar for long.

Stay tuned for more on how to watch.

Read on for our expert guide, with data provided by Thorsten Radde of Trirating.com. Check out the women’s preview here.

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Gustav Iden

25 years old | Norway

Swim 4/5
Bike 4/5
Run 5/5

Who he is: Part of the Norwegian powerhouse squad, Iden is the defending 70.3 champ and has to be considered the favorite on this hilly and tough course. 

Why he could win: To say that he surprised the field on the Nice course in 2019 isn’t quite right—since he’s been around the World Triathlon circuit for awhile—but not many expected him to take the win on a road bike with a head-to-head footrace against Alistair Brownlee. He’s since shown that wasn’t a fluke with another win at the PTO Championships at Challenge Daytona at the end of 2020 and then a dominating performance in his match-up at the Collins Cup.

Why he might not: Although he’s shown far more dominance on the longer distances, his focus has always been the Olympics (where he took 8th earlier this year). It’s not clear how the packed Norwegian schedule will affect the team—and his biggest competition is likely to come from countryman and teammate Blummenfelt.

Overall performance 5/5
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Kristian Blummenfelt

27 years old | Norway

Swim 4/5
Bike 3/5
Run 5/5

Who he is: The Olympic champion made no secret of his goal to become the first person to win the Olympics and Kona in the same year. Since Kona got postponed, why not double-up as the 70.3 world champion instead?

Why he could win: Blummenfelt has proven he’s obviously one of the best in the world—and, more importantly, he’s willing to turn himself inside out to get to that finish line first. While he doesn’t do many 70.3s, he does have the fastest 70.3 on record with a 3:25:21 at Bahrain 70.3 (a notably fast/short course).

Why he might not: He doesn’t do many 70.3s. It’s hard to know exactly how he’ll do when his 70.3 races largely consist of the once-a-year Bahrain event and a fourth at the 2019 World Championships. While this course lends itself to his strength-above-all-else style, it could be hard for him to run away from the field.

Overall performance 4/5
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Ben Kanute

28 years old | United States

Swim 4/5
Bike 3/5
Run 4/5

Who he is: The 2016 Olympian has toyed with moving up in distance (with solid results) but keeps going back and forth between the shorter and the longer. Since he wasn’t able to secure a relay team spot for the 2020/2021 Olympics, he’s been targeting this race almost in his backyard.

Why he could win: In 2017, he was second at the 70.3 Worlds to Javier Gomez. In 2018, he was 4th to Jan Frodeno, Alistair Brownlee, and an aggressively competitive field. A recent win at Escape from Alcatraz showed he’s on form on a hilly course and ready to run his way to the top step this time.

Why he might not: In the last 70.3 Worlds, Kanute finished a disappointing 10th. He’s been up and down since then—making a run for the Olympics, and then placing 26th on this course back in May. Which Kanute will we see on Saturday?

Overall performance 4/5
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Daniel Baekkegard

25 years old | Denmark

Swim 5/5
Bike 2/5
Run 4/5

Who he is: A former elite swimmer, with a number of Danish national championships, Baekkegard moved to triathlon in 2015 and did his first 70.3 in 2018. He arrived on the scene with back-to-back wins at Finland 70.3 and then Ironman Austra in 2019—and then the pandemic hit.

Why he might win: Before he was disqualified for a misunderstanding at the penalty box (?) at the race here in May, he was in the mix with the front group of contenders. Before that he was first at Dubai 70.3 (a popular opener for pros) and first at Tallinn 70.3 last year during the pandemic. He’s proven he can compete among the best in the world and he’s likely to be in the mix throughout the day.

Why he might not: While he’s risen in prominence since the start of the COVID pandemic, he was 16th at the last 70.3 World Championship. He’s good, but is he good enough yet?

Overall performance 2/5
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Sam Appleton

31 years old | Australia

Swim 4/5
Bike 4/5
Run 2/5

Who he is: The Australian, based in Boulder, Colorado, has been a steady presence on the long-course scene since his debut in 2013—with 15 wins at the 70.3 distance.

Why he might win: From 2017 through 2019, he was consistently at the top of the podium across a range of races, from Challenge Melbourne to three wins at 70.3 Santa Rosa—but his highest placing at the World Championship was fourth in 2017.

Why he might not: He notably took some time off during the pandemic to relax and enjoy family life. While he seems poised to make a return to performance in recent races, he was also 23rd at St. George back in May.

Overall performance 2/5
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Wildcard: Sam Long

25 years old | United States

Swim 2/5
Bike 5/5
Run 4/5

Who he is: The purveyor of the “yo yo yo” philosophy, Long goes full send at every race he starts. At the 70.3 here in May, he and Lionel Sanders sprinted to the line in one of the more exciting 70.3 finishes in years. In June, he won a crippling hot Ironman Coeur d’Alene.

Why he could win: Because he could, who knows. Long has shown a fearlessness and a willingness to put it all on the line. His bike and run can compete against anyone in the world.

Why he might now: His swim can’t. With this kind of world-class field, it’s likely he’ll find himself three to four minutes down in T1—and unless he has strong bikers to help him work his way up, it’ll be tough to climb all the way through the world championship level athletes.

Overall performance 4/5