The day of reckoning has come.
The long-awaited, rescheduled, 2021 Ironman World Championships will take place this weekend in St. George, Utah. This is the first time the event has taken place outside of its home in Kona.
2022 will see two World Championships, with the race returning to Kona for in October, whether it reverts back to being the permanent venue has come into question. The success of this weekend may open opportunities for a touring World Ironman Champs in line with the 70.3 World Championships.
The majority of the long course world has been eying up St. George for many months; however, it seems that Covid is still having a lingering impact. Combined with the usual fallout from injury, some of the hot favourites have had to bail out, including 2019’s men’s winner Jan Frodeno (GER), Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) and World ranked number 1, Laura Phillp (GER). Despite the withdrawals, this year is still set to be one of the most competitive races in history, add in the blossoming rivalries, ‘smack talk’ and the athletes with points to prove, we can expect to see some fireworks from start to finish.
The winners of the past 5 World Championships, Patrick Lange (GER) and Frodeno are both absent through injury, with the only previous winner present being Sebastian Kienle (GER). Whether they would have had to make way for a new winner will forever be unknown, there is however a new generation of athletes that would not have been phased either way. There are Olympic champions and short course athletes making the move to long course racing and young athletes tearing up the rule book. The once ‘old man's’ game has well and truly been transformed.
HUUB’s Alistair Brownlee (GBR) was back racing last month at Oceanside 70.3, however his return was overshadowed by illness with Alistair falling back from leading the race to 4th place in the final miles of the run. He will be looking for redemption this weekend to try and add Ironman World Champion to his already illustrious career.
Another Olympic Champion, Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) is also a favourite for the men’s title. He holds the current WR for the distance and in 2021 was nearly unbeatable as he became the Olympic and World Champion. His 2022 campaign hasn’t started as he would have liked so he will be another champing at the bit for this weekend. Fellow Norwegian and current World number one, as well as reigning 70.3 World Champion Gustav Iden will also start as one of the favourites.
Other contenders include Lionel Sanders (CAN) and Sam Long (USA), currently ranked 3rd and 5th in the PTO World rankings. Both will be riding up through the field and will look to take control, on the bike. They will be aided by INEOS Grenadier Cam Wurf (AUS), the Pro Tour rider who recently competed Paris-Roubaix and helped lead his teammate Dylan van Baarle to victory, has long be known as the strongest cyclist in Triathlon. HUUB will also be represented by David McNamee (GBR), the most successful British athlete at the IM World Championships, achieving podium finishes in 2017 and 2018, if he is within sight of the leaders by the end of 180k bike he is definitely one to watch. Relatively new to the HUUB family, Kyle Smith (NZL), (training partner of Frodeno) is considered by many as one to watch for the future and this weekend he will be up at the front from the first stroke of the race.
The Ironman World Championships for men and women has often seen periods of dominance by a single athlete. Most recently Daniela Ryf (SUI) has been the Queen of Kona, she won four titles between 2015 and 2018 along with five 70.3 World Championship titles. However, in 2019 HUUB’s Anne Haug (GER) dethroned Ryf and has since gone on to break records at races like Challenge Roth. Ryf will be looking to turnaround a run of bad luck and injury to reclaim the top spot. In her last victory at Kona, her bike split rivalled many of the men’s, with her final 90km on the bike faster than eventual men’s winner Patick Lange and just 2 minutes slower than Cam Wurf. The arguably tougher course may suit her well.
Haug looks to defend her title from 2019, so far in 2022 she has placed second to Kat Matthews (GBR) at Lanzarote 70.3, however she confessed she had not fully adjusted from a stint at altitude leading into the race. This weekend we can expect to see her firing on all cylinders and if she can maintain her position at the front end of the race, there will be few that can run quicker than her marathon PB of 2.36.13.
The other contenders are headed by Matthews, who since turning professional in 2019 has catapulted up the World rankings and currently sits in 6th. She has recorded victories at both full and half distance events and is due to be Lucy Charles-Barclay’s replacement for Sub8 this summer. Her strength comes from her bike and run combination which is similar for HUUB’s Ruth Astle (GBR), who, like Matthews has recently risen to the top ranks of the sport. Both will be looking to make an impact on the bike. Finally, HUUB’s Heather Jackson (USA) who has achieved four Top-5's at Kona leads a strong group of American athletes including Skye Moench and Jocelyn McCauley who have both taken victories at recent IM races.
The action starts on Saturday at 13:15 UK time, be ready for an action packed afternoon and early evening as the races unfold!
Race predictions, from our in-house expert pundit, Dave Bishop.
1st - Alistair Brownlee
2nd - Gustav Iden
3rd - Lionel Sanders
1st - Anne Haug
2nd - Kat Matthews
3rd - Daniela Ryf