70.3 Worlds Women’s Preview

This prognosticator will assuredly get it completely wrong and humbly welcomes everyone so inclined to point out how absurdly off the mark he is and especially smirk at all the better contenders he left off the list. Still, he goes about his thankless task like Sisyphus, condemned to fail over and over again.

Here are the contenders, ranked in order with top pick Melissa Hauschildt first and the rest following in order of their chances at victory.

Melissa Hauschildt, 31, Australia

This is the surest bet in the sport – and as Meredith Kessler proved at Vineman 70.3 this year, it is not a sure thing that Melisa Hauschildt will win every single Ironman 70.3 race on the planet.

For the record, she has 20 half Ironman or 70.3 distance race wins. She has two Ironman 70.3 World Championship titles – 2011 and 2013. She has two Abu Dhabi International race wins and one ITU Long Distance World Championship gold. And she has a 2nd at the big-money Hy-Vee 5i50 Championship last year.

Her weakness – about 2 minutes and 30 seconds to the top swimmers, is countered by what seems to be one of the best bike splits in the sport and a well-honed international track background which can produce 1:16 half marathons at the end of a 70.3 race.

Melissa Hauschildt is the gold standard.

Meredith Kessler, 36, USA

It seems impossible, but Meredith Kessler continues to come closer to perfection every year.

This time around the sun, Kessler won her third straight Ironman New Zealand in a race record time. She won St. George 70.3 against a near World championship caliber field. She won Challenge New Albany, Mont Tremblant 70.3, and defeated Melissa Hauschildt at Vineman 70.3. So what was her Achilles race? A 3rd place at Oceanside 70.3 early in the year.

Heather Jackson, 30, USA

If you are numerically inclined, you have to be rooting for Heather Jackson of Bend, Oregon who has a streak of three straight wins at Wildflower Long Course. But far more intriguing, Jackson has been inexorably, slowly creeping toward an Ironman 70.3 World Championship – starting with her 5th place finish at this event in 2010, she has finished 4th, 3rd, and 2nd in the following years. “I’d like to complete a five-card straight,” says Jackson as she repairs back home to Bend to tackle yet another steep climb to prepare for this day.

Jackson, who started off with the bike as her ace in the hole, has since revved up her run to become the equal, on many days, of Hauschildt. There is a 1:14 half marathon in a road race and a 1:17 in 70.3 battles.

This year, her calendar has not been as full as many years. She started with a 4th at Panama 70.3, then took 2nd at Oceanside 70.3 behind Heather Wurtele, and kept her Wildflower win streak alive before running a 1:16:33 at the Carlsbad half marathon.

After that, she incurred a running injury which forced her to spend the summer working on her swim and bike while rehabbing. With six weeks to Mont Tremblant, she started running again and Ironman 70.3 Worlds will be her first race back.

Heather Wurtele, 35, Canada

This elegantly tall Canadian, who is married to fellow elite triathlete Trevor, who makes the funniest video race recaps on the planet, is a serious contender for the win. She is a six-time Ironman winner but shows equal or better skills at the 70.3 distance. In 2013, she won 70.3s at Panama and Calgary, took 2nd at Oceanside and 3rd at St. George before a disappointing 10th at the Ironman 70-.3 Worlds in Las Vegas. This year, things started shaky with a heat stroke DNF at Panama 70.3. Since then, almost perfect -- 1st at Monterrey 70.3, 1st at Oceanside with a 1:17:56 run, 1st at Eagleman and only a 3rd at St. George to mar her 70.3 season.

Daniela Ryf, 27, Switzerland

After signing on with coach Brett Sutton, Daniela Ryf has been on a 5-for5 win streak which revealed just how much potential she had in reserve. At Ironman 70.3 Switzerland she crushed the field and beat 2012 Olympic champion Nicola Spirig by 21 minutes. On a Saturday this summer she won the European 5i50 Championship in Zurich (beating 2012 Olympic silver medalist Lisa Norden) and then came back the next day to win Ironman Switzerland with a 4:55:00 bike split and a 3:11 marathon. Next month, Ryf dominated the excellent field at the Ironman 70.3 European Championship at Wiesbaden, finishing with a 1:21:44 run split and topping runner-up Leanda Cave by 8:38. Then she won Ironman Copenhagen in 8:53:33 with a 12 minutes margin of victory over Sofie Goos of Belgium. All excellent -- but can she win in Quebec? Her 1:21:4 best of the season run at Wiesbaden means she probably needs a 3 minute cushion to have a chance for the win.

Helle Frederiksen, 33, Denmark

She has already banked $100,000 for her win at the Hy-Vee non-drafting Olympic distance classic. So what might she do at the 70.3 Worlds? She was second to Heather Wurtele at Monterrey 70.3 – and her 1:25:04 run was six minutes slower than the Canadian. She won San Juan 70.3 – but even when adjusted for the Puerto Rican heat , her 1:26:34 run there will not get the job done in Mont Tremblant. Still, there is nothing like a Dane to have consistent podium finishes at any distance.

Angela Naeth, 32, Canada

After a winning streaks of four races in 2012 and three races in 2013, Angela Naeth cooled off ever so slightly in 2014 as her focus might well be on her planned Ironman Hawaii debut in October. Things started well with a win at Panama 70.3 including fastest bike split and a new course record and a decent 1:25:53 run split. Next up was her second Ironman – a 6th place at Melbourne which included the fastest bike split. St. George 70.3 was a disappointing 13th, but then she recharged with wins at Hawaii 70.3 and Buffalo Springs Lake 70.3 with fastest bike splits for both.

Jodie Swallow, 33, Great Britain

Swallow, the 2009 ITU Long Distance World champion and the 2010 Ironman 70.3 World Champion, advanced to the elite ranks in Ironman last year with two sub-9 hour performances - a 2nd at Ironman Frankfurt to Camille Pedersen and a win at Ironman Sweden. This year, her top results were a win at Ironman 70. South Africa, a 3rd at Ironman South Africa, a 2nd place at Ironman 70.3 St. George, a win at Boulder 70.3 and a 3rd place finish at Hy-Vee worth $15,000.

Camilla Pedersen, 31, Denmark

Pedersen's sensational 8:56:01 victory at Ironman Frankfurt in 2013 made her one of the favorites for the Ironman 70.3 and Ironman World Championship races at the end of the year. But a nasty bike crash on September 3 put her in critical condition with a fractured skull, broken femur, broken collarbone, broken ribs and left her in a coma for 19 days. After six months of rehab, she was able to make an amazing comeback and won Challenge Fuerteventura, her first race back, on April 26. She followed with three more wins at Barcelona 70.3, Italy 70.3, and Aarhus 70.3 before she ran kinto hi[p issues and DNF'd at Ironman Frankfurt, followed by a 4th place at Ironman 70.3 Wiesbaden behind Daniela Ryf and Leanda Cave and ahead of Liz Blatchford. Right now Pedersen is approaching her 2013 form.

Catriona Morrison, 37, Great Britain

Morrison has a bushel of ITU World Championship Duathlon medals – 4 gold, 3 silver – and 3 wins at St. Croix 70.3 (2010, 2011, 2013). After an injury-recovery time off in 2012 , she returned to her winning ways in 2013 with a 1st in St. Croix 70.3, a 2nd in Hagesund 70.3, a 3rd in Racine 70.3 and a 4th at the Ironman 70.3 Worlds. This year, she is on the case with a 2nd at Panama 70.3 and a 1st at Auckland 70.3.

Lisa Hütthaler, 31, Austria

The Austrian continues to put up excellent 70.3 performances which include 2014 wins at Luxembourg, St. Polten and Mallorca – as well as 3rd place at Ironman Austria. Hütthaler’s strength is the bike as her 2:24:08 split at Luxembourg was 5 minutes better than her closest challengers. At Mallorca, her 2:25:49 bike split was 7 minutes better than the next fastest. Also, her 1:22:44 run at Mallorca was best by 3 minutes. After three 70.3 wins in 2013, her 7th place finish at Las Vegas was a bit disappointing, as was her 2:30:51 bike split and 1:26:33 run.

Rachel McBride, 33, Canada

McBride showed she belongs in the big time in 2013 with a 3rd place finish at the ITU Long Distance World Championship, a win at the Canadian Long Distance Championship, and 2nd place finishes at 70.s in Calgary, Muskoka and Austin. This year, she was first off the bike at Oceanside 70.3 but did not finish. She took 3rds at Eagleman and Vineman 70.3s, then won Calgary 70.3 with an impressive 2:13:36 bike which was 6 minutes better than her closest pursuer, then finished it off with a 1:25:34 run.

Annabel Luxford, 32, Australia

Luxford has a stellar race resume in the decade she spent in ITU Olympic distance competition. Those glory days include an ITU World championship silver medal in 2005 at Gamagori, gold at the Under 23 Worlds in 2004, 1st in the 2005 ITU World Cup Series ranking and 5th at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Once in the 70.3 game, Luxford scored a bronze at the 2013 Ironman 70.3 World Championship and had even more success this year. She took 2nd at Abu Dhabi International, 2nd at Philippines 70.3, 2nd at Auckland 70.3 and a win at the Melbourne Challenge half. All this success was interrupted when she was hit by a car while training on the bike in Melbourne. The toll was torn abdominal muscles which cost her 4 months of no racing.

Melanie McQuaid, 41, Canada

The three-time XTERRA World Champion can also fly on paved roads. This year she won Boise 70.3 while setting fastest swim and bike splits and won Lake Stevens 70.3, beating rising star Liz Lyles. This year she also took 3rd at Honu 70.3 and 4th at Vineman 70.3. Taking time out for a home country win in the dirt, she won XTERRA Canada. McQuaid has always been good – back in March 2012 and coming off a traumatic meltdown at XTERRA Worlds in October 2011, McQuaid s topped a first rate field at Oceanside 70.3.

Laura Bennett, 39, USA

This four-time ITU World Championship medalist, two-time Olympian and $200,000 Hy-Vee winner in 2007 is still working on her long course game. This year she took 2nd at Ironman Boulder , 6th at Escape From Alcatraz and 8th at Hy-Vee.

Magali Tisseyre, 32, Canada

This is practically a home town race for the 11-time Ironman 70.3 winner and bronze medalist at the 2009 and 2010 Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Last year she was primed for an excellent 2014 Ironman 70.3 World Championship with a 2nd place finish at Ironman 70.3 Ironman 70.3 and her appetite for success was whetted by a disappointing 12th at Ironman 70.3 Worlds in Las Vegas. This year her key results include 4th place finishes at Hawaii 70.3 and Mont Tremblant 70.3.

Mary Beth Ellis, 37, USA

Ellis has 8 Ironman wins and placed second at the 2008 and 2009 Ironman 70.3 World Championship. Her expected rise to the Ironman Hawaii podium was broken by a Se0ptember 10 bike crash at Cozumel but she has come back strong in 2014 with a 2nd to Caroline Steffen at Ironman Melbourne and a string of decent but unspectacular races including 4th at St. George 70.3, 7th at Panama 70.3 and 9th at Hy-Vee. Expect her to be rested and peaking for Mont Tremblant.

Radka Vodickova, 29, Czech Republic

This 2012 Olympian had a decent 2014 which included a win at Rev3 Knoxville, 2nd at the New York City Triathlon, 2nd at Boulder peak 5i50, 4th at Escape from Alcatraz and 7th at Hy-Vee.