2024 IRONMAN Texas Pro Preview

IRONMAN Texas serves as the second stop in the IRONMAN Pro Series. Athletes will look to secure strong finishes to set themselves up for success in the season long competition. The Pro Series began with 70.3 Oceanside on April 6th. That race was dominated by middle distance specialists. The long distance specialists now have an opportunity to move up in the standings. Oceanside awarded 2500 points for 1st place. Texas awards 5000 points. Remember that athletes lose 1 point for every second they finish behind the winner. Your current Pro Series leaders will not be the leaders after this weekend. We should have a much clearer picture about who might contend at the top of this series after this weekend. Let’s get into who will be racing in Texas!

Women’s Race

The Favorite* (*if she races)
Kat Matthews won Ironman Texas last year, getting redemption after being struck by a driver training in Texas the previous year. In last year’s win, she outran a lot of her main rivals on this start list by more than 10 minutes. Following that win, she posted a 7th place finish at the PTO US Open and came in 2nd at the 70.3 World Championships. We do not, however, know if Kat will be starting this race. She was forced to withdraw from T100 Miami with a soleus grade 2c calf tear. It looks like she has been training hard, has been running for a few weeks now, and wants to give this race a go. She can definitely win this race at slightly less than 100%. It’s a tall order but expect her to be up front if she races. She has the ability to run through this field and break the finish line tape.

Podium Contenders:
Lotte Wilms and Jocelyn McCauley just finished 12th and 13th, respectively, at T100 Singapore. Wilms held off McCauley by just 31 seconds, even though McCauley ran 25 seconds faster. They should be ready for another close battle in the Texas heat. Wilms began her 2024 season with a 3rd place result at 70.3 Geelong. McCauley also got a bronze in her season opener at IRONMAN New Zealand in March. McCauley finished 3rd at IRONMAN Texas last year and went on to take 10th at the IRONMAN World Championships. Wilms was only 26th at the IRONMAN World Championships but had the stronger PTO result (9th at the European Open) out of the two athletes. She finished on the podium in 6 of her 10 2023 races. It is really a coin flip between these two women. On paper, Wilms has performed a little stronger at middle distance races and McCauley has performed better at long distance races.

Fenella Langridge is back for her 2nd race in the Pro Series, after finishing 6th in Oceanside. She was at the front of the race until the 20k mark of the bike, where Taylor Knibb overtook her. She was still battling for a podium spot on the run but was eventually overtaken by a few other athletes. Langridge put together some strong full distance results last year. She was 2nd at South Africa, 4th at Roth, and won Western Australia. She struggled to a 30th place finish at the World Championships but looks ready to put that result behind her.

IRONMAN Texas will be Maja Stage-Nielson’s 2024 debut race. She was 2nd here last year, and is one of the more balanced swim, bike, and run athletes in the sport. She did not fare as well in some of her championship races last year. She was 21st at the PTO European Open, 20th at the PTO US Open, 14th at the 70.3 World Championships, and 21st at the IRONMAN World Championships. Danielle Lewis similarly struggled in some of her championship races (DNF IRONMAN Hawaii, DNF PTO US Open, 24th 70.3 World Championships) in 2023 but was 5th here last year. She started off her year with a strong 5th place finish at Oceanside. She will lose some time to the leaders on the 2.4 mile swim but will gain a lot of time back on the bike. She has split some sub-80 70.3 run legs in the past and has the capability of putting together a strong 140.6 run. Alice Alberts is another podium contender. She raced 4 times in 2023, all at the full distance. She was 6th at Texas, won Lake Placid and Maryland, and was 5th at Florida. She quit her job as an RN to become a full-time pro in 2022. Look for her to build on her successful 2023 season.

Will we get an Oceania breakthrough?

Four strong Oceania triathlons stars will look to make their mark on this race. With the early start to the Oceania triathlon season, most of these women are race sharp. Hannah Berry has raced twice in 2024, with a 5th place at 70.3 Geelong and a win at the Tauranga Half. She made 4 podiums in 2023, including a pair of 70.3 wins. She was also 11th at IRONMAN Hawaii. Berry is a strong swimmer, who should get onto the bike with some strong cyclists, like McCauley and Stage-Nielsen. She will have to make an early decision to try to stick with those women or to settle into her own pace. Rebecca Clarke has already raced 3 times in 2024. She was most recently 16th at Singapore T100. She took 4th at the Tauranga Half and 2nd at Challenge Wanaka. Clarke is one of the strongest swimmers in the sport. She made it onto 6 podiums in 2023 but was further back in some of her bigger races (17th PTO European Open, 16th PTO US Open, 13th PTO Asian Open, 20th IRONMAN Hawaii).

Penny Slater kicked off her season with a 7th place finish at 70.3 Geelong and a 4th place finish at 70.3 Tasmania. She was 3rd at IRONMAN Cairns and 3rd at IRONMAN South Africa in 2023. Slater was also 13th at the IRONMAN World Championships. Kylie Simpson was 1st at IRONMAN Cairns and 1st at IRONMAN Australia in 2023. She routinely overcomes her relatively weaker swim leg with an excellent bike and run combination. She might not be able to overcome her swim deficit in Texas but she can still move up the field on the run. All of these women will be trying to mix it up at the front of this race.

Lauren Brandon was a DNS at Oceanside. If she is ready to roll at Texas she might be leading out the swim on her own. She put 4 minutes on McCauley last year, who was the closest to her out of the water. Brandon went on to finish 4th. If she is racing, expect her to be at the front of the race well into the bike. Joanna Ryter is another athlete to watch out for, especially as it heats up on the run. Ryter was 7th at Texas last year and moved up to that position by way of the 2nd fastest run split. Leslie Smith is a consistent athlete, who is a strong biker and capable runner. She was 4th at 70.3 Indian Wells, 23rd at the PTO US Open, 2nd at 70.3 Oregon, and 4th at 70.3 Boulder, in 2023.

Kat Matthews is my favorite if she races. She can win this race with something less than full fitness. She runs well in the heat and no lead will be safe if she comes off of the bike within striking distance. I think that McCauley can outduel Wilms over the longer distance and that Stage-Nielson’s consistency can get her into the top-3.

Our Women’s Podium Prediction:
Matthews, McCauley, Stage-Nielson (add in Wilms if Matthews is out)

Men’s Race:

Is Patrick Lange the men’s favorite?
If this was going to be Patrick Lange’s first race of 2024, you would have to pick him for the win. The multiple time IRONMAN World Champion is focusing solely on the Pro Series this year. He was 2nd at both Roth and Nice last year, splitting 2:30 and 2:32 marathons. We cannot, however, completely ignore his result in Oceanside a little over two weeks ago. He finished back in 16th. He was 11th out of the water and managed the 25th fastest bike split. He was not particularly close to the kind of run form we have come to expect from him, putting together the 14th fastest split of the day. He was both beaten and outran by three men who join him on the Texas start list (Braden Currie/Joe Skipper/Matt Hanson). The good news is that Oceanside and Texas could not be more different from one another. Oceanside features cooler temperatures, a hillier bike, and is, not to mention, half the distance. Lange should feel at home in the Texas heat, and at a race he has won in the past. I would not look past him because of his Oceanside result but it is a good excuse to talk about who else could win this race.

Podium Contenders:
Matthew Marquardt was 3rd at IRONMAN Texas in his debut professional race last year. He followed that up with podiums in Coeur d’Alene and in Florida. He was 14th at the PTO US Open and 11th at the Nice World Championships. Menno Koolhass won Challenge Almere and was 10th at the 70.3 World Championships in 2023. He received a wildcard into T100 Miami and finished 6th there in March. He should be at the front of the swim with Andrew Horsfall-Turner, which will set him up for a good day. Clement Mignon was a DNF at T100 Miami and then was 15th in Singapore. He had 4 DNFs in 2023 but also was 1st at the World Triathlon Long Distance Championships, 1st at IRONMAN Nice, and then 10th at the Nice World Championships. Dylan Magnien is a strong runner and IRONMAN competitor. He was 2nd at IRONMAN Portugal and ran 2:35 there. While he was just 22nd at the 70.3 World Championships, he had the fastest run split, breaking 70:00 on a very honest course. Expect him to make up some ground on the run. Robert Wilkowiecki was 2nd at Texas, 3rd at Cozumel, and 9th at the Nice World Championships, all in 2023. He beat a number of his fellow competitors in Nice. Wilkowiecki is not a volume racer. He has averaged 5 starts/year since 2021. He did DNF 3 of those races but also finished on the podium in half of his completed races.

Podium Contenders doubling back from Oceanside:
Braden Currie led the way in Oceanside out of the athletes in this grouping, with his 6th place finish. Currie had a very solid bike and run to slot in behind some of the middle distance specialists in that race. He has mostly struggled in his bigger races, after finishing 3rd at the St. George World Championships in 2022. He did outrun Patrick Lange at Oceanside, which has to give him some confidence heading into this race. Joe Skipper and Matt Hanson both ran faster than Currie at Oceanside but still finished behind him. Skipper won IRONMAN Lake Placid in 2023. Hanson had the 2nd fastest run split in Oceanside. He has a track record of success at IRONMAN Texas, winning the race in 2015, 2017, and 2018 (set IM run record at the time with a 2:34 in 2018). His results were mixed at times last season but he took 3rd at Lake Placid and 4th in Florida. Chris Leiferman was 9th in Oceanside and put together a pair of strong full distance performances in 2023. He won Coeur d’Alene and finished 2nd in Cozumel. He appears to be in good form heading into Texas. A little further down the Oceanside results was Florian Angert in 17th. He had a stellar 2022 season but a rough 2023. He will look to get back to 2022 form in this race.

Who else to be on the lookout for:
Trevor Foley was a DNS at Oceanside, after getting in a bike crash two weeks before the race. He is a 70.3 specialist with a ton of potential. He has only ever done 2 full distance races and both of them came at IRONMAN Texas. He was 6th in 2022 and 16th in 2023. He is a volume racer (11 starts in 2023), who must be more than ready to get his season going. Jonas Hoffman was 3rd at IRONMAN Nice and 13th at the 70.3 World Championships in 2023. Jason Pohl was 7th at Challenge Roth and came in 2nd at IRONMAN Maryland. Robert Kallin is a superb biker who should move up well in this race. Paul Schuster is a 2nd pack swimmer who was 4th at Frankfurt in 2023. Stenn Goetstouwers beat David McNamee to win IRONMAN Italy in 2023. He biked a 4:07 and ran a 2:38 marathon. Nick Thompason won 70.3 Tasmania in February. We know he is in good form and that he will be looking to mix it up at the front of this race. David Plese was 7th in this race last year. It might be hard to replicate that result with the quality of this field but his experience should help.

It is a challenge to pick a podium out of all of the quality athletes lining up. I am going to play it safe and pick Patrick Lange to rebound and remind everyone else how good he is at full distance racing. I will take Menno Koolhass for 2nd. If you are not familiar with Challenge Almere, it is one of the biggest European full distance races on the calendar. His 6th place finish at T100 Miami tells me that he is race sharp and that he can handle warm racing conditions. I will go with Robert Wilkowiecki in 3rd. I think Dylan Magnien, Matthew Marquardtcould, Matt Hanson, or Braden Currie could wind up on the podium but I like Wilkowiecki’s 9th at the Nice World Championships.

Men’s Podium Prediction:
Lange, Koolhass, Wilkowiecki

Photos: Kyle Rivas / Getty Images for IRONMAN