This year Germany's Michael Raelert hopes to continue his half Ironman distance dominance -- a win at the 2009 Ironman 70.3 World Championship -- with a win in his debut at Wildflower long course on May Day. But he faces a formidable test from 2010 Abu Dhabi winner Eneko Llanos of Spain and two-time Hy-Vee winner Rasmus Henning of Denmark .
Fellow reigning Ironman 70.3 World Champion Julie Dibens of Great Britain should rule in her Wildflower debut -- if she can withstand challenges from defending Wildflower champion Virginia Berasategui of Spain, rising newcomer Lesley Paterson of Scotland and Wildflower course record holder and 2006 Ironman 70.3 world champion Samantha McGlone of Canada.
Michael Raelert, 30, Germany -- 3-1
Late entry here must be the favorite after dominating win at Ironman 70.3 World Championship at Clearwater, emphatically underlined by his closing 1:09 half marathon. Questions about his biking - raised because Clearwater's flat terrain, the aerodynamic advantages offered by large packs of equal ability, and consequent waiting for the run to begin -- were answered at Ironman 70.3 California at Oceanside where Raelert won it by dominating the bike on a testing, hilly course. One remaining question: Can Raelert run as well on Wildflower's hilly, demanding trails?
Eneko Llanos, 34, Spain -- 4-1
If not for Raelert, should be the favorite after taking second place finishes at the Wildflower long course to Chris McCormack in 2008 and Andy Potts in 2009. Llanos is a two-time Olympian, the 2003 ITU Long distance world champ, a second place finisher at Ironman Hawaii in 2008, and Xterra World Champ in 2003, 2004, 2009. To top it off, his current form is superb – he just won $50,000 first prize at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.
Rasmus Henning, 35, Denmark -- 5-1
He is a two-time winner of $200,000 top prize at Hy-Vee ITU World Cup, a silver medalist at the 2001 ITU long course world championship, took 7th at the 2004 Olympics, won the 2006 St. Anthony’s Triathlon and the 2009 ETU long course championship, won Ironman China last year in 113 degree heat, was 5th competing with a broken hand at his Ironman Hawaii debut last year, and looks strong in 2010 after third place finishes at Abu Dhabi and Ironman California 70.3.
Joe Gambles, 28, Australia -- 8-1
Had a breakthrough 2009. He broke the course record to win Vineman 70.3, won Lake Stevens 70.3, placed 2nd at the Rev 3 half Ironman in Connecticut, took 3rds at Boulder Peak and Boise 70.3, and placed 5th at Wildflower and Oceanside 70.3.
Leon Griffin, 30, Australia -- 9-1
Won the 2006 ITU Duathlon world championship, and took 2nd at the New York City Triathlon in 2008, and took second at Geelong 70.3 this year just behind two-time Ironman World Champion, 2006 Ironman 70.3 World Champion Craig Alexander.
Chris Legh, 38, Australia -- 11-1
One of the greatest, most consistent records at Wildflower. He won a great duel to the end with Jurgen Zack in 2000, took 3rd in 2001, 6th in 2002, 3rd in 2003, 5th in 2005, 2nd in 2006 and 2007 and placed 3rd in 2008.
Bjorn Andersson, 31, Sweden -- 12-1
One of the triathlon world’s great cyclists and overcame a relatively weak run to win Wildflower in 2007. Andersson led off the bike last year in Wildflower before fading.
Philip Graves, 21, Great Britain -- 13-1
The young gun with a killer bike who decimated the field at Ironman UK last year
can also run well. But he remains unpredictable ass evidenced by contesting for the lead at Kona on the bike and subsequent fade and same story at Clearwater.
Conrad Stoltz, 36, Republic of South Africa 14-1
Like Eneko Llanos, a three-time XTerra World champion, has 32 career Xterra wins and is a two-time Olympian.
Maik Twelsiek, 29, Germany -- 15-1
Won Ironman Wisconsin in 2007. In 2009, he won Ironman Lake Placid, took 5th at Ironman Australia, 12th at Ironman Hawaii and took 9th at Abu Dhabi this March.
Paul Ambrose, 26, Australia -- 17-1
Had an excellent 2009 during which he took 3rd at the Challenge Barcelona half, 2nd at Cancun Ironman 70.3, 5th at Ironman Arizona, and 5th at the ITU long distance world championships. In 2008 Ambrose took 3rd at Ironman 70.3 Rhode Island and at California Ironman 70.3.
Rutger Beke, 33, Belgium -- 18-1
Finished second here in 2004, won Ironman Arizona in 2007, and by the way has one of the best records since 2002 at Ironman Hawaii with a second, a third and five total top-five finishes. Beke fell off the back here last year due to a viral infection and DNS Kona due to an injury. Back on track in 2010, Beke says his focus on the Ironman does not leave him the speed to contend for the win at the half Ironman distance.
Greg Remaly, 30, Mill Valley CA -- 22-1
Took 3rd in 2006 and 5th in 2004 at Wildflower, and last year placed 4th at the Philadelphia Triathlon and 4th at Steelhead 70.3.
Julie Dibens, 34, Great Britain - 5-2
Hard to pick against the first woman to crack the half Ironman distance 4-hour barrier, which she did at last year's Ironman 70.3 World Championship at Clearwater -- and who showed she remains in top form in 2010 taking the $50,000 top prize at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon. No worries about Wildflower's rugged hills and trails - she is the reigning three-time XTERRA EWorl,d Champion and trains on Boulder's rugged hills at altitude.
Virginia Berasategui, 35, Spain 4-1
Defending Wildflower champion is the heavy second choice. Berasategui is a two-time Ironman Lanzarote winner who came on strong recently with a win at Ironman Germany in 2008 and last year won Wildflower and the European long distance championships and took 3rd at Ironman Hawaii. Despite a pre-race injury, Berasategui took third at Abu Dhabi behind current Ironman 70.3 World Champion Julie Dibens and 2002 ITU Olympic distance World Champion Leanda Cave.
Samantha McGlone, 31, Canada 5-1
Would be the co-favorite if she weren't still on a long mend from a career-threatening 2008 injury. The three-time Wildflower winner and course record holder (4:31:08 in 2006), 2004 Olympian, 2006 Ironman 70.3 World Champion and 2007 Ironman World Championship runner-up is showing good signs with a win at Ironman Arizona last Fall and third place at the recent Ironman California 70.3 and a win at Ironman 70.3 Texas earlier this month.
Lesley Paterson, 30, Scotland - 7-1
A year ago, picking triathlon latecomer as a top favorite at Wildflower would have been unthinkable. But after a second place finish to Julie Dibens at the XTERRA World Championships last October and taking second to Mirinda Carfrae in a highly competitive field at Ironman California 70.3 last month, Paterson belongs among the elite. The San Diego resident who doubles as a film writer and producer has an ace in the hole – a 1:18 half marathon at the end of the Oceanside race.
Magali Tisseyre, 29, Canada -- 9-1
Has become one of the world’s top Ironman 70.3 contenders and was selected as Triathlete Magazine’s Ironman 70.3 Triathlete of the Year in 2009. Last year she scored her first Ironman 70.3 win with a blazing fast 4:12:29 finish at Boise, took second at Ironman 70.3 Calgary, third at Timberman 70.3 and topped off her year with a 3rd place podium at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Clearwater.
Desiree Ficker, 33, Austin, Texas -- 11-1
May have posted her career high water mark with a second place finish to winner Michellie Jones at the 2007 Ironman World Championship in Kona. But her 2:40:28 marathon at Austin in 2007, a 10th place finish at the 2009 New York Marathon in 2009, and win at the 2008 Ironman 70.3 South Africa prove the University of Alabama alum remains a formidable contender.
Linsey Corbin, 29, Missoula, Montana -- 13-1
Has been making waves in long course triathlon since 2006, when she placed first amateur woman at Wildflower. In 2007, she won the Vancouver half and Baja 70.3, took seconds at the Victoria B.C. half and Columbia Triathlon. In 2008, she won the New Balance half Ironman, took 2nd at Pucon 70.3 and Lake Stevens 70.3, a 3rd at Kansas 70.3, and topped off her fantastic year with a 5th place overall and first American woman at Kona. Last year she took 2nd at Ironman Arizona, Pucon 70.3 and Boise 70.3. This year she placed second to winner Samantha Warriner at New Orleans Ironman 70.3.
Amy Marsh, 33, Austin, Texas -- 15-1
Broke through last year with wins at Buffalo Springs Lake 70.3 and Ironman Wisconsin. This year she underlined her place among the sport’s elite with a win at Ironman China in April an d third place finish at New Orleans behind Samantha Warriner and Linsey Corbin.
Melanie McQuaid, 37, Canada -- 17-1
The three-time Xterra World Champion has three second place finishes at Maui, two overall Xterra series titles and seven national titles from the U.S. and Canada. A natural frit for Wildflower's hilly trails.
Angela Naeth, 28, Canada -- 22-1
A tremendous cyclist still working on her run. She has a win at Boulder Peak and, after a season-ending injury last year, posted the fastest bike split last month against a top notch field at Ironman California 70.3.