70.3 Worlds Men’s Preview

This race is very tough to pick and this prognosticator will assuredly leave men off this sampling who will shine on race day and put a cloud over my predicting skills. In fact, I will be more than happy if this occurs as I think highly of everyone in this race.

Still, it is only fair to put it all on the line. Here are the contenders I think will prevail, ranked in order with top pick Jan Frodeno first and the rest following in order.

Jan Frodeno, 33, Germany

In his second year of strong focus on the middle distance, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist seems to have found his stride as the best in the business at the 70.3s. Evidence: Topping Sebastian Kienle and Andy Potts at Oceanside (whipping Sebastian Kienle by 2:30 on the swim, losing 2 minutes to Kienle on the bike, then but smashing the 2-time 70.3 World Champ and Andy Potts by 2 minutes on the run). At St. George, Frodo lost 4 minutes to Kienle on the bike but smashed the German on the swim and with a race-best 1:09:12).

Sebastian Kienle, 31, Germany

Two-time defending Ironman 70.3 World Champion seems to have laser focus this year on Ironman Hawaii rather than a three-peat at 70.3 Worlds. Note his win at Frankfurt while Frodeno was finishing third. However, Mont Tremblant’s tough bike and tougher-than-Vegas run might be in Kienle’s wheelhouse. Kienle is still smashing Frodeno and everyone else on the bike but gives away time on the swim and 2-4 minutes to Frodeno on the run.

Javier Gomez, 31, Spain

This man is by acclaim the best all-around triathlete in the world short of the Ironman distance. Note his big money wins at non-drafting Hy-Vee, his XTERRA World Championship and his dominant wins at the few 70.3s at which he has teed it up without special preparation. Note his 1:11:59 run split at Panama 70.3 this year in the midst of a training block. So why not the favorite? Just finished winning an emotional 4th ITU World Championship title with a 3rd-place at Edmonton. Gomez is human, and has had two off days when tired and coping with flu this year on the WTS circuit.

Lionel Sanders, 26, Canada

Five years ago, this amazing Canadian was in the grip of addiction and so depressed he stood on a chair with a belt around his neck, ready to end it all. A wonderful high-school athlete, he stopped sport altogether in college and fell into a drug-induced spiral in which he lost 40 pounds and was having intense hallucinations. In late 2009, he walked away from the belt and committed to life– and started running again.

Fast forward to late 2013, and he had already won the US and Canadian Age Group National Duathlon Championships and won races for the McMaster cross country team and became a pro triathlete. That year he ran a 1:06:30 half marathon and a 30:53 road race 10k and won Muskoka 70.3 with a 1:10:58 run. This year, Sanders continued to improve his swim and bike and continued to blast the 70.3 runs – 1:09:56 and 1:09:55 and 1:10:54 at Raleigh, Syracuse and Muncie.

Terenzo Bozzone, 29, New Zealand

Bozzone won the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in 2008 and finished 2nd last year at Las Vegas, closing with a race-best 1:13:38 run. But he comes into Mont Tremblant this year not nearly as strong as he did in 2013 when he won five half Ironman distance races and two at the half distance.

This year, he finished 6th at St. George 70.3, 3rd at Auckland 70.3 and 6th at Challenge Rimini.

Joe Gambles, 32, Australia

This Tasmanian star also had a better 2013 season coming into this championship than he has this year. In 2013, Gambles won 70.3s at Boulder and Syracuse and also took top prize at Rev3 Quassy. He also took 2nd at ITU Long Distance Worlds and 3rd at Ironman 70.3 Worlds. This time around, his eye is on Kona and he cut back on his race schedule. Gambles took 4th places at Challenge Roth, St. George 70.3 and Oceanside 70.3 with a win at Boulder 70.3 his best performance so far.

Tim Don, 36, Great Britain

This 3-time Olympian has a history of clutch wins on big days – his 2006 ITU World championship in Lausanne and $200,000 win at Hy-Vee in 2010 stand out. By now he has become a fully transformed 70.3 racer. In 2013 he won 70.3s at Augusta and Calgary and took a 2nd at UK 70.3. This year, he won 70.3s at Brasilia and Monterrey and took 2nd at Boulder and 3rd at St. George. While his 70.3 run splits have recently been in the less spectacular 1:13 to 1:14 range, his bike has improved so he is within a few minute of Kienle and in the mix with Frodeno.

Tim Reed, 29, Australia

Last year he placed 5th at Ironman 70.3 Worlds and was one of the most consistently excellent half Ironman and 70.3 triathletes. In 2013 he won Yeppoon 70.3, Challenge Forster, Huskisson long course and took 2nds at Vineman, Buffalo Springs Lake, Busselton and Cairns 70.3s. This year he has stayed on the 70.3 podium track with wins at Vineman and Buffalo Springs Lake and 2nds at Geelong and Cairns.

Kevin Collington, 29, USA

Last year Collington was 2nd and U.S. Champion at St. George 70.3, 5th at Hy-Vee and 6th at Ironman 70.3 Worlds. This year he was 5th at Hy-Vee again, 3rd at Boulder Peak 5i50, 4th at Racine 70.3 and 8th at St, George.

Jesse Thomas, 34, USA

After suffering 9 months lost to injuries after his win at Wildflower in 2013, Thomas recovered just in the nick of time to complete a record-setting Wildflower four-peat. After a second surgery for a sciatic nerve injury, a shoulder injury and a wrong turn at Eagleman, he had to race four times in 5 weeks just to qualify for this race. He showed he was back on track with course record win at Mont Tremblant 70.3 (nice practice for the world championship), a 3rd and a 6th got the points done. If he has enough rest, he could contend.

Brad Kahlefeldt, 35, Australia

This 3-time ITU World Championship medalist and 2006 Commonwealth Games winner is in the midst of a transformation to a 70.3 racer. This year he won Putrajaya 70.3, Challenge Bateman’s Bay and was 2nd at St. Croix and 3rd at Geelong 70.3. He's also kept up his ITU speed - he took 2nd at St. Anthony’s 5i50 and 3rd at Hy-Vee.

Matt Chrabot, 31, USA

This year Chrabot took wins at Raleigh 70.3, Boulder Peak 5i50, Kansas 5i50 and was 2nd at Panama 70.3 and 7th at Oceanside 70.3.

Brent McMahon, 33, Canada

This Canadian Olympian had only one dud of a race in the past two years – a 28th at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship a year ago. Last year he won St. George 70.3 and took 2nd places at Boise 70.3 and Mont Tremblant 70.3. This year he has been even better with 70.3 wins at Philippines, Boise, Victoria and Hawaii. His only flaws (slight) were a 2nd against the stacked-with-talent field at St. George and a 5th at his season opener at Oceanside.

Ben Hoffman, 31, USA

Hoffman seems to have his biggest successes at the Ironman distance where he has scored at least 3 wins. But he is no slouch at the 70.3 distance with six podiums in the last three years highlighted by a 70.3 win at Muncie in 2011 and 70.3 runner-up finishes at 2012 Branson and 2014 Lake Stevens and New Orleans.

Bart Aernouts, 30, Belgium

This guy can win this race. In 2012 he finished 6th at Ironman 70.3 Worlds and last year fell to 13th . However, at his best Aernouts can be a world beater as witnessed by his 2013 70.3 wins at South Africa and St. Polten, 2nd at Mallorca and 4th at Abu Dhabi. This year, his calling card must be his win against a top field at Wiesbaden 70.3, plus a win at Ironman France, a 2nd at Mallorca 70.3 and another 4th at Abu Dhabi.

Andrew Starykowicz, 32, USA

On many occasions, Andrew Starykowicz is the straw that stirs the drink in Ironman and especially Ironman 70.3 races. In the past, he unloaded the dynamite he possesses on the bike leg and then gritted his teeth as the gazelles of the run blew past him.

As of the 2012 edition of Ironman Florida, Starykowicz’s record-setting 4:04:39 bike split was enough to hold on for the win. In 2013, his 4:02:17 improved record bike split at Ironman Florida was enough to crack the 8-hour mark with a 7:55:22 time, but still fell prey to Victor del Corral's 2:37:29 marathon. This year, Starykowicz turned the tables a bit.

His bike prowess is so scary that better runners have gone out too hard. Wonder of wonders, this year that plan produced wins against Will Clarke at Puerto Rico and against Tim O’Donnell at Eagleman.

Andrew also improved his run just enough – 1:17:27 at Eagleman - to make the difference in some races. Why not on the hills of Mont Tremblant? The theory is the weight of his muscular frame works best on the flats but is a lot to carry up and over long, steep climbs.

Ivan Raña, 35, ESP

This 2002 ITU Olympic distance World Champion, two-time ITU silver medalist and two-time Olympic 5th-place finisher seems to have made the complete transition to the Ironman distance with his third-best ever 7:48:43 winning time at Ironman Austria this year and his 6th at Kona last year. But his results so far at the 70.3 distance are not yet as stellar. Last year he was 9th at St. George 70.3 and 15th at Las Vegas 70.3 Worlds. This year his 5th place at Monterrey 70.3 seems like a step up – but not enough to contend for the podium.

Peter Robertson, 38, Australia

This 3-time ITU World Champion actually retired in 2010. But the siren call of Kona lured back Robbo and he made a slow start with a 10th at Wiesbaden 70.3 last year and a 10th place this year at Ironman Melbourne with a not-shabby 8:16:29 time. But this summer, he moved out of the category of dreamer into contender with a 2nd place finish against stellar opposition at Wiesbaden 70.3. Can he contend here? His 2:28:30 bike on Wiesbaden’s tough course gave away 6 minutes to winner Bart Aernouts. But Robbo’s 1:13:15 run shows he still has the right stuff to pull a shocker.

Andreas Raelert, 38, Germany

The man with two seconds and two third place finishes at the Ironman World Championship, a 2nd at the 2008 edition of the Ironman 70.3 World Championship, and the world’s fastest Ironman distance performance at Roth in 2011 should be in the mix. But even his 9 Ironman 70.3 career wins cannot erase the perception that he is not at his best this year. Nothing so bad – but 3rd places at Mallorca 70.3 and Mont Tremblant 70.3 and a 4th at the Heilbronn half keep the odds high against a podium this time around.

Leon Griffin, 34, Australia

The 2006 ITU Duathlon World Champion seems to be honing in on winning form with 3rd place finishes at 70.3s at Texas, Eagleman and Mont Tremblant – plus a win at Timberman 70.3 a few weeks ago.

James Cunnama, 32, South Africa

After a sub-8 hour win at Challenge Roth in 2012, a 2nd at Roth and a 4th at Kona last year, the South African seems to be on the right track. This year he won South Africa 70.3 and took a respectable 5th on a tough day at Roth. Hopefully he will be rested and back on form this weekend and in a month’s time at Kona.

Andreas Dreitz, 25, Germany

Dreitz is one of the younger challengers in the field and should be respected for his wins at Challenge Fuerteventura and Mallorca 70.3 this year. His bike is dangerous as witnessed by his race-best 2:09:09 split at Mallorca which was 5 minutes better than Aernouts, 7 minutes better than Andreas Raelert, 6 minutes better than Eneko Llanos and 9 minutes better than Raña.

His 1:14:29 run at Mallorca just kept him in the game – 4 minutes slower than Aernouts and Raelert, 3 minutes slower than Raña and 2 minutes slower than Llanos. But he won. His run keeps getting better – 1:12:44 at Hagesund 70.3 – so he remains a dangerous work in progress.

Filip Ospaly, 38, Czech Republic

This 3-time Olympian and 2010 Ironman 70.3 Worlds silver medalist showed he is still in the game with a win at the 2014 edition of Hagesund 70.3 where he beat Andreas Dreitz.