How do you prepare for an IRONMAN World Championship in May?
That’s the question that 51 Pro men and 45 Pro women are trying to answer right now. It’s one that nobody really knows the answer to, given that the second Saturday in October has always been the biggest target of the year for everyone on that list.
As both Thorsten Radde and myself have previously written, IRONMAN World Championship at St George adds a new twist to the first big target of the 2022 long-distance season.
How is everyone doing so far?
It’s interesting to note the different directions that athletes are seemingly taking. While we can’t claim full knowledge of everyones’ plans, here’s an overview on some of the athletes that are considered among the favorites for podium contention in Utah.
The ‘already raced’ crew
Who has already put their preparations to the racing test? It’s worth bearing in mind of course that we are still in March and thus there have actually been relatively few opportunities to put that training to the racing test. With St George taking place on May 7, there are not too many more chances left either.
Of those that have been on course, several names will be in the ‘couldn’t be happier’ category. Sam Long (CLASH Miami and Challenge Puerto Varas), Laura Philip (70.3 Dubai) and Kat Matthews (70.3 Lanzarote) in particular must be full of confidence. Based on the PTO’s ranking algorithm at least, the performance of Matthews in Lanzarote is the top female performance of the limited season so far.
While they didn’t win their races, we’d say that Daniela Ryf (Dubai), Anne Haug (Lanzarote), Daniel Bækkegård (Dubai) and Kyle Smith (Lanzarote) is performed strongly. Nobody likes to finish second, but there were enough positives to look forward with confidence
Haug, perhaps, may be concerned by just how much time she lost on the bike to Matthews over a St George-like terrain, but she has another chance next weekend in Salou. As she told us recently, she’s also been experimenting with her altitude training preparations.
In terms of ‘that didn’t go well at all’, then clearly the man of 2021, Kristian Blummenfelt, won’t have taken much confidence from his race at IRONMAN 70.3 Dubai. That ‘slap in the face’ will prove useful though, if it ultimately shows that his all-new bike position really was a step too far.
Lanzarote was also a flop for David McNameethough in this instance it was a ‘sickness stops play’, and he’ll hopefully get a true measure of where he is next weekend in California.
The ‘racing soon’ athletes
There are not too many high-profile options left – IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside / Challenge Salou / IRONMAN South Africa – and several (but not all….), of the key names for St George will be out soon, if they haven’t been already.
IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside on April 3 is not to be missed. Thankfully, it will be broadcast live. It should see the triathlon return of Alistair Brownlee, who we have not seen in swim/bike/run action since hobbling across the line at WTCS Leeds (and disqualification) in June 2021. A stacked field will give us the first clue as to how well his surgery, rehab and return to fitness. has gone. Not the first time he’s traveled that road!
Other ‘first time out in 2022’ big favorites for St George in the men’s race include Lionel Sandersand he will be racing the likes of Matt Hanson and Andreas Dreitzwho have already raced this year, along with a host of top tier athletes for whom St George in May does not feature.
For the Pro women heading to St George, there will be season debuts for Skye Moench, Heather Jackson and Ruth Astle – plus Ryf looking to build on her performance in Dubai. Just as with the men, the likes of Taylor Knibb, Paula Findlay, Holly Lawrence, Ashleigh Gentle and Jackie Hering will be aiming to spoil any ‘Prep race for St George’ parties that the long-course crew have planned!
In Europe, while the Challenge Salou course would seemingly have little in common with the task ahead in Utah, several IRONMAN World Championship-bound athletes will be prepping in Spain. Those include Anne Haug as mentioned, plus Kristian Hogenhaug, Fenella Langridge and Patrick Nilssonto name just four.
One man taking his own path to Utah is Joe Skipper. While all of the racing outlined above was over the middle distance, Skipper is going long – at IRONMAN South Africa, five weeks before St George. It’s likely not the optimal route for many, but when you look at Joe’s history, it is an approach that has seemingly worked well in the past. Skipper will have confidence that time and again he has performed strongly over the full iron-distance just weeks apart, with the second one often being better.
All-in on St George?
Who’s left? That’s perhaps the most interesting thing to highlight, because the names are very significant.
As far as we can tell, both IRONMAN 70.3 World Champions – Lucy Charles-Barclay and Gustav Iden – are not scheduled to race until May 7. The same appears to be the case for the defending champion from 2019, Jan Frodeno.
That approach isn’t totally new for LCB. Looking back to both 2018 and 2019, she won IRONMAN South Africa in both years (in April) in what was her first triathlon start of the year. That said, given that she typically likes to race frequently, I am surprised that Lucy is potentially not racing before she returns to the site of her biggest victory to date.
Gustav’s entire IRONMAN career is just one race (winning IRONMAN Florida), and so there’s not much history to go on there. Watching his latest YouTube video, it’s difficult to see anything other than an athlete who is very confident with how his preparations are going. He’s still my favorite to win.
As for Frodeno, well, he’s had just one ‘bad’ race in the last eight years. Given that, I’m not really in a position to second-guess his preparations. Along with the wise counsel of Coach Dan Lorang and a trusted team around him, Frodo typically sparkles when the bright lights are on him.
Who’ll get it right?
Thankfully, the results of the delayed 2021 IRONMAN World Championship on May 7 2022, live from St George, Utah will provide the answer to that one.