Kona Race Preview

While the eyes of Louisville will be on the Ironman race taking place on Sunday, the rest of the triathlon world is eagerly anticipating a race that takes place this Saturday…the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.

In fact, since there are no longer pro athletes racing in Ironman Louisville, the race here is unlikely to get any news on triathlon websites and podcasts, especially being 24 hours after the “Super Bowl(TM)” of the sport.

50qThis year’s Championship has a bit of a side story. It involves gender equality. The owners former owners of the Ironman race have a points system that allows for more men than women to compete for the pro title. This year 58 men and 42 women were offered the opportunity to register for the race. A grass-roots movement started a little over a year ago in an attempt to force the issue and allow and equal number of men and women. If you want to learn more about this effort, check out TriEqual‘s website. If you want to hear the race organizer’s defence of having more men than women, he’s quoted quite a bit in this article on espnW.com

en: Jan Frodeno at the 2014 Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt am Main. de: Jan Frodeno bei den 2014er Ironman-Europameisterschaften in Frankfurt am Main.

Jan Frodeno at the 2014 Ironman European Championship

Despite best efforts, there are still an unequal number of professional men and women racing on Saturday. Of the 58 men, some of the big names are going to make a run at the title. If you want to know who has the best shot, you should look back previous races. In 18 of the last 19 years the men’s winner was a top-four finisher the year before. So who were the top four last year? Sebastian Kienle, Ben Hoffman, Jan Frodeno and Andy Potts. Of those guys, the public seems to think Jan Frodeno will win, with Kienle in second and Potts in third, according to this poll. Although Kienle won easily last year, Frodeno beat him in an Ironman race earlier this year and has put together a strong season. There are only eight American men represented in the pro field. Andy Potts and Ben Hoffman have the best chance to return the title to American (last American winner was Tim DeBoom in 2002), but I wouldn’t count out Tim O’Donnell or Matt Hanson (maybe the only guy with a shot to break Mark Allen’s run course record of 2:40:04) either. I heard that Andy Potts isn’t even going to show up on the big island until Thursday, going against the strategy that most have of getting out there at least a week or two before the race. If Andy can hang on during the bike and starts the run only a few minutes off the lead, he’s got a good chance at winning.


Daniela Ryf winning (read the finish line tape if you want to know what race it was)!

On the women’s side, the polls are favoring 2014 second place finisher Daniela Ryf to edge out two-time defending champion Mirinda Carfrae. everyone knows that Carfrae is the best runner in the field, so they will need to put a huge gap on her during the bike. That being said, she was down 14 minutes starting the run last year and managed to still win. Ryr is the favorite because other than last year’s Championship, she has won every triathlon she has raced in the last two years! Other contenders are Jodie Swallow, Caroline Steffen and Rachel Joyce. All of these women have top four finished at Kona and know what it takes to win the race. There are thirteen American women racing for the professional title this year. Although none are considered favorites, I think that Liz Lyles and Meredith Kessler have a chance if things go right.

The pros get all the attention, but they only make up a small percentage of the people racing. There will be 1,717 non-professional men and 664 non-professional women that will be fighting for the titles of Age Group World Champion. Athletes from 48 of the 50 states are represented in the total of 768 athletes from America. These athletes made it to the Championship by either qualifying at an Ironman race earlier in the year or through a lottery spot. However, this will be the last year for the lottery participants. In May of this year, the Department of Justice announced that the lottery program had been deem as not compliant with government lottery and gaming laws. This year’s lottery winners will be allowed to compete, but Ironman has discontinued the program going forward.

If you want to follow the race live on Saturday, you can check it out on Ironman.com. The professional men start at 6:25AM (12:25AM Eastern Time ) and the Women go off at 6:30AM (12:30AM Eastern). Age Groupers will start at 6:55AM. NBC will air their coverage of the race on Saturday, November 14th at 1:30PM Eastern Time if you want to mark your calendar!

I’ll have my Ironman Louisville race preview up at the end of the week. It’s an exciting week to be a triathlete in The ‘Ville!

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