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September 15, 2021

Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2021 Preview

The 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championship on 18 September features a stellar field of the world’s best triathletes gunning for a slice of the $350,000 prize purse.

Back after a COVID-induced break, the 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in St. George, Utah, has a sensational line-up of top-class competitors all hungry to claim victory after a year without the event. With Gustav Iden and Daniela Ryf on the start line, both 2019 champs have huge targets on their backs.

Here’s who to look out for in St. George this weekend.

Key Info

Date: 18 September
Location: St. George, Utah
Start Time: 13:00 UTC
Prize Money: $350,000 – pays 15 deep $50,000 to $3,000
Course: Lake swim, hilly bike, hilly run

Top-ranked Athletes

Men
Gustav Iden (PTO #3) / Sam Long (PTO #4) / Daniel Baekkegard (PTO #10)

Women
Daniela Ryf (PTO #1) / Lucy Charles-Barclay (PTO #4) / Holly Lawrence (PTO #5)

Men’s Race

2019 70.3 world champ and PTO 2020 Champion Gustav Iden is a strong favourite at the race. He can swim well, bike with the best and then outrun them – as evidenced by his fastest run split at the Collins Cup. If anyone’s going to take Iden down, the Norwegian will make them work for it.

Sam Long came second to Lionel Sanders at 70.3 St. George in May and while this course is a little different, it suits his strong bike-run combo. The question is, will the front of the race be too far out of reach after the swim for him to get to use his strength?

Daniel Baekkegard is a big challenger for the title. Imperious in his match-up at the Collins Cup, where he had the day’s third-fastest time, the Dane has no weaknesses and should be vying for the lead from the gun in St. George. A head-to-head with the Norwegians could provide a real battle to the line.

Tokyo Olympic Champion Kristian Blummenfelt could well be Iden’s biggest rival and following his World Triathlon title, is clearly in scintillating form. The pair have only fought it out at two 70.3 events previously: 70.3 Bahrain in 2019 – where Blummenfelt put Iden into second with the world-record time; and the 2019 world champs in Nice – where Blummenfelt came fourth. St. George’s hilly bike and run could favour Iden, but don’t be surprised to see two Norwegians on the podium.

While Long is ranked higher, Ben Kanute (PTO #11) has the all-round swim, bike and run speed that could see him finish as the best US athlete at the event. He had the fourth-fastest time at the Collins Cup behind Frodeno, Iden and Baekkegard, so is in great form but suffered in St. George in May only coming 26th.

George Goodwin (PTO #13) missed out on Collins Cup selection so will be all-in for 70.3 worlds. After taking third at the PTO 2020 champs in Daytona last December, the Brit showed his class to take the 70.3 European title in June. However, like Kanute, he had a substandard race in St. George this May with a 17th place finish.

Look Out For

All-star swimmer and fifth-fastest finisher at the Collins Cup, Sam Appleton (PTO #15) should be right up there.

The pedigree of nine-time world champ Javier Gomez (PTO #16) is always worth taking notice of.

Florian Angert (PTO #23) is a swim-bike beast and just won Challenge Samorin.

Jackson Laundry (PTO #26) had the fourth-fastest run at the Collins Cup and that form could see him finish strong here too.

Women’s Race

Daniela Ryf bounced back after illness at the Collins Cup to win IM Switzerland on 5 September, but that effort is unlikely to dent her power here. Never too far behind in the swim, the Swiss star is peerless on the bike, creating insurmountable leads on her opponents. Because of that, we’ve not seen her pushed in a run battle but given Ryf’s already got five 70.3 world titles in the bag, it would be foolish to bet against her. She also won 70.3 St. George in May, so we know she races well over this terrain.

As in years past in Kona, Lucy Charles-Barclay could be Ryf’s biggest threat in St. George. Despite being ill at the Collins Cup, the 70.3 European champ put in the second-fastest time of the day. She’s bound to have a lead out the swim and if she can hold Ryf when the pass we’re all expecting happens, it’ll be a great running duel to the finish.

Holly Lawrence came second to Charles-Barclay at the 70.3 Euro champs but that was a week after winning 70.3 Des Moines stateside. A true all-rounder, Lawrence came closest to Ryf at the 2019 worlds on a course that didn’t suit her. Lawrence took sixth at 70.3 St. George in May but expect her to finish higher this weekend.

Emma Pallant-Browne (PTO #7) is a real star on the rise. Now coached by Tim Don, the South Africa-based Brit came third at St. George in May despite some gastro issues before coming second to Lawrence in Des Moines. Her recent form is exceptional with first at 70.3 Boulder, besting Lawrence at Escape From Alcatraz and setting the third-fastest time at the Collins Cup. With an improved swim, this uber-bike-runner could top the podium on Saturday.

She might be way down the PTO rankings, but Taylor Knibb will be up at the top of many people’s lists for a win in St. George. The American, who took mixed relay silver in Tokyo, had the fastest split at the Collins Cup including the swiftest bike leg despite riding a road bike. A faster swimmer than Ryf, we could see Knibb working with Charles-Barclay on the bike then sticking with Ryf on the bike and running away to victory.

Jeanni Metzler (PTO #11) took second behind Ryf at 70.3 St. George in May with a superb run that put her within five minutes of the champ. The hilly course suits her and she races well in the heat, so a podium certainly isn’t out of the question for the South African.

After beating Metzler and Anne Haug at the Collins Cup with the day’s fastest run, Jackie Hering (PTO #15) won’t be flying under the radar this weekend. If she can limit her losses on the swim and hang tough on the bike, Hering is sure to improve on her eighth place from the race in May.

Ellie Salthouse (PTO #16) is another athlete who wouldn’t be out of place on the podium. The Aussie star has five middle-distance wins this season plus a win in her Collins Cup matchup. She’s a 70.3 specialist and a strong all-rounder who’s great in the heat so expect a strong performance.

When she’s on, Paula Findlay (PTO #6) has the talent and speed to crush it. The PTO 2020 Champion has had a strong rather than stunning 2021 but came fourth at 70.3 St. George in May before being sidelined by injury. She wasn’t back to her best for the Collins Cup but if she’s on her game this weekend, the podium beckons.

Look Out For

Despite being more of an iron-distance specialist, Kat Matthews (PTO #9) had the fourth-fastest time at the Collins Cup.

Skye Moench (PTO #10) will be toeing the line in her first 70.3 Worlds as was the top US-finisher at St. George in May with fifth place.

Imogen Simmonds (PTO #20) was second to Ryf at 70.3 Dubai and has the class to finish well here too.

Chelsea Sodaro (PTO #22) is proving herself a super-mom and just keeps getting stronger on her path back to the top after giving birth in March.

Tamara Jewett (PTO #65) recently won Timberman with a 1:14:19 half marathon split – the third-fastest ever in a middle-distance race.

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