The USA race season hots up at Ironman 70.3 St. George this weekend, where a world-class field will do battle for the North American Championship title.
The race in Utah has plenty of reasons for top-ranked pros to make the trip: the chance to take the Ironman 70.3 North American Championship, a $100,000 prize purse and the fact this same course will host the 70.3 World Championship on 19 September.
That means some of the world’s best will be in Utah including the USA’s top-five-ranked male athletes, plus Internationals #1 Lionel Sanders and top-10 European contenders. Meanwhile, among a cast of stars, the women’s race features Europe #1 Daniela Ryf, Internationals #2 Paula Findlay and USA #3 Skye Moench, giving us a stellar Collins Cup preview.
The rankings could see a big shake-up after this weekend while the Collins Cup team captains will be glued to the coverage looking for stand-out performances that could give them an edge in the inaugural race this August.
WHAT’S THE LOWDOWN?
Date: 1 May 2021
Location: St. George, Utah, USA
Time: 13:50 BST
Prize Money: Prize Money: $100,000 – pays 10 deep $15,000 to $1,000
Format: 1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21.1km run
Course: Reservoir swim, hilly bike, hilly run
THE BIG STORIES
The depth of the field – and its sheer size with over 75 names on the start list – means we’re guaranteed closely fought and exciting racing with athletes scrambling for Collins Cup ranking points.
Ben Kanute (USA #4)’s usual spot at the head of the swim will be challenged by the likes of Sam Appleton (INT #4) and Daniel Baekkegard, who set a new course record at 70.3 Dubai in March – surpassing the times of Jan Frodeno (EUR #1), Alistair Brownlee (EUR #2) and Javier Gomez (EUR #9).
A fast swim will setup a strong front group with firepower from the likes of Florian Angert (EUR #10) and Rudy von Berg (USA #1) but they’re not likely to stay ahead for too long. A 10m draft rule plus the awesome strength of the second pack – with protagonists such as Andreas Dreitz (EUR #8), Lionel Sanders (INT #1), Sam Long (USA #5), Magnus Ditlev (EUR #12) and 70.3 Florida winner Bart Aernouts (EUR #27) – means it could all come together by T2.
If that’s the case, Sanders will surely be the one to beat – his winning form at 70.3 Texas shows he’s got the foot speed to stay ahead. However, he’ll be pushed all the way to the line by Baekkegard and Kanute. Meanwhile, as the sport’s fastest runner, Matt Hanson (USA #2) could oust the Canadian for the top spot – if the American’s back niggles don’t hurt his bike time like in 70.3 Florida.
Don’t count out the all-around talents of George Goodwin (EUR #7) – third at the PTO 2020 Championship – or Chris Leiferman (USA #3) to stay in contention nor the determination of Rudy Von Berg (USA #1) to defend his St. George title from 2019.
If the last five years of racing have taught us anything, it’s that when five-time 70.3 world champ and four-time Kona winner Daniela Ryf (EUR #1) is lining up, the rest of the field starts thinking about second place. Those who can see past Ryf’s star power will see taking her down as a big target, instantly making a bigger name for themselves catching the eyes of Collins Cup captains in the process.
Lauren Brandon (USA #14) and Pamella Oliveira (INT #11) will surely take their usual places leading the swim but the race will really get underway once out of the water with plenty of strong bike-runners ready to take on the challenging course.
Holly Lawrence (EUR #4) and Paula Findlay (INT #2) – who won this race in 2019 and 2018 respectively – will surely want to push the bike hard to get as far up the road as they can before Ryf charges onto the course along with the likes of Skye Moench (USA #3).
Whether those fastest out of T1 can stay away from Ryf until T2 will be a crucial factor in the overall standings – as will the positionings of superstar runners Emma Pallant-Browne (EUR #15), who just crushed 70.3 Florida, and Jeanni Metzler (INT #6), whose 1:15:26 in Texas a couple of weeks ago is the fourth-fastest 70.3 run of all time in the PTO record books.
Can Ryf be defeated? It’s too close to call, but anyone who can prove she’s human will have a major psychological boost ahead of more big competitions as the season progresses.
WHAT THE PROS SAY
Skye Moench in coming into the race as a real contender: “I think having a win at Texas 70.3 behind me will be to my advantage. Sure, it may put a target on my back with my competitors, but that performance gives me great confidence in my fitness, and will only help me push my hardest all day on the race course.”
George Goodwin on being on the other athletes’ radar: “I don’t think the result in Daytona changes my race planning or strategy at all. It may change how others see me now or plan their races but I can’t control that. The races are so fast and dynamic now you need to be flexible. As Mike Tyson once said – everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth!”
Sam Long on taking the USA #1 spot: “To earn the number one ranking I have to beat the best. St. George is an excellent opportunity to do that. Ultimately, the recipe is pretty simple. I need to position myself well at the start of the swim and execute. Then I just need to ride and run how I’m capable of.”
Rudy Von Berg on staying at the top: “I’m just focused on having my best performance on the day in St George, and even though I want to be as high as possible in the rankings, it all comes from my performances in racing… just me being competitive and wanting to beat everyone at any given race.”
Emma Pallant-Browne on racing St. George after her Florida victory: “I was really happy with my result in Florida, the conditions making for some tough racing and it was a good start to our short stint in America… Ironman 70.3 St. George has a super stacked field which will make for some awesome racing… I’m excited to push my body to the limit and see where I can end up, the game plan is to go hard and finish knowing I had nothing left to give at the end – except for maybe a smile.”
Ben Kanute on racing the best in St. George: “The field in St. George does not really change my race plan. I know to race my race, but will always make race time decisions. I know that if I can put myself in it at the end of the race, I can be competitive.”
Florian Angert on moving up the Team Europe roster: “After Daytona I was more motivated than ever to get back to training and racing… I know if I can put everything together on race day I have a good chance to move up the rankings and that’s my goal for the season!”