A stacked field gets ready to go at Ironman Arizona as Lionel Sanders and Brent McMahon get set for another rematch in the men's race while a number of women's contenders are likely to have a close race, too.
November 19, 2016 | NEWS|
It's hard to know where to start when it comes to previewing tomorrow's race in Tempe, Arizona. Over the last few years Ironman Arizona has seen some incredible fields - often some of the sports premier stars looking for redemption after a sub-par day in Kona, but also athletes coming off a good Kona race and simply seeking to validate their Kona slots for next year.
Kessler? Cave? Naeth?
In theory Meredith Kessler, the defending champion (and also the winner in 2014) is the woman to beat in Arizona, but she's in for some tough competition on Sunday. Kessler, one of the most popular professionals in our sport, is possibly the best pro athlete without a top Kona finish on her resume. She is coming off another disappointing Kona performance, which no-doubt makes her extremely motivated to finish off her season with another Ironman title (she won her fifth straight Ironman New Zealand earlier this year).
The woman possibly most likely to keep her from a Tempe three-peat is Angela Naeth, who has recently returned from almost a year of injury. Naeth arrives in Arizona rested and very motivated to get the valuable points she'll need to return to Kona next year.
Then there's Leanda Cave, who simply needs to finish the race to get her Kona spot - this is the last year she automatically qualifies for Kona thanks to her win on the Big Island in 2012.
One other woman to watch for is Yvonne van Vlerken, who looked very impressive at Challenge Aruba last month where she and partner Per Bittner both took the titles - you know she'd love for a repeat performance in Tempe.
Last year Lionel Sanders went 7:58:22 to take the men's title in Arizona, holding off a strong charge from fellow Canadian Brent McMahon, who managed to work his way back into contention after a flat tire put him as far back as 11th on the bike (he was second out of the water). The two Canadians both had tough days in Kona this year, so they will certainly be motivated to finish the year off in style.
Also back looking for the win is last year's third place finisher American TJ Tollakson. Australia's Pete Jacobs, who, like Cave, simply needs to finish the race tomorrow to earn himself a Kona slot thanks to his 2012 Kona win, is another man to watch, as is Joe Gambles, who we profiled here on TriathlonWorld.com last week. Bittner (GER) would love to make it two in a row after his win in Aruba last month, while American Matt Chrabot could also put himself in the mix for a top finish, too.
You can check out the entire start list here.
We'll have a recap and photo gallery from Ironman Arizona here on TriathlonWorld.com