Get ready for a big day at the Ironman 70.3 North American Championship

This weekend's race in St. George, Utah promises to be one of the biggest half-distance races of the year.

| May 1, 2017 | NEWS

Lionel Sanders is the defending champion at Ironman 70.3 St. George. (Seen here on his way to the win at Ironman 70.3 Oceanside.)

Lionel Sanders is the defending champion at Ironman 70.3 St. George. (Seen here on his way to the win at Ironman 70.3 Oceanside.)

Photo >Felix Rüdiger / Plan A GmbH

This weekend’s race in St. George, Utah, promises to be a barn burner with three of the biggest men’s names in the sport duking it out for top honors at the Ironman 70.3 North American Championship. Defending champion Lionel Sanders (CAN) is possibly the hottest 70.3 athlete on the planet right now, but he’ll have his work cut out for him as he takes on two-time Ironman 70.3 world champion Sebastian Kienle and two-time Olympic gold medalist Alistair Brownlee.

The women’s race just took a bit of a blow with the news that defending women’s champ Heather Wurtele has had to drop out due to an injury, leaving current Ironman 70.3 world champion Holly Lawrence as the prohibitive pre-race favorite.

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Sanders, Kienle, Brownlee and more

The men’s start list for this weekend looks not unlike a world championship type field. In addition to the three big guns you’ve got former world champion and multiple Ironman champ Tim Don (GBR) along with American Ben Hoffman, who is fresh off a big win at the Ironman African Championship in South Africa. (Check out the rest of the men's field in the link below.)

Lawrence ready for more winning?

Heather Wurtele has enjoyed a crazy amount of success in St. George – the tough course seems to suit the two-time defending champion – so with her out Holly Lawrence will arrive at the race with a big target on her back. Australian Ellie Salthouse has been racing up a storm of late, so she will certainly be in the mix and it will be interesting to see how Rachel Joyce’s comeback continues – she had a solid return to the racing front (after becoming a mom) in Oceanside and this is certainly a course that will suit her.

Check out the start list for Ironman 70.3 St. George here.

Scenic wonder

If you haven’t been to St. George, Utah, you need to make sure you get there at some point in your triathlon career. Ironman 70.3 St. George isn’t at the top of many people’s bucket lists, but it should be. While it might be one of the sport’s most challenging 70.3 events (it will feature on our next list of tough races, we promise!), it also is without a doubt one of the most spectacular and beautiful, too.

The day begins with a cool swim at Sand Hollow Reservoir followed by epic bike and run courses that feature spectacular views of St. George, Snow Canyon and the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.

After the race it’s worth making a trip to some other scenic spots, too, including the amazing Zion National Park, which is a 40-minute drive from downtown. A couple of the hiking highlights there include Angels Landing and the Narrows (a river hike) and Hidden Canyon. Other must-see activities include a visit to the Tuacahn Amphitheatre, which is built in the shadow of 1,500-foot spectacular red rock cliffs. History buffs might also want to take in either the St. George LDS Temple or Tabernacle or the historic summer home of Mormon leader Brigham Young.