Ironman African Championship features stacked fields including world champ Daniela Ryf

There are incredibly competitive fields gearing up for the Ironman African Championship this weekend.

| March 27, 2017 | NEWS

Can Daniela Ryf cruise to another major title this weekend?

Can Daniela Ryf cruise to another major title this weekend?

Photo >Kevin Mackinnon

Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, is set to host the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in 2018, but the beautiful coastal tourism area named after world icon Nelson Mandela has a few major triathlon events on tap before that race - including what promises to be an epic day of racing this weekend.

The Ironman African Championship serves as a regional championship event, guaranteeing the winner of the men's and women's races a Kona slot and providing 75 qualifying slots for the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Ryf highlights women's field

Daniela Ryf has been virtually unbeatable at the half- and full-distance for a few years. Other than a somewhat of a surprising fourth in Mooloolaba at last year's 70.3 world champs and a DNF due to hypothermia in Frankfurt last July, Ryf has been unbeaten for over two years.

That doesn't mean we can't expect the Swiss star to face some competition on Sunday. Last year's winner and fifth-place finisher in Kona, Kaisa Lehtonen (FIN) is back to see if she can make it two in a row. 2015 winner, Jodie Cunnama (nee Swallow) (GBR), is also in the field. She's a seven-time winner of the 70.3 race in Nelson Mandela Bay (not to mention being the 2010 Ironman 70.3 world champion), so she's obviously comfortable with the course and will certainly be one to watch. (Especially considering she is always one of the strongest swim/ bikers in any race she enters ...) Last year Cunnama was leading the women's race before a bike crash eventually forced her to pull out.

Others to keep an eye on in the women's field include Susie Cheetham (GBR) and Julia Gajer (GBR).

 

Kaisa Lehtonen takes the 2016 Ironman African Championship.

Kaisa Lehtonen takes the 2016 Ironman African Championship.

Photo >Getty Images for Ironman

Ben Hoffman takes the 2016 race.

Ben Hoffman takes the 2016 race.

Photo >Getty Images for Ironman

Hoffman back

Ben Hoffman is back in South Africa looking to defend the title he won last year. He'll face the 2015 champ, Frederik Van Lierde (BEL), who has recovered from being attacked while biking on Friday and is ready to take on the American.

Neither one of those two are clear favorites, though, in a race that features a number of Ironman champs. Nils Frommhold and Boris Stein will lead the German charge, while the home-country favorites include Kyle Buckingham and James Cunnama. Eneko Llanos (ESP)  won two Ironman regional events in 2013 (Melbourne and Frankfurt), so he's no stranger to big wins. Joe Skipper (GBR) is another man to watch - he was second in Roth last year.

\"Frederik is ok and training, from now on he can focus again on Sunday’s race IRONMAN South Africa. Thanks for all your messages and support.\"

"Frederik is ok and training, from now on he can focus again on Sunday’s race IRONMAN South Africa. Thanks for all your messages and support."

Photo >Frederik Van Lierde Facebook page