Can anyone stop Daniela Ryf in Nice?

The four-time Ironman 70.3 and Kona champ arrives in Nice as the prohibitive favorite, but that doesn't mean Daniela Ryf won't face some stiff competition heading into tomorrow's Ironman 70.3 World Championship.

| September 6, 2019 | NEWS

Holly Lawrence, Lucy Charles-Barclay and Daniela Ryf at the 2019 Ironman 70.3 World Championship press conference.

Holly Lawrence, Lucy Charles-Barclay and Daniela Ryf at the 2019 Ironman 70.3 World Championship press conference.

Photo >Kevin Mackinnon

Anyone who saw the results from the Alpe d'Huez triathlon earlier this summer will be all-too-aware that Daniela Ryf is more than ready for a big day here in Nice. Everyone's been talking about the challenging bike course with its long climbs and technical descent. Alpe d'Huez has all that. At that race Ryf left 15-minutes ahead of the men. She managed to stay in front of Romain Guillaume into T2 by a bit, then out-ran the multiple Ironman champion to easily take the women's title and cross the line first. She was the sixth-fastest overall in the race, beat runner-up Carrie Lester by 30 minutes and the defending ITU Long Distance world champion, Alexandra Tondeur, by 40 minutes.

Which is why it's hard to put anyone else's name at the top of the favorite list here in Nice. Ryf is the woman to beat, as she has been for pretty much the last four years when it comes to 70.3 and Ironman racing.

That hardly means that we couldn't be in for a competitive race tomorrow. Sure, we could see Ryf blow things out, but with athlete's as good as Lucy Charles-Barclay and Holly Lawrence in the field, Ryf will have to perform well to take a fifth 70.3 world title.

Charles-Barclay has been impressive all season long. She won the Ironman African Championship in April, took another Challenge Championship title in June and got the win that had eluded her last year in Roth. She's always at the front in the water, continues to improve on the bike and has dramatically improved her running.

Lawrence arrives here in Nice with four regional 70.3 championships to her name - she won in Bahrain, St. George, Elsinore and Viet Nam. She did "get her ass handed to her" in Oceanside (her words, most definitely not ours), where she finished second to Ryf. The Brit is great in the water and on the bike and is tenacious on the run when she's out front.

The start list for tomorrow's race is stacked with 70.3 and Ironman champs - click here to see the start lists for this weekend's racing - so it's not as though this is a three-woman race by any stretch of the imagination. Can Emma Pallant run her way to another podium finish as she did two years ago in Chattanooga? How about Radka Kahlefeldt, who has also been on a tear for much of the last couple of years since giving birth to daughter Ruby early in 2018. Ellie Salthouse has been here in Nice for weeks and knows the course like the back of her hand, and her big race at Challenge Cancun this year, where she held off Mirinda Carfrae for the win, shows she's ready to compete for the podium here in Nice. The list of potential podium finishers could go on for a while - Haley Chura, Lauren Goss, Sarah Crowley, Lisa Norden (if she's been able to get some run training in) ... and many more.

So, yes, it could be another Ryf blowout. We've seen a few of those over the years - in Chattanooga two years ago and in Kona again and again. If she's not at her best, though, we could also have lots of fun tomorrow watching an extremely exciting race.