Seven triathlon treats to look forward to in 2019

As we fondly look back on an amazing year of racing, what can we look forward to in 2019? A few thoughts.

| January 3, 2019 | NEWS

Jan Frodeno celebrates at the finish line of the Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt, Germany.

Jan Frodeno celebrates at the finish line of the Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt, Germany.

Photo >Kevin Mackinnon

While we’ll still fondly reminisce about what a fantastic year of triathlon racing we enjoyed in 2018 for a few more weeks, we thought it might be fun to have a look forward to a few of the races and competition we can expect in 2019. This list (which is not in any sort of order) will likely get expanded dramatically as we get closer to race season, but as of January 2, it’s a start.

Ironman European Championship

Just before Christmas, at Germany’s triathlon awards ceremony, Jan Frodeno challenged Patrick Lange to a rematch in Frankfurt, where Frodeno dominated the day last year with Lange finishing third, over eight-minutes behind his countryman. Lange, of course, would end up taking the day in Kona, his second title in a row, which more than made up for the disappointment of Frankfurt, but you can be sure that we’re in for another barn burner along the River Main this July.

 

Daniela Ryf passes Lucy Charles during the 2018 Ironman World Championship.

Daniela Ryf passes Lucy Charles during the 2018 Ironman World Championship.

Photo >Frank Wechsel / spomedis

The next Daniela Ryf/ Lucy Charles race

We all know just how talented Lucy Charles is. She took her first pro full-distance race in winning Ironman Lanzarote, and followed that up with a brilliant runner-up finish in Kona five months later. That was 2017. She’s the sport’s premier long-distance female swimmer (a former national-team swimmer for Great Britain, it wouldn’t surprise me to see her rip through an Olympic-distance swim course, too), is very strong on the bike and has consistently improved her running.

The only reason Charles isn’t at the top of the sport right now is that she has to compete with none-other than Daniela Ryf, who could very well be one of the greatest half- and full-distance athletes the sport has ever seen. Ryf has dropped the course record in Kona by almost a half hour over the last few years and seems to be just a good weather day away from breaking Chrissie Wellington’s world-best over the distance at some point, too.

Last year the pair dueled both at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in South Africa and in Kona, where they finished first and second. While it sure looks like Ryf is unrivalled pretty much whenever she races, she likes to assure us that Charles has helped push her to some of her amazing achievements over the last two years. As Charles continues to improve on the bike and run, she’ll certainly push Ryf in future races, which will make any time they line up against each other a lot of fun to watch.

 

Patrick Lange shatters the eight-hour barrier with a huge win at the 2018 Ironman World Championship.

Patrick Lange shatters the eight-hour barrier with a huge win at the 2018 Ironman World Championship.

Photo >Kevin Mackinnon

The Ironman World Championship

Of course, the previous two examples will pale in comparison to the most anticipated long-distance race of the year, the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Can Lange make it three in a row? Can Frodeno get his third win? Will Lionel Sanders get stuff figured out and again fight for the win? Will Sebastian Kienle rise to the occasion, too? Can Cameron Wurf get enough of a lead and improve his run to win? Will Bart Aernouts take one more step up the podium?

While there aren’t as many questions likely in the women’s race, we do get to anticipate another Ryf/ Charles duel. We also get to wonder if Mirinda Carfrae will continue her steady improvement after the arrival of baby Isabelle in 2017 and compete for another world title. Keep an eye, as well, on Sarah True and Anne Haug, who made impressive debuts to full-distance racing this year, finishing second and third in Frankfurt and then third and fourth in Kona.

Bottom line, Kona is always epic.

 

Ashleigh Gentle and Vicky Holland sprint to the line at the WTS Grand Final in Australia. Gentle would take the Grand Final, Holland would win the world championship.

Ashleigh Gentle and Vicky Holland sprint to the line at the WTS Grand Final in Australia. Gentle would take the Grand Final, Holland would win the world championship.

Photo >Delly Carr | ITU Media

Olympic Qualifying/ WTS Series

The qualification process for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo began last May, but things will really heat up through 2019 as athletes try to nail down their Olympic spots. That qualifying process will make both world cup and WTS events considerably more fun to follow throughout 2019. Of course the WTS series should, as always, feature some spectacular racing. Can Mario Mola take a fourth-straight world championship? Will Flora Duffy return to her winning ways that saw her take the world title in 2016 and 2017? Will Vicky Holland take the title again this year?

While all that will be fun to watch, watching countries vie for a spot in the Olympic Mixed Team Relay in 2020 will also be fun to watch. With races in Abu Dhabi, Nottingham, the World Championship in Hamburg and another in Edmonton, we can look forward to lots of exciting relay action throughout 2019.

Lionel Sanders and Sebastian Kienle try to recover after an epic battle at the Challenge Championship.

Lionel Sanders and Sebastian Kienle try to recover after an epic battle at the Challenge Championship.

Photo >Simon Müller / spomedis

Challenge Championship

The Championship returns to the spectacular X-Bionicsphere in Samorin, Slovakia for a third time in 2019 and we can only hope we’ll get to experience more of the exciting racing we’ve got to see during the first two iterations of the event. Two years ago we saw four lead changes in the last four kilometers of the women’s race, which was eventually won by Lucy Charles. She returned last year for a resounding win, so it was left to the men to provide the fireworks in 2018. Lionel Sanders and Sebastian Kienle were more than happy to oblige, putting on an abbreviated version of the IronWar, dueling until the 16 km point of the run before Sanders was finally able to break away and run to the win over the final 5 km of the run.

Here’s hoping we go three-for-three with exciting races in Samorin this year.

 

Daniela Saemmler and Lucy Charles collapse at the line at the finish of Challenge Roth.

Daniela Saemmler and Lucy Charles collapse at the line at the finish of Challenge Roth.

Photo >Michael Rauschendorfer

Challenge Roth

It kind of feels like we’re due for something big to happen in Roth this year. Renowned as the world’s fastest course, it would be fun to see another go at a world-best performance at the event. With Jan Frodeno and Patrick Lange off to Frankfurt (and a chance we might see last year’s Roth men’s champ Sebastian Kienle in Frankfurt), it will be up to some of the other big names in men’s racing to provide the excitement there. Two years ago it looked like Daniela Ryf would be gunning after Chrissie Wellington’s world-best in Roth, but a back injury sidelined that effort. Could she be in the field in Roth this year? Last year Lucy Charles had some stomach issues and found herself in a close sprint to take second at the race won by Daniela Saemmler in a German-record performance – could she return to take care of some unfinished business?

Super League

There’s one more race to go in the 2018/2019 championship series of Super League – the finale in Singapore in February. While it looks like Vincent Luis and Katie Zaferes will be tough to beat, Super League racing has provided some fun excitement in the world of short-course racing, so we’ll have lots more to look forward to in February, and no-doubt much more to come in the fall, as well.