While Americans will be barbecuing, lounging and watching fireworks this weekend, across the pond Europe will be hosting two Ironman events. Frankfurt, Germany will host an impressive professional field at the Ironman European Championships. Less than 400 miles away, Klagenfurt, Austria will host a large field of age-groupers, with 2,400 athletes expected to toe the line at Ironman Austria.
Ironman European Championships – July 5
The men’s lineup for the Ironman European Championships features many athletes expected to contend for the Ironman World Championship in October. Australia’s Chris McCormack turned in an impressive performance in 2008, winning with a time of 7:59:55. He will be back for 2009, as will three other athletes from last year’s top-five. Spain’s Eneko and Hektor Llanos and Germany’s Timo Bracht all finished within 12 minutes of McCormack last year, and will be after the 2009 victory. The competition for McCormack doesn’t end there; Germany’s Faris Al-Sultan and Andreas Raelart, New Zealand’s Terenzo Bozzone and Switzerland’s Mathias Hecht could all mix it up for a podium spot. With this deep of a field, the winner of this race will make a statement with Ironman Hawaii only four months away.
Last year’s winner for the women, Great Britain’s Chrissie Wellington, has opted to race in the Quelle Challenge Roth (July 12), leaving a noticeable gap in the women’s lineup. Wellington crushed the field last year by winning with a time of 8:51:24, more than 26 minutes ahead of the next competitor. Two women who will likely fill the hole left by Wellington’s absence will be the Netherlands’ Yvonne Van Vlerken and Germany’s Sandra Wallenhorst. The two finished second (Van Vlerken) and third (Wallenhorst) at the Ironman World Championships and will likely battle each other all the way to the finish line. Last year’s runner up, Germany’s Nicole Leder, is familiar with this race and will also be vying for the win.
Ironman Austria – July 5
After each earned second place finishes at the 2008 edition of Ironman Austria, Stephen and Bella Bayliss will be looking for a chance to take the top spot in Klagenfurt, Austria.
Stephen Bayliss’ toughest competition will be Belgium’s Marino Vanhoenacker. Vanhoenacker has won this race three years in a row, improving on his time each year. The key for Bayliss will be a strong second leg, as he was faster than Vanhoenacker on the swim and the run, but lost nearly 10 minutes on the bike. Other likely contenders include Austria’s own Hannes Hempel, Peter Schoissengeier and Norbert Langbrandtner, Croatia’s Dejan Patrcevic and Australia’s Jason Shortis.
The path to victory for Bella Bayliss will be less difficult. Last year’s winner, Sandra Wallenhorst of Germany, is choosing to race in the Ironman European Championships instead, leaving the door open for Bayliss and others. Austria’s Veronika Hauke finished second in 2007, and will be looking for a strong performance after a DNF last year. Bayliss’ teamtbb teammate, the Czech Republic’s Lucie Zelenkova, finished second in Ironman 70.3 Austria this year.