A preview of this weekend’s Lake Stevens Ironman 70.3.
On Sunday, August 16 a field of 1,500 athletes will enter Lake Stevens with the hopes of placing well in their respective divisions. Of all of the professional and age-group divisions, the most competitive will likely be the women’s professional division.
The women’s field includes some of the best athletes in the sport, with each specializing in different distances. 2006 Ironman World Champ Michellie Jones of Australia will look to add another 70.3 victory to her 2009 season. Jones proved at the Ironman 70.3 Rhode Island that her comeback from a 2008 injury has once again placed her among the top female triathletes in the world. American Becky Lavelle has continued to specialize in both Olympic-distance and half-ironman distance races, and remains in search of a victory at the half-ironman distance for the 2009 season. Another American, Linsey Corbin, stormed onto the triathlon scene at the 2008 Ironman World Championships with a fifth place finish. Corbin has focused on the half-ironman distance this season and remains in search of a victory.
The race favorite may be New Zealand’s Samantha Warriner. Warriner won in her 70.3-distance debut at the Ironman 70.3 Geelong against a very competitive field. Former XTERRA world champ Canadian Melanie McQuaid is taking a weekend away from the XTERRA circuit to try her hand at the 70.3 distance. The women’s field not only talented, but also deep and features several up and comers that could surprise some of the top women in the sport. One of them could be the cover girl of this month’s Inside Triathlon, American Margot Hair. Hair won the Best of The U.S. Series in 2008 as an amateur, less than a year after completing chemotherapy for cervical cancer.
While the men’s race isn’t nearly as deep as the women’s, it will likely be a close finish with a few top names making the start. Super swimmer American John Flanagan will undoubtedly lead the pack out of the water. Australian Joe Gambles is fresh off of posting a new course record Vineman Ironman 70.3 and is the race favorite. American Matt Lieto will challenge Gambles on the bike and will need to have a strong run to have a chance at the victory. The final contender is American Ben Hoffman. The 25-year-old made a statement two weeks ago with a second place finish at the Ironman 70.3 Calgary, and has a shot at the victory.