The Ironman 70.3 U.S. Championships return to St. George, Utah for the second year in a row this Saturday, May 3. The race will once again welcome one of the deepest professional fields assembled at the 70.3 distance this year. Nearly 100 professionals will face the tough hills and potentially brutal conditions (the temperature is forecasted to reach 93 degrees F on race day) that southwest Utah has to offer. They’ll do it for the chance to claim a share of the $75,000 prize purse and the bounty of points available toward Kona qualification.
Last year Canada’s Brent McMahon used this race to put an exclamation point on his transition out of ITU competition. He posted a blazing run split (1:13:20) on the undulating half-marathon course to handily take the victory. He’ll have to have a similar performance this year if he hopes to repeat as the winner. The biggest challenger, and probably the favorite, to take the title away from McMahon is fellow former ITU athlete Jan Frodeno (GER). Frodeno, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist, has shown impressive form to this point of the 2014 season—turning in untouchable performances at the Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championships in Auckland (Jan. 19) and Ironman 70.3 California in Oceanside (March 29).
Though he has proven to save his best efforts for later in the year, there’s no counting out two-time Ironman 70.3 world champion Sebastian Kienle (GER). Kienle finished third in Oceanside five weeks ago and—if he can build a lead on the bike—is capable of running away with the win. American Andy Potts, the other podium finisher in Oceanside, will also be competing in St. George. He was still coming back from the injury that forced him to withdraw from Kona when he competed in California, and with five more weeks of solid training will likely pose a bigger threat to take the win.
Look for New Zealand’s Terenzo Bozzone to also contend for the win on Saturday. The former 70.3 world champion has finished third at 70.3 Auckland and Ironman New Zealand this year, but showed with his runner-up performance at last year’s Ironman 70.3 World Championship he’s still capable of running with the best.
Finally, last year’s 70.3 U.S. Champion Kevin Collington (which he earned by finishing as the top American in St. George) will be out to retain that coveted title and prize purse bonus. Like many on this start list, Collington competed in Oceanside and had a strong showing, finishing sixth. He’ll need to have a better swim and replicate his run from 2013 to hold onto his crown.
The list of men who could end up on this podium is seemingly endless. Other contenders include Tim Don (GBR), Joe Gambles (AUS), Matt Reed (USA), Ben Hoffman (USA), Bevan Docherty (NZL), Marino Vanhoenacker (BEL), James Cunnama (RSA), Maik Twelsiek (GER), TJ Tollakson (USA), Timo Bracht (GER), Paul Matthews (AUS), Michael Weiss (AUT), Jordan Rapp (USA), Clayton Fettell (AUS), Matt Chrabot (CAN) and Trevor Wurtele (CAN).
The women’s race is shaping up to be another battle between American Meredith Kessler and Canadian Heather Wurtele. Kessler won this race last year with a solid all-around performance while Wurtele finished third behind Svenja Bazlen (GER), who is not competing this year. At Ironman 70.3 California this year Wurtele crushed the bike and run to take the win, with Kessler settling for third.
They’ll face some tough competition, with a few other all-stars making the start. Canadian Angela Naeth was dominant in her win at the Ironman 70.3 Latin American Championships in Panama back on Feb. 16. American Mary Beth Ellis is training under renowned coach Siri Lindley and will be anxious to improve on her season debut, which was a seventh-place finish in Panama.
Two of the biggest question marks will be former Ironman 70.3 world champions Julie Dibens (GBR) and Jodie Swallow (GBR). Dibens finished fourth in Oceanside after nearly two years away from racing to recover from knee and foot surgery. Swallow had a frustrating start to the year when she veered off course while leading the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon and will be looking to make a statement on a big stage.
Other podium contenders include Linsey Corbin (USA), Emma-Kate Lidbury (GBR), Rebekah Keat (AUS), Melanie McQuaid (CAN), Amy Marsh (USA) and Sarah Piampiano (USA).