ST. GEORGE — The pros have arrived in St. George, and the Ironman 70.3 World Championship is almost here.
Considered one of the Ironman circuit’s most challenging courses, the St. George race starts Saturday morning at Sand Hollow Reservoir, and the athletes competing in the professional class represent the best in the world.
Six of the top men and six of the top women were introduced in a press conference Thursday morning at the Electric Theater. While there are some favorites among them, they all have a chance to win.
On the women’s side, look no further than Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf as the odds-on favorite. She has won a record five Ironman 70.3 World Championships, including the last three in a row, and she finished first in the 70.3 North American Championship in St. George on May 1.
“The course is hard, and I’m in tune,” Ryf said. “Good competition, it’s going to be a big battle on Saturday.”
A trio of athletes from Great Britain – Lucy Charles-Barclay, Holly Lawrence and Emma Pallant – were also at the press conference.
Lawrence won the World Championship in 2016, but she said she isn’t thinking about the finishing order Saturday.
“I definitely never think about winning. I never go into the race like that. It’s just having the best performance I can on that day,” she said. “I never get ahead of myself that way.”
Pallant, who finished third in the Ironman 70.3 in St. George in May, talked about her mindset approaching Saturday’s event.
“I think you always go into the World’s thinking it’s everything. It’s the A-race of the season,” she said. “You’re there to take risks. There’s no holding back; you want to see the front of the race.”
Ellie Salthouse of Australia and Taylor Knibb of the United States are also expected to be contenders for spots on the podium Saturday.
On the men’s side of the race, talk at the press conference was about the dynamic duo from Norway: Gustav Iden and Kristian Blummenfelt.
Iden is the defending World Champion and the youngest ever Ironman 70.3 champion when he won in 2019. Meanwhile, Blummenfelt is coming off a gold medal finish in the triathlon at the Tokyo Olympics two months ago.
Iden gained notoriety for calling the St. George course, “the wild, wild West.”
“It’s an interesting course,” he said. “The bike course was actually easier than I anticipated, but the run is so much worse. The downhill down to the finish line is a bit too crazy if you’re there together with someone else.”
Blummenfelt said that winning the gold medal was the culmination of 10 year’s worth of work. Saturday he wants to focus on finishing well in St. George.
“Now it’s all about getting my revenge over the half-Ironman distance. I was quite disappointed after 2019,” Blemmenfelt said. “The run course here is really awesome. The downhill you have there is going to be very tricky.”
Two Americans are also in the hunt on the men’s side: Ben Kanute and Sam Long.
“I think everything is going well so far,” Kanute said. “I don’t look to peak in May or June or July; I look to peak in September, and that’s what we’ve built our year around. Ever since this race was announced, again to be in the U.S., I’ve had it circled on my calendar.”
Long is well known to St. George fans after being part of the thrilling finish to Ironman 70.3 in May, when he and Lionel Sanders sprinted to the line together.
Long finished second by a mere five seconds. He trained for Saturday’s race by setting the course record at the Ironman 70.3 Boulder on Aug. 7.
“This is my fifth time being here, and St. George is an incredibly special place for me,” he said. “It’s just a beautiful, amazing town, and the people are so nice. It really has come to feel like a second home to me.”
Australian’s Sam Appleton and Tim Reed are also expected to compete for spots on the podium.
St. George is the ninth city in history to host an Ironman 70.3 World Championship.
On Saturday, 64% of the participants will be male and 36% female, with an average age of 44 years old.
The oldest male in the race is Manfred Klittich of Germany at age 84, while the oldest female is the American Cherie Gruenfeld at age 77.
The youngest male in the field is American Jacob Wolmer at age 18, and the youngest female racer is also an American, 18-year old Arron Goldman.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.