Categorized | Multi-sport, Sports

Ironman: Podium picks from two insiders


The countdown is on. Arm yourself with educated guesses on who will make the top five on Saturday — including one “dream spectating scenario.”

“Who are your picks?”

It’s a question bounced around all week leading up to the Ironman World Championship. And with this year’s big event less than a week away, IronmanLive commentators Michael Lovato and Matt Lieto — both pro triathletes in their own right — share their bets on this year’s competition. Trust us: you won’t look lost if you steal their ideas for your own viewing party.

First thoughts: The play-by-play

Matt Lieto: Pete Jacobs will have his work cut out for him to defend his title, and I think we’ll have one of the most aggressive bike rides we have seen in recent years. There are loads of talented cyclists, like Sebastian Kienle, Clayton Fettel, Andrew Starykowicz and Luke McKenzie who will be stretching the field early, with the fast runners only marking moves when capable. I think the run times may be a bit slower this year than in the last few after a tactical and hard bike ride tires the fastest runners in the field.

The women’s race won’t be much different with the favorites firing early — Caroline Steffen, Leanda Cave, Mary Beth Ellis and Rachel Joyce setting the pace. I see a small group of two to three coming off of the bike together with a strong chance at the win. The difference in the women’s race will be seeing athletes like Mirinda Carfrae and Sonja Tajsich running from behind and into the top five with a chance to upset the lead group for the win.

Michael Lovato: Experience is everything when it comes to racing on the Big Island. With the notable exceptions of Luc Van Lierde and Chrissie Wellington, the champions in Kona tend to be those who have previously tested the waters, braved the winds and endured the heat. Believing one can win is often born from experience.

The men’s race


Eneko Llanos has found the recipe this year in big Ironman races, having won the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship in Melbourne and the Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt. He will be looking to improve on his best finish here — he was second in 2008. He is front-group swimmer and one of the faster cyclists and we all know he can run. He has adapted well to Dave Scott’s training program and no coach knows Kona like the six-time Ironman world champion. Despite Llanos’ two Kona DNF’s (2011, 2012), he has enough positive experience on the island to make the jump from not finishing last year to finishing first this year. – Lieto and Lovato


Sebastian Kienle: It’s so hard to bet against Kienle in any race, especially after his stellar performance in Vegas. He is much more than just the best cyclist in the sport. He has worked to limit his losses in the swim and can run with all but the very elite in this race. It seems he has timed his season’s peak to perfection and will be one of the freshest athletes at the start line. Give him six minutes off the bike and I think he’s gone. – Lieto

Pete Jacobs. Defending the title takes a toll on even the coolest of customers, and Pete will be no exception to that rule. He has shown that he can deliver when it counts, having notched four top-10 Kona finishes in a row, all with great run splits. He will have the goods to contend, but the pressure will steal a few steps when they count the most. – Lovato


Craig Alexander. No one with better success in this race is on the start line and he is very motivated after a sub-par Ironman 70.3 World Championship last month. Craig has still been working on what has been a limiter for him in this race in the past, the bike. He hates to lose and can push himself to the very depths. Match that with his bike focus and amazing run pedigree and you’ve got a tough man to beat. – Lieto

Sebastian Kienle will be the next German to win in Kona, and he’ll do so with a devastating bike split, followed by a surprisingly quick run. But he needs one or two more attempts at the podium before he’s ready to take the win. – Lovato


Pete Jacobs had a bit of a slow start to the season, but has shown in the last few weeks that he’s found his world champion form. Pete has not shown a weakness the last few years on this course and it will take some aggressive racing to pull the jersey off his back. – Lieto

Andreas Raelert. This will be Raelert’s first finish off the podium in Kona. His talent is unbelievably good, his previous results have been consistent and impressive, but the near misses of the past four years are going to undermine his belief in his ability to take the crown. – Lovato


Andreas Raelert. Andy certainly has the ability to win this race but will have to fire on all cylinders to do so. He has the run to make the win happen, he just needs to be at the front when the leaders get off the bike. He’s a gamer, and I think almost unbeatable if he starts the run with the favorites. – Lieto

Craig Alexander. Crowie has proven himself to be the best Ironman athlete of the past decade. He’s won three Kona titles, two of them back-to-back; he owns the course record and he knows exactly what it will take to secure a fourth title in Hawaii. And those laurels will end up being his only obstacle this year: he’s gone to the well too many times, and won’t be able to go back. – Lovato

The women’s race


Caroline Steffen: Coming as close to winning as she has done, “Xena” is ready to seal the deal. She has honed the craft, worked on her weaknesses, and is simply the strongest of this year’s contenders. Her strength over the final 5k will be the deciding factor. The race will be close, but in 2013 we’ll see a new Swiss Miss crowned queen. To win this year she will need to bring her swim down from a 57 to a 55 minutes, and her run from a 3:08-3:10 to a 3:03-3:05 after a strong ride. – Lovato and Lieto


Rachel Joyce. The Brit’s progression from sixth to fifth to fourth was textbook. Had she not become ill during race week last year we’re confident she would have taken the podium. Rachel will gain the necessary confidence from a second place this year, and she’ll be well positioned to win in 2014. Fast in all three disciplines, she’ll be near the front all day long and with three full-distance races in the 8:40’s, we wouldn’t count her out. – Lovato and Lieto


Mirinda Carfrae. As the 2010 champ, Rinny has never finished off the podium in Kona. She knows what it takes to win and knows the feeling well. Her confidence is rising, but losing last year’s battle on the run surely left a lasting mark. She needs another dominating marathon split to give her the belief in herself that will be necessary for her to take a second title. – Lovato

Mary Beth Ellis. Broken clavicle? If you were mortal, I would say there is no chance of winning. If you are MBE, I think it’s just a minor blip. Ellis has never lost a race outside of Kona and has done pretty darned well on the island. She may lose a minute or two on the swim with her injury, but I think she’ll still make her way to the pointy end by the end of the bike and will run strong to the end. – Lieto


Meredith Kessler. 2012 and 2013 have been very good to Meredith. She has been excellent at nearly every other race on the planet, but she’s never had an outstanding performance on the Big Island. She is tough and smart, but unlucky. As soon as she tastes the success of top five, she’ll be poised to threaten the podium. – Lovato

Mirinda Carfrae: Rinny is one you simply can’t count out for a win. She has one of the most damaging runs in the field and is showing that she’s timed her season well with a 1:18 run split at Ironman 70.3 Muskoka. I think she’ll need to be within 12 minutes of the leader by the time the run starts, however. – Lieto


Heather Wurtele. Along with Kessler, Heather is the other woman who has carried a hot streak from the end of 2012 through 2013. She has ample experience at the front of Ironman races, as well as inside the top 10 in Kona (eighth in 2011), and she’ll use that experience to make her way to her best placing yet. – Lovato

Leanda Cave. Leanda hasn’t had a picture-perfect year so far, but has shown signs that she’s timed her build well for her title defense. She will swim up front and stay tough on the bike to come off within five minutes of the lead. She is one of the toughest women out there and hung on remarkably well over the last 10 miles of the run last year. If she shows this same late-race grit, she’ll be in the hunt for the big check. – Lieto

The last word

As we all watch Kona unfold next weekend, the only thing we know is to expect the unexpected. While athletes’ experience plays a huge role in how they race, Kona has a unique way of disregarding what’s happened in the past, offering each competitor a clean slate. It’s going to get real. – Lovato

My dream spectating scenario? Crowie, Raelert, Jacobs and Llanos coming off the bike together, 6 minutes behind Kienle. Fireworks! – Lieto

GoPro announced as title sponsor of 2013 Ironman World Championship

Ironman has announced GoPro as the title sponsor of the 2013 Ironman World Championship triathlon and as the Official Camera of the Ironman World Championship.

GoPro, maker of the world’s most versatile camera, produces wearable and gear-mountable cameras that enable users to capture their life’s important moments in the most immersive perspective possible.

“GoPro is excited to partner with the 2013 Ironman World Championship and offer its viewers a never-before-seen immersive perspective of the competition. Not only does GoPro serve as an excellent training tool for triathletes, it also allows Ironman triathlon participants of all levels to capture and document their own life-changing experiences,” said Todd Ballard, Director of Sports Marketing for GoPro.

As the Official Camera of the Ironman World Championship, GoPro will offer a unique high-definition perspective to capture footage of the iconic Ironman event.

GoPro cameras will also be provided to event referees to capture the ongoing action.

“The Ironman World Championship is the most iconic endurance event in the world and we are thrilled to have GoPro on board as our title sponsor,” said Andrew Messick, CEO of Ironman. “GoPro will provide our athletes and viewers a new and unique perspective of the sport of triathlon during this pinnacle event.”

NBC will air the GoPro Ironman World Championship special program Saturday, Nov. 16.

— Find out more:

Follow the action Saturday at, on twitter at @IronmanTri, and with the hashtag #IMKona

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