So who is going to win the men’s race at Kona? Well, as Macca’s mechanical failure last-year demonstrated, it’s almost impossible to call.
Almost, but not quite.
Because a few people have dared to call it – or at least name their favourites – and two names seem to be recurring: Craig Alexander and Chris McCormack.
Alexander is undoubted favourite. Strong results throughout the year at 70.3, coupled with solid training and a relaxed resolve suggest he has all of the ingredients in place to blow the field away.
“It’s Crowie’s race to lose,” John Duke – publisher of Triathlete – said in an interview with Ironman.com. “He’s raced here twice and never finished worse than second. [Alexander placed second at his 2007 Kona debut, then won last year.] The only person who can beat Craig Alexander is Craig Alexander.”
But then there’s Chris McCormack. Forced to retire last year because of a problem with his bike, Macca has had an up-and-down season. But the Aussie has been training in Hawaii for a month now and says he’s ready.
“I would never bet against Macca,” Bob Babbit (co-editor of Competitor magazine) confessed. “Chris is a man of history. He knows winning the race once is nice. But if you want legendary status, you have to win this race multiple times.”
Outside of the two ‘headliners’, there’s the hugely talented Eneko Llanos. Second in 2008, the Spaniard has never won a major Ironman – but has made a habit of being a runner-up. Will Kona be his time to step out of the shadows?
Then there’s Normann Stadler. Two-time World Champion (2004 and 2006), Stadler holds the bike course record at Kona (4:18:23). After problems last year, his bike looks good, but can he hold it together on the run?
Then there are a couple of familiar faces with an outside chance: Tim DeBoom, Cameron Brown and course record-holder Luc van Lierde (8:04:08) will be on the startline and their pedigree can never be discounted.
And what about the Brits? It’s been an amazing breakthrough year for Phil Graves and Kona will be an unknown quantity. For all we know, he might go and smash the course up. Fingers crossed he does.
Meanwhile, Stephen Bayliss has had a solid year with two podium finishes (UK and Lanzarote) and a number of solid IM results.
Add to those names the likes of Timo Bracht, Ronnie Schildknecht, Chris Lieto, Andrea Raelert, Ternzo Bozzone, Faris…
Let’s just say that there might be a number of favourites, but there will be a lot of winners on the startline this Saturday. Too many for us to make a call, anyway!