Alright, ladies and gentlemen. There are several very special days throughout the year. For many triathletes, these may include, but are not limited to, Christmas/other Religiously affiliated traditional holidays, New Years, Birthday, Anniversary for those of us who are married, and Ironman Hawaii Day! It's the most prestigious race in our beastly sport. The fields are always loaded, and the head, humidity, and wind make it such that if you win this race, you have literally persevered through hell and back. This year promises to be one of the most exciting races yet. Let us examine the contenders for the 2009 Ironman World Championship, happening on October 10th!
Craig Alexander (Aus)- Last year's champion. Extremely strong among all three disciplines, but especially beastly on the run. Has not raced an Ironman this season, but has dropped the hammer on a plethora of 70.3 events. Perhaps most impressive was closing a 1:45 gap in TWO MILES to Chris Lieto at Ironman Boise 70.3.
Chris McCormack (Aus)- One of the most brash, confident fighters ever to race triathlons. His resume at Kona contains a win (2007), but also some epic failures. Last year his dream of a repeat was crushed by a mechanical mishap. He has had a successful season, and you know that he has targeted Kona as the most important race of the year for him. Watch out for him.
Eneko Llanos (Esp)- A real beast, who oftentimes finishes second, as he did in Kona last year. If he can put it all together, he can challenge for the win.
Normann Stadler (Ger)- The past five years in Kona for the Normanator have been all of nothing. In 2004 and 2006 he used huge bike splits to power himself to the win. However, in '05, two flat tires crushed his hopes. In '07 he stalled at the half-way mark on the bike to puke his guts out. And last year, he cramped badly on the run, after making a ballsey move on the marathon. Can he return to fine form in '09? We shall see.
Other veterans- Cam Brown, Timo Bracht, Faris Al-Sultan, Ronnie Schildknect, Chris Lieto and Timmy DeBoom have all had fantastic races here in the past. Can they pull something special this year?
Dark Horses- Andreas Raelert, Rasmus Henning, Andy Potts, and Terenzo Bozzone have all had success on the short-course circuit, and they have awesome speed. They have the ability to shake things up on a good day. Henning and Potts have both recently suffered bike crashes, which is too bad, because they have the potential to really put the pressure on the pure distance guys.
My pick for the win: I think that this year is going to be one of the most epic ever. Macca is getting older now and is incredibly motivated to win one more time. Yet, it will be difficult to beat Alexander.
Without Torbjorn Sindballe in the race this year, look for Chris Lieto and Stadler to push the pace on the bike. Lieto has been training with Ryan Hall in Mammoth lakes, so can he put together a good marathon and steal the win? It will be very tough for him. Look for the super-runners to catch him and Stadler about halfway, and we will see a serious duel between Macca and Crowie that will come down to the wire. Macca would seem to be the biggest and most aggressive competitor, but Alexander's win at Boise showed us all that if he is anywhere near the win, he will absolutely bury himself for it. Look for Alexander to pull away late in the marathon, and take the 2009 World Championships.
Chrissie Wellington will obliterate the field, again.
Mirinda Carfrae, Rebecca Keat, and Yvonne Van Vlerken are all really good.
Wellington cannot be touched.