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Cody Beals is our Men’s Long-Distance Triathlete of the Year

Cody Beals' record-setting day put him atop our ranking, while Lionel Sanders earns an honourable mention.

Cody Beals spent much of 2019 dealing with injuries, but managed a record-setting day in Mont-Tremblant.

Ironman Mont Tremblant men’s champ Cody Beals! (Credit: Kevin Mackinnon)

Cody Beals

After a stellar 2018 that saw him win his first two full-distance races, Cody Beals graced our January 2019 cover as our Triathlete of the Year. The 2019 season was much more of a challenge for the 29-year-old Guelph, Ont. athlete – he struggled to get things rolling early in the season thanks to a stomach bug in Taiwan, then found himself dealing with his first major injury as he was gearing up for Challenge Roth.

As he worked his way back to race fitness, Beals was still able to put together some solid performances including runner-up finishes at Ironman 70.3 Eagleman, Challenge Cancun and Ironman 70.3 Victoria.

Things got very much back on track by Ironman Mont-Tremblant, though, where Beals broke his own course record to take his third Ironman title in three attempts, once again beating Lionel Sanders in the process. Beals was a bit surprised at just how well that race went – leading up to it he’d been “only” able to get about 17 hours a week of training done, which is great if you’re an age group competitor, not quite the typical volume of a pro.

The big day in Mont-Tremblant, though, meant Beals arrived in Kona feeling more than a little pressure.

Related: Cody Beals sets another record at Ironman Mont-Tremblant

“I was honest about all the pressure I was feeling,” he said when reminded of an interview he did with Triathlon Magazine Canada a few days before the race. Beals found himself arriving on the Big Island considered by many to be a “dark horse for the podium.”

“It’s really, truly unlike any other race,” he continued. “You’re there with 50 or 60 of the best athletes in the world … all the triathlon media in the world.”

All of which makes for a pressure-packed race week.

A race-day bike mechanical issue sidelined his race in Kona at the turnaround in Hawi – not the result Beals had hoped for in his first Kona appearance. Despite the setbacks he experienced in 2019, though, Beals looks to the positive aspects of his 2019 season.

“I am so grateful for how this year has gone, even with the challenges,” he said. “I had my best year ever in terms of sponsorship.”

While there weren’t a lot of great results, Beals’ performance in Mont-Tremblant certainly showed he is amongst the very best long-distance racers in the world. Even with the challenges he faced, it’s not any sort of stretch to give him the nod for our long-distance triathlete of the year.

Lionel Sanders. Photo: Talbot Cox.

Honourable mention:

Lionel Sanders

We’d gone to print as Lionel Sanders was wrapping up his 2019 season with two big wins at Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells-La Quinta and Challenge Daytona, results which might have swayed our voting had they come earlier in the year.

Sanders’ 2019 season was derailed early when after a sacral stress fracture sidelined him for much of the year, but he bounced back to competition with a runner-up finish at Ironman Mont-Tremblant. While he wasn’t able to hold off Cody Beals in Tremblant, Sanders served notice that he was on track for another big day in Kona, especially after he won Ironman 70.3 Augusta a few weeks before. That didn’t come to pass – Sanders pushed hard on the bike and appeared to be in contention for a top finish starting the run, but the wheels fell off early in the marathon at the world championship and he would eventually finish 22nd.

Shortly after that race he announced that he’d be returning to work with coach David Tilbury Davis. He returned to racing with that final two-race burst, signalling we can all look forward to Sanders being back on top of his game in 2020.