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Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant preview: Sanders and Wurtele look to continue their winning streaks

Meredith Kessler winning last year's Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant.
Meredith Kessler winning last year’s Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant.

This weekend’s sold-out Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant is an A-race for many age-groupers who love it for its beautiful course, exciting atmosphere and the impressive pro field it attracts. For many Canadian pros as well, it’s a race they return to each year, promising tough competition from within the country and beyond. This year’s race is no exception, with Lionel Sanders and Heather Wurtele headlining the men’s and women’s fields and hoping to continue their 2016 winning streaks.

Men’s race

Lionel Sanders has been on a roll this year, winning each race he’s entered and delivering impressive bike and runs splits along the way. He was also the 2015 Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant winner, so it’s hard to bet against him on Sunday.

Credit: Barrie Shepley
Credit: Barrie Shepley

“Tremblant is a very special race to me,” he told TMC. “It’s nice to race in your home country, let alone just a few hours away. The feeling in the village is like no other, as well. It is electrifying. It will also be a very special day this year as I will have my fiancee, Erin and my mom, Becky doing the race with me as well. We all did the full Ironman last year so looking to carry that tradition on at the 70.3 this year.

“This year I am looking to push my biking to a new level and if the legs are feeling good, I am going to leave it all out there on the bike course come Sunday. For the numbers junkies, I am looking to push about 93% of FTP. I cannot predict a run split as I don’t know how the legs will feel after that sort of effort on the bike.”

Sanders shared that the race won’t be without some challenges. “There is a very strong field competing on Sunday ad there is also a chance the swim will be non wetsuit.”

We asked him if he had a few tips for first-time age-groupers racing on Sunday.

“I would say have good pacing on the bike. Don’t spike the power on the ups and don’t lull on the downs. There is a good climb late into the bike that you will want to have some juice left for. That will ensure you run the best to your ability. Run controlled on the first half of the run.  If after 10km you’re still feeling good, then empty the tank!”

Joined by Sanders on the men’s start line is Taylor Reid, fresh off his Ironman 70.3 Victoria win, and Trevor Wurtele who joined him on the podium in second place. Another major contender in the men’s field is super-cyclist Cody Beals, who recently won Ironman 70.3 Eagleman for the second year in a row. All three men will be eyeing the podium and between them and Sanders, it’s likely we could see a Canadian podium sweep.

Lionel Sanders and Taylor Reid, first and second respectively at 2015 Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant. Credit: Barrie Shepley.
Lionel Sanders and Taylor Reid, first and second respectively at 2015 Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant. Credit: Barrie Shepley.
While the impressive men’s field has 12 Canadian pros in total, there’s also some solid international competition from Americans TJ Tollakson and Matt Russell, Australian Richie Cunningham and New Zealand’s Terenzo Bozzone.

Women’s race

Like Sanders, Heather Wurtele has had a remarkable season this year. Her winning streak continued in Victoria a few weekends ago and so at Mont-Tremblant she’ll be going for her second win on home turf. Wurtele didn’t toe the start line last year, but the three international women who rounded out the podium are all returning this year.

Heather Wurtele winning Ironman 70.3 Monterrey earlier this year.
Heather Wurtele winning Ironman 70.3 Monterrey earlier this year.

American powerhouse Meredith Kessler, who’s all too familiar with winning, is back to defend her title. She’s been on the podium at each of the races she’s competed in this year, including a first place at Ironman New Zealand early on and third at the gruelling Ironman 70.3 North American pro championship in May.

Runner-up and third place finishers Holly Lawrence and Alicia Kaye will no doubt give Wurtele and Kessler some solid competition, as will Magali Tisseyre who DNF’ed last year but has been having a strong season so far this year as evident by her win at the Ironman 70.3 South American Championships in April.