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Ironman 70.3 World Championships: Could we see two Canadians come out on top?

2014 Ironman 70.3 World Championship - Mont Tremblant, Quebec, CA

The world’s top half-distance athletes have converged in Mooloolaba, Australia for the 2016 Ironman 70.3 World Championships this weekend and in the pro fields, a couple stand-out Canadians are looking to bring the title home.

Could see Canadians not only earn podium finishes but possible be crowned world champion? Who else will be major factors in the men’s and women’s race? Here’s our preview.

Men’s race

There are several big names taking a crack at the world championship this weekend — among them, mutli-time world champion Craig Alexander, Sebastian Kienle (who will be going after his third 70.3 world title), rising Aussie star Tim Reed, Andreas Dreitz and Lionel Sanders. Each has a legitimate shot at the win but at the very least, a podium finish.

He may be the most seasoned competitor in the field, but a 43-year-old Craig Alexander is still a likely contender for the podium especially given his prowess over the half distance (he has two Ironman 70.3 world titles to his name). With a hometown advantage, Crowie is hungry for the win and has shown through his strong finishes in Subic Bay and Putrajaya this year that his fitness level is where it needs to be.

German powerhouse Sebastian Kienle also has two 70.3 world championship titles and will go after a third, which no one has yet been able to achieve. The uber-cyclist has had a season-long rivalry with Canada’s own Lionel Sanders so far this year and will no doubt be keeping an eye on the Green Flash, as the two will likely deliver the fastest bike splits of the day and be battling it out on the run course as they did at 70.3 North American championships earlier this year.

Sanders himself had a winning streak going in 2016 that was disrupted only by a second place finish in Racine, a shortened and re-scheduled race. He’s arguably the fastest cyclist and runner in the sport right now and with some major improvements to his swimming, we can expect to see him enter T1 with less of a deficit than he has in the past but the same blistering paces on the final two legs.

Dreitz has finished second to Sanders multiple times this year but recently started a winning streak of his own, taking first at Wiesbaden at the Ironman 70.3 European championship. Dreitz has no world titles to his name but this could be his year to earn his first.

Finally, there are strong competitors in Australia’s Tim Reed, who has had consistent podium finishes so far this year including the 70.3 Asia-Pacific championship title, countryman Joe Gambles, New Zealand’s Terenzo Bozzone (the 2008 70.3 world champion), Britain’s Tim Don and Canada’s Brent McMahon and Trevor Wurtele.

We’re predicting the top five will be from the names above.

Women’s race

World champion and defending champ Daniela Ryf is back to try and earn her third 70.3 world championship win this weekend and it’s hard to bet against her as the favourite heading into the race. Ryf seems to run away with the win even when she goes into a race claiming not to be in top shape. There are a handful of other women capable of matching Ryf’s speed and power so we can expect to see an exciting race from start to finish. Heather Wurtele is aiming for her first world championship title, Melissa Hauschildt is going after his third, and Caroline Steffen is in top shape with some wins already under her belt this year.

Ryf took home triathlon’s first million-dollar paycheque last year when she won the triple crown and she came close to breaking the world full distance record this year when she won Challenge Roth. The Swiss athlete is proving to be one of the best the sport has ever seen and excels in each of the three disciplines so it’s hard to see how anyone could beat her as she goes into one of her most important races of the year.

With that said, Canada’s Heather Wurtele has been having an incredible 2016 season. As the runner-up to Ryf at last year’s 70.3 world championship, she’s determined to finally earn that first place and knows what it takes to beat the best in the world. Wurtele is a strong cyclist and ever-improving runner. It seems like this is her year, so we think she could possibly be the athlete to take down Ryf.

Melissa Hauschildt is the other woman most would argue has the best shot at taking down Ryf. As a two time 70.3 world champion, she’s experienced, in top shape and coming off two years of injuries is eager to rise back up to the top. Hauschildt has already earned four half distance wins so far this year and has the home soil advantage as an Aussie. If she doesn’t win this weekend, we’re pretty certain she’ll at least land herself a podium spot.

Keep an eye on rising star Holly Lawrence, Canada’s Magali Tissyere (having one of her season years yet as well) and Caroline Steffen. We expect at least one of those names to earn a top five if not podium finish this weekend.