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Gross Returns to Defend in Tremblant

Sara Gross is back to defend her title in Mont-Tremblant, but  is in for a tough fight thanks to the impressive field lining up to take her on. Lionel Sanders leads Canadian hopes on the men’s side, but he’s in for an equally tough test if he’s going to take his second Ironman title in Quebec.

Anyone who has ever met Dominique Piche, the race director for Ironman Mont-Tremblant, won’t be surprised that two weeks before the big day in Quebec the event site was already being prepared for the influx of the 2,500 athletes who will be taking part in the fourth running of the race that has taken Ironman racing by storm.

Nestled in the rolling Laurentian Mountains about an hour and a half outside of Montreal, Mont-Tremblant is a fairy-tale-like village brimming with European charm. Piche convinced the folks at Ironman that they needed an event in the picturesque village and athletes from around the world can attest that he was right. The site is so perfect for Ironman racing that it chose Mont-Tremblant to host the first world championship event outside the United States last year when the Ironman 70.3 World Championship began its global rotation in Quebec.

The region has embraced the event. In the fall of 2011, the roads for the bike course were all repaved, which has proved an added bonus as cyclists now flock to the area for training. The locals pull out all the stops to showcase Quebec’s culture and charm.

The village of Mont-Tremblant is used to world-class events—having hosted everything from running, cycling and ski races to Quebec’s largest music festivals. There are 1,700 hotel rooms at the resort, which means that athletes and their families can pull in during race week and ignore their cars until it’s time to go home. Various accommodations (everything from two- to five-star) provide easy access to the race, and athletes walk only about a quarter of a mile to the transition area on race morning.

Mont-Tremblant’s resort options mean that families and friends who choose to come along will find lots to do while the athletes go through their final race preparations. There’s everything from luge to climbing walls to watersport activities to a bird’s of prey exhibit.

Once race day arrives athletes enjoy a scenic course that begins with a typically wetsuit-legal, one-loop swim in Lac Mont-Tremblant. That’s followed by a challenging bike course similar to Lake Placid in terms of elevation. The run course heads through the old village of Mont-Tremblant, then follows the P’tit Train du Nord, the longest linear park in Canada.

Pro fields

Sara Gross is back to defend her title this year, but will have to beat one of the toughest women on the Ironman circuit if she is going to get another win in Quebec. American Mary Beth Ellis won in Tremblant in 2013, and is virtually unbeaten in any Ironman race she’s done outside of Kona. The 2012 champ, Jessie Donavan (a mother of three from Vermont), is also back after dealing with injuries for much of the last two years, so she’ll be eager for a big day, too. Rounding out the big four registered for the race is Australian Liz Blatchford, who won her first Ironman race in Cairns, Australia and followed that up with a third place finish at the Ironman World Championship two years ago.

Lionel Sanders heads into Tremblant to hoping to fine tune his nutrition plan for the Ironman World Championship in October after suffering severe dehydration in Texas earlier this year. He’ll need to have everything in order to take the title thanks to the tough field he’ll be taking on. The ageless Viktor Zyemtsev from the Ukraine has numerous Ironman titles to his name and is always a tough competitor. American Jordan Rapp has struggled a bit with his form over the last year or so, but if he has things dialed in the multiple Ironman champion is amongst the best in the world. Paul Ambrose is a two-time Ironman champ who routinely races amongst the leaders in any event he competes in, so he’ll no-doubt be a factor, too.

We’ll have updates from Tremblant on race day through our Triathlon Magazine Twitter account, along with a complete race recap.