Stellar Men’s Field Lines Up in Lanzarote
Tomorrow’s Ironman Lanzorote race promises to be a barn burner – not only is the event celebrating its 25th anniversary, but one of the strongest men’s fields we’ll see outside of Kona is set to take on the toughest race on the Ironman circuit.
Leading the charge in the men’s pro race is defending world Ironman and Ironman 70.3 champion (not to mention 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist) Jan Frodeno. He’s here because an injury forced him out of Ironman South Africa in April and he needs an Ironman race to validate his Kona slot later this year.
Frodeno will have some tough competition to face in the form or countryman Timo Bracht, who won this race in 2011 and set the course record (08:30:34) in the process. Spain’s own Iván Raña, fifth in the 2000 Olympics and the second fastest man ever at an official Ironman event (7:48 in Austria in 2014) and Miquel Blanchart, runner up in Lanzarote in 2013 and 2014 are also in the field to take on the Germans.
A few other men to watch include American Jesse Thomas, last year’s winner of Ironman Wales who is coming off his sixth straight win at the prestigious Wildflower Triathlon, and Great Britain’s Stephen Bayliss (a multiple Ironman champ) and David McNamee who won Ironman UK last year and was 11th in Kona last year with the fastest run split.
Germany’s Diana Riesler is back to defend her title, which she won with ease last year after finishing the bike with a 20-minute lead and never looking back. Riesler would also add the Ironman Malaysia title to her impressive resume last year. She’s joined by fellow German’s Tine Holst and Nicole Woysch. Great Britain will be represented by Caroline Livesey, third here last year and super-swimmer Lucy Charles who is competing in her first pro race after winning the 18 to 24 age category at last year’s Ironman World Championship. Other pros to watch in the women’s field include American Alyssa Godesky, Denmark’s Anne Jensen, Belgium’s Alexandra Tondeur and Spain’s Saleta Castro who was third here in 2013.
Frodeno says he’s “very excited” to take part in an event which is “on the bucket list of every triathlete” and hopes to use this as a step towards a possible second world title.
“I can’t really talk about winning right now, I’m recovering from injury, but if I were to win I would celebrate in style,” he said in an interview on Tuesday. “It’s been a really intense year, with lots of promotional commitments after winning the world title… my son Luca was born, I got injured, so we’ll have to see what happens on Saturday. I tend to suffer a little more with the muscle injury in colder water, so I’m not sure how it will affect my swim.”
Bracht told us that the Lanzarote race is “extremely demanding as you battle with the elements and conditions, but, above everything, you’re alone and mostly the challenge is against yourself.”
“My goal is to finish in the top 3, although I’d love to win as it would be my tenth Ironman victory, something I believe no other German has done before,” he said. “The field is very strong though, it’s almost like a world championship. My strategy is to maintain my performance at its top level throughout the race, then digging deep to accelerate in the last kilometres of the run.”
For Raña, who needs to finish in the top four to qualify for Kona, says he’s “ready” for his first long-distance Lanzarote event and to win would be “one of the most important moments of my life.”
“I have a lot of respect for this course, especially the bike route, with its hills, and hills are my strong point and it’s very technical,” he said.
Raña believes that to win in Lanzarote you have to be a very strong and complete athlete.
“There are some great names in this edition, like Frodeno and Bracht, for example – I’ll need to stick close to Frodeno in the swim and bike, especially as he’s good in the first, flatter parts, but I think I’m stronger on the hills. On the other hand, Bracht is very smart and technical, and he knows this island so well. He’s a very fast triathlete on the run too.”
Raña feels that the marathon is his strength, but feels that he needs to save enough energy for the run, “without going too hard in trying to keep up with Frodeno either, so I will have to control my pace a lot.”
On the women’s side of things Riesler admits that she was “really scared” before her victory last year because it’s “such a hard course.”
“As the race went on, things got smoother and I started to enjoy it and, when I got into transition after the bike I had a 20-minute lead. The competition is tough this year, but I know what it’s all about now and I’m sure I’ll be ready.”
Castro, who stopped at kilometre 15 in last weekend’s IRONMAN Texas, needs to reach the podium in Lanzarote to qualify for Hawaii.
“Only the podium will do in Lanzarote, so I prefer to focus on the fact that I’m going do my Ironman, where I started and which will be my tenth finish, five of them on this island,” she said. “I just want to enjoy it and do well as I’ve been training very hard for months. I believe that, at some point I’ve got to win this race and I hope it will be on a special edition, as is the 25th anniversary. I decided to stop in Texas because I had a clear objective to finish in the top seven to guarantee a place in Hawaii. Looking back with a cool head, if I had continued, I might have done it, but during the race I didn’t believe it and I knew I had another opportunity in Lanzarote.”
Looking forward to Saturday, Castro hopes “that it’s really windy and that it doesn’t rain. And very hot on the marathon.”
“On the whole, I know I’ll be racing on familiar home ground, I could do this course even with my eyes closed,” she said. “I’m in really good shape, although tired from the trip home from America. I have my work cut out for me and I hope it pays off.”
The twenty-fifth edition of the prestigious Club La Santa IRONMAN Lanzarote will see 1,900 triathletes from 50 countries compete. The first event in 1992 had 148 participants in 1992. There are 40 age group qualifying slots for the Ironman World Championship.
The event is renowned as one of the toughest on the Ironman circuit thanks to the 2,551 m of climbing and fierce winds on the course.