Canadian star Lionel Sanders let us know that there’s one more race on his calendar for 2022 when he and wife Erin announced the arrival of baby Levi and confirmed that he’s training hard for the event in a social media post.
“One more race until we call it a season,” Sanders wrote on Instagram. “Learning to be a little more efficient with my time lately & trying to squeeze in a few naps along the way. Wouldn’t change a thing.”
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So far, though, Sanders has been cagey about where that final race will be. So what are the likely options?
A full-distance race?
Yeah, probably not. In his Kona recap, Sanders made it clear that he wasn’t going to look at championship racing until such time as his swimming had improved enough that he could be closer to the leaders coming out of the water. So there’s not really an upside with him competing in a full-distance race right now. He’s definitely not on the start list for Ironman Arizona, Ironman Cozumel or Ironman Israel, and it’s hard to imagine that he’d head to Ironman Western Australia just a few weeks after the arrival of his first child. Besides, after a tough day in Kona, Sanders will likely want to get back to a half-distance event – even his “off” days at those races have been very successful. (Anyone remember his sprint to the line in Oceanside earlier this year?)
Clash Daytona (Dec. 2)?
Sanders won what was then Challenge Daytona in a dramatic race with Pablo Dapena Gonzalez in 2019. A year later he took fourth in Daytona, though, and skipped the 2021 version (which was renamed to Clash Daytona) to compete at Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells-La Quinta. Getting Sanders to the Daytona event would be a huge win for that race, and fans would certainly be very happy for the opportunity to see Sanders racing – the race will be streamed live by NASCAR productions, which has provided some high-quality race coverage over the years. The race is a bit shorter, though, which might not be to Sanders’ liking – dubbed the “Daytona Distance” the race includes a two-loop (1.6k/ 1mi) swim, a 15-lap (60.35km/ 37.5mi) bike followed by a three-lap (13.2km/ 8.2mi) run. That said, the race would serve as a perfect opportunity to test his swimming with about two thirds of the bike and run to make up ground. Of the three “middle-distance” races that seem most likely for Sanders to compete in, this has the largest prize purse at $100,000.
Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells-La Quinta (Dec. 4)?
Sanders won this race in 2018 and then returned for another victory last year, so it seems logical that he’ll look to try and defend his title there again this year. It’s a relatively easy trip from his new home in Arizona, too, which seems like a logical move for a new dad.
Ironman 70.3 Middle East Championship Bahrain (Dec. 9)?
Traveling halfway across the globe doesn’t seem like the most likely option for Sanders at this point, but it certainly would be an interesting option. The race is traditionally very fast and offers a $75,000 prize purse vs the $50,000 up for grabs at Indian Wells-La Quinta. It is a long way, though. Sanders hasn’t traditionally travelled outside of North America a lot over the years – he’s raced sparingly in Europe and in South America at Ironman 70.3 Pucon in years past. (We could also add Ironman 70.3 Melbourne to this list, too, but it’s also hard to imagine he’ll make the trip down under for all the same reasons.)