Next weekend will be the long-awaited Ironman California. Why do I say “long awaited?” Since there is no Ironman World Championship in 2021, it is the Ironman with the highest caliber of racers in 2021.
For the men (there is no pro women’s race – they will compete at Ironman Florida), the line-up of participants includes, among others:
- Jan Frodeno
- Gustav Iden
- Lionel Sanders
- Cameron Wurf
- Ben Hoffman
- Boris Stein
- Rasmus Svenningsson
- Arnaud Guilloux
Following his runner-up finish at Ironman Chattanooga, Lionel Sanders had indicated he would now rest and take his “off-season.” However, he decided to add another Ironman to his schedule, Ironman California.
Sanders has had a new coach for several weeks now, namely Mikal Iden, Gustav Iden’s brother. Sanders mentioned in one of his videos that his coach now makes the decisions. Presumably Mikal Iden and Sanders have decided to take part in Ironman California as it is a great opportunity to compare the Canadian star to some of the best triathletes in the world.
In my opinion, Jan Frodeno will come out of the water with a good lead over his competitors. I don’t believe Gustav Iden is able to follow him. Frodeno will therefore have to decide if he will try to increase his lead on the bike, or rather start the bike at a slightly lower intensity to allow the group behind to join him.
Iden finds himself in a special situation, being slightly slower than Frodeno in swimming, but faster than most of the other triathletes. We can assume that he will come out second from the water, one- to two-minutes behind Frodeno and slightly ahead of the main field.
Iden had better let the group of Wurf, Sanders, Stein and, possibly, Svenningsson and Hoffman overtake him so he can ride alongside these triathletes. Iden is participating in his first Ironman, so he will be content, in my opinion, to stay alongside these uber-bikers. Given the density of talent in this group, one would imagine they will be able to catch up with Frodeno. Frodeno, being aware of the running dynamics behind, is unlikely to attempt to escape on his own. Given his talent at running, he doesn’t have to start the marathon ahead of his competitors to hope to win. He knows he can run a very fast marathon that can compete with Iden and Sanders.
Who can run faster between Frodeno and Iden?
In my opinion, if Frodeno, Iden, Sanders and the rest of the group start the marathon together, Frodeno and Iden will separate from the group very quickly. I don’t think Sanders has the caliber right now to compete with Frodeno and Iden in the marathon, but I do believe he can finish third.
On a 5 km, a 10 km and even a half marathon, Gustav Iden is faster than Frodeno. On the other hand, over a marathon, even more at the end of an Ironman, I believe that Frodeno will have the upper hand since he is much more experienced. Although Iden was very successful over the 70.3 distance (he is the reigning world champion), it is much easier to transition from Olympic distance to 70.3 distance than to go from 70.3 distance to Ironman.
So I believe Frodeno will win, followed by Iden and Sanders.
Rasmus Svenningsson: An “under-dog” who can compete with the best in the world
You’re probably surprised to see Rasmus Svenningsson’s name in my Top 5 predictions, and the majority of you probably don’t know him. And this makes sense, since Svenningsson started triathlon only six years ago and has been competing as a professional only since 2019. Svenningsson is an excellent cyclist and he can compete with Wurf and Frodeno on the bike. This year he finished third at 70.3 Dubai, second at Ironman Austria, and he won Ironman Lake Placid. In 2020 he did a solo Ironman which he completed within 8 hours.