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Ironman Florida Preview: Canadian pros flock to the Gulf Coast

Five Canadian pros will compete at the 2019 Ironman Florida triathlon in Panama City Beach, Florida, including four-time Ironman champion Brent McMahon.

Brent McMahon at the finish of Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant.

Canada’s Brent McMahon highlights a Canadian professional men’s contingent that is heading down to Panama City Beach, Florida for this weekend’s Ironman Florida. There are five Canadian pros entered in Saturday’s race including Taylor Reid, competing in his first Ironman race, Cedric Boily, Alan Dempsey and Jason Pohl. The race is a pro-men-only event – the pro women will compete at Ironman Arizona later in the month.

The entire pro start list can be found by clicking on this link: Ironman Florida Start List

Ironman Florida hasn’t had a pro race since 2014. That year the swim was cancelled and was won by an up-and-coming Lionel Sanders, who signalled he was ready to move to the sport’s highest level with an impressive 4:12:46 bike and 2:44:12 marathon to easily hold off Great Britain’s Tom Lowe (Chrissie Wellington’s husband). Yvonne van Vlerken won the women’s race.

This year’s race see the men compete for the US$50,000 prize purse that goes 10 deep. The race also offers two qualifying slots for next year’s world championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Ben Hoffman, fresh off a fourth-place finish in Kona, arrives as the likely pre-race favourite, but he’ll be facing a tough field that includes Germany’s Franz Loeschke, Great Britain’s Joe Skipper, American super-cyclist Andrew Starykowicz along with his countryman Matt Russell, and McMahon.

During the race’s second leg all eyes will be on Starykowicz, who won in Panama City Beach in 2013 and set the bike course record of 4:02:17 a year later. Starykowicz had to pull out of the worlds in Kona three weeks ago due to illness, and will no-doubt be motivated to surge out in front with another super-fast ride.

McMahon is trying to regroup for 2020 after a tough 2019 of full-distance racing that saw him pull out in Boulder due to the cold temperatures, and then finish fourth in Lake Placid, which meant that he didn’t qualify for Kona this year. He’ll certainly be more than motivated to get himself an early slot for next year’s world championship.

A happy Taylor Reid celebrates the win at the Barrelman Triathlon.

It will be interesting to see how Guelph, Ont.’s Taylor Reid fares this weekend in his first Ironman race. He took his final prep race, the Barrelman Triathlon, in impressive style and will certainly have the speed to stay with the likes of Hoffman and McMahon. If he can hold things together through the final half of the marathon, he could also be in the hunt for a coveted Kona slot.

Moncton, N.B. native Cedric Boily arrives at the race after a fourth-place showing at Ironman Mont-Tremblant in August. Ottawa’s Alan Dempsey returned to triathlon after a couple of years of bike racing, turning pro in 2018 and doesn’t appear to have completed a full-distance race as a pro. Rounding out the Canadian contingent is Calgary’s Jason Pohl, who is a two-time Kona competitor as an age grouper and recently competed at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Nice, France.