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Sanders vs Frodeno: Tale of the tape

A look at the past races between two of triathlon's biggest names

Last month we reported on the “Zwift Tri-Battle Royale” between Lionel Sanders and Jan Frodeno which is set to take place on July 18. Now, with eight days to go before the race, the excitement is starting to ramp up for the event – a “head-to-head showdown” over the full distance – 3.8-km swim; 180-km bike; and 42.2-km run – in Allgäu, Germany.

Head to head stats favour Frodeno

If you just go by statistics, you’d be crazy to bet against Jan Frodeno, a three-time Ironman world champion, two-time Ironman 70.3 world champion and 2008 Olympic gold medalist. According to statistics from the Professional Triathletes Organisation site, the two have met at nine different races, with Frodeno winning seven of those. Only once has Sanders got across the line ahead of Frodeno – at the 2017 Ironman World Championship Sanders took second, while Frodeno ended up walking much of the marathon and finished 35th. The other time Frodeno didn’t win when the two were in the same race was at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship event in Mont-Tremblant, where the German took second to Javier Gomez, while the Canadian finished fourth.

The most recent meeting between the two was at Challenge Miami, where Frodeno dominated the race, swimming (20:18) and biking (1:21:45) faster than Sanders (22:26/ 1:22:39), while only running (53:47) 24 seconds slower (53:23).

In terms of overall times, Frodeno also gets the nod – he holds the record for the fastest ever full-distance race (Challenge Roth, 2016 – 7:35:39) and also holds the course record in Kona – he went 7:51:13 in 2019.

Sanders went 7:44:29 at Ironman Arizona in 2016, which was, for a time, the fastest time ever at an Ironman event. While he’s never had a faster swim than Frodeno in any of their races in the past, he has ridden faster at five of the nine events, and had a faster run split at two of the races.


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Sanders excited “to get back in there”

After a tough day at Ironman Coeur d’Alene where Sanders ran into nutrition issues, he appears to be in good spirits heading into the race in Germany. The Canadian thrives on competition, and has won some spectacular head-to-head races against the likes of Sebastian Kienle (Challenge Championship), Pablo Dapena (Challenge Daytona) and Sam Long (Ironman 70.3 North American Championship). Sanders has also bounced back from tough races in the past to post excellent results – that 7:44 in Arizona came a little over a month after a challenging day in Kona, where he finished 29th. No one is more aware of that than Frodeno. In an instagram exchange a couple of days ago Sanders joked that Frodeno had been “throwing shade” at his swim.

“I’d throw shade back but he’s pretty good at all 3 disciplines,” Sanders wrote. “He just better pray I don’t figure out the 4th!”

“There’s no doubt in my mind you will- I’m just trying to get to as many finish lines before as I can!” Frodeno replied.