St. George, Iconic Race and a Look Into the Future; Coloradans do Well!

By Bill Plock

The authentic joy Lucy Charles Barclay beamed to the world the second she broke the tape is something I’ll never forget. It gave me goosebumps and seemed deep seated, especially as she came to hug her husband with tears running down her face. I have never seen or felt such happiness.

Barclay, like all the athletes battled very unusual weather with a down pour of rain and hail and lightening that threatened the race. With a Barclay comfortably in the lead all day, she knew she was having “a day” and said at the press conference recalling her thoughts, “they better not cancel this race!” 

Gustav Iden of Norway didn’t quite lead the entire way but went to the front of the pack on the bike part way through and never looked back. Fellow countryman and gold medalist Kristian Blummenfelt was in that lead group when he suffered a serious mechanical failure with his wheel and fell out of contention. Boulder’s Sam Long, with a solid swim battled hard to ride into second place never did catch Iden. Iden won by 5 minutes retaining his World Champion status he gained after winning in Nice in 2019. 

The second place finishes for Long and another Boulder resident, Jeanni Metzler may be a glimpse into the future of the sport.  Just two years ago Long finish 26 minutes back and has kept a poster of Nice in his “pain cave” as motivation ever since. Metzler has been climbing the ranks and finished 3rd in Boulder a few weeks ago behind Taylor Knibb and Emma Palant Brown, but in St. George she beat both of them. 

Metzler passed Knibb just a few minutes out saying later, “I didn’t want a sprint finish with Taylor as I don’t think that would’ve gone well.” Knibb finished about 30 seconds back and the two training partners and friends shared exuberant hugs in the finish area . 

It felt like the finish area was filled with camaraderie and respect unlike any race I had seen before. This wasn’t “new blood” so to speak, but in way it felt like a new group of champions and future champions were making their mark in St. George. At the press conference, the top five male and female finishers all were under the age of 28. It’s a young group who genuinely seem to enjoy each other. 

Of the ten, eight raced together at the Collins Cup just four weeks prior. When asked if that played into the feeling of camaraderie, Sam Long said, “I do think we all got to know each other there. It also could be because we are all pretty young, it was a bit of a different atmosphere. And I also think the sport is changing, where you can talk smack but in a friendly way and at the end everyone knows it is for fun.”

Besides Coloradans, Long, Metzler and Knibb, several age group athletes made it in the top five. In no particular order. Colleen D’Reuck, Diana Hassel, Mike Wein, Eric Long (Sam’s dad), and Sandi Wiebe. 

So what about Kona maybe moving to St. George? 

St. George is an iconic venue with massive hills to run up and down. And the ride up Snow Canyon provides a separation point (along with an amazing picturesque backdrop) just before athletes start their run. There is speculation that the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona will move in the future and St. George seems primed to be a top choice. It has all the features that make a world championship course with hills, weather exposure, and a welcoming community and a downtown finish with plenty of potential to the house larger crowds seen in Kona. It is certainly more accessible than Kona and far less expensive for athletes, spectators and industry supporters. 

Sand Hollow reservoir is great for the swim with plenty of room for transition. In Kona the iconic pier is busting at the seams with room (barely) for 1,800 athletes. In St. George 4,200 athletes competed. Undoubtedly the age group women probably don’t love the current format with the last group starting their swim at almost 10 o’clock. In normal years that would force them to be running at the hottest part of the day. This year, some had to be pulled out of the water with the rare thunderstorm that rolled through. 

In previous years, the 70.3 Championship features two days of racing—one for the men and one for the women. In St. George that seems a difficult task with races not generally taking place on Sundays in Utah. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future. Next year the 70.3 Championship will return to St. George along with a full distance race in June. We shall see!

But for now, the young group of pro’s stole the show and perhaps this race will serve as a springboard for future success for all of these athletes as they scatter into the world doing more races. In fact, watch this coming weekend in Chattanooga where Sam Long will attempt defend his title as champion and battle rival Lionel Sander—keep an eye on that!

Preview of the Showdown in St. George at IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships

By Bill Plock

303 is heading to St. George to bring you in-person coverage of the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships. With no Kona this year, all eyes are on the desert of southwest Utah. With a hilly run course, fast bike and a predicted temperature near 100 degrees, the real sizzle isn’t the rubber meeting the road, it’s the clash of top triathletes on heels of the Collins Cup that has no doubt sparked some rivalries.

In the women’s field in particular, the match up of Daniela Ryf and Taylor Knibb seems most intriguing. At the Collins Cup they went head to head and Knibb had the biggest victory of the day of all athletes crushing Daniela by double digit minutes. But Daniela reportedly wasn’t feeling her best and we all know of the four time IRONMAN World Champion capabilities. No doubt she is looking for some revenge. Obviously as the championship, the field is stacked. Maybe there is a chink in Ryf’s armor? Maybe not, but Lucy Charles, Ellie Salthouse, Sky Moench, Paula Findlay and Jeanni Metzler, all with great races in Slovakia could be in the mix at the end. No doubt there are others like Holly Lawrence who crashed in the Collins Cup could fight for the podium.

The mens field offers similar drama with Sam Long, the top ranked American and one of the favorites will have stiff competition from Lionel Sanders, Gustav Iden and fellow Norwegian and Olympic Gold Medalist Kristian Blummenfelt. Last May, Long and Sanders battled shoulder to shoulder in St. George and the two have had some fun social media banter in the last 12 months. After the race in May, Long said he knew he could take advantage of the downhill with his long stride and he did so almost winning so it will be interesting to see what happens. 

The Norwegians are going to be tough to beat. Both Iden and Blummenfelt have had fantastic seasons. Iden handedly won his race in Slovakia and Blummenfelt has focused on training for St. George since winning Olympic gold. With no Jan Frodeno, putting odds on this race is challenging. There are many podium worthy contenders like Chris Leiferman, Rudy Von Berg, Alistair Brownlee, Ben Kanute, Javier Gomez, Sam Appleton and maybe a dark horse to watch is Collin Chartier from Louisville, Colorado. 

Collin was a guest this past week on the 303Endurance Podcast and talked about his experience at the Collins Cup and his preparation for St. George. He has had a breakthrough season and narrowly finished second in his race in Slovakia. If he hadn’t had some stomach issues, he may have won. He is doing some special preparations on his bike with shorter cranks and gear ratios designed to open his hips for a faster run in St. George. Have a listen here to learn more: https://303endurance.libsyn.com/collin-chartier-collins-cup-recap

Off to the desert, stay tuned! 

Ironman World Championships Cancelled, Hope to Hold in Fall 2021

TAMPA, Fla. (July 21, 2020) – IRONMAN today announced that, due to the continued impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the 2020 editions of the IRONMAN® World Championship and IRONMAN®70.3® World Championship have been cancelled. The IRONMAN World Championship will return to Kailua-Kona, Hawai`i on October 9, 2021 and the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship will return on September 17 and 18, 2021 and take place in St. George, Utah, United States. IRONMAN is working to secure Taupō, New Zealand as the host destination for the 2022 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship.
 
As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact events around the world, both world championship events have seen a majority of their respective qualifying events postponed or unable to take place in 2020, impeding the ability to qualify athletes for the respective 2020 world championship events. Based on the schedule, the continuation of existing travel restrictions worldwide, and other circumstances beyond our control, IRONMAN’s world championship events cannot proceed as rescheduled.
 
“It is with a heavy heart that we have made the decision to cancel the 2020 editions of the IRONMAN World Championship and IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship. While we were hopeful that we could welcome our athletes, their families, and supporters to these events in early 2021, the continued impact of the pandemic makes this impossible. It is tough to make this decision in July, but it will provide the necessary clarity for our athletes, host cities and partners,” said Andrew Messick, President & Chief Executive Officer for The IRONMAN Group. “It is disappointing not to be able to provide our racing community with the opportunity to compete in the IRONMAN World Championship for the first time in our 43 year history and our IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship for the first time since inception in 2006. We will endure, however, and look forward to the day when we will again assemble the greatest professional and age-group triathletes in the world and crown world champions.”
 
Athletes who qualified for the 2020 editions of the IRONMAN World Championship and IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship event will be contacted directly. They will have the opportunity to race in the 2021 or 2022 editions of the respective World Championships.
 
In June, IRONMAN announced a new IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship qualifying method for athletes. The HOKA ONE ONE IRONMAN® Virtual Racing™ Championship Series is a four-weekend long regulated age-group competition designed to reward top-performing athletes with IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship qualifying slots. Athletes who earned qualifying slots, via that Championship Series, will now receive slots to the 2021 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship taking place in St. George, Utah, United States on Sept. 17 and 18, 2021.
 
Looking Forward
St. George enters an elite group of destinations around the world bestowed with the honor of hosting the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship. The event originated in Clearwater, Florida in 2006 and moved to Henderson, Nevada (2011-13) prior to embarking on a global annual rotation that began with Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, Canada (2014). Each year since, it has reached new locations all over the world, including Zell am See-Kaprun, SalzburgerLand, Austria (2015); Mooloolaba, Queensland, Australia (2016); Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States (2017); and Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa (2018). In 2019, the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship took place in beautiful Nice, France. In 2021 the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship rotates back to North America for the first time since 2017.
 
The striking Southwestern community of St. George has been a host venue for IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 triathlons since 2010. St. George’s breathtaking scenery and views of the surrounding red rock canyons have made the community an ideal destination for athletes for years. The city’s walkable downtown area features great local fare and boutique shopping. It is also only a two-hour drive from the nightlife of Las Vegas, with its never-ending entertainment options. The course has historically begun in the beautiful Sand Hollow Reservoir before embarking on a bike course through picturesque Snow Canyon State Park prior to a run through the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. The IRONMAN 70.3 North American Pro Championship St. George also earned accolades in the 2018 IRONMAN Athlete Choice awards, ranking in the Top 10 for two categories – fifth in Best Overall Bike and ninth in Overall Host City Experience. In 2019 IRONMAN 70.3 St. George ranked in top-10 globally in two categories of the IRONMAN Athlete Choice award – ninth for Overall Bike and eighth for Overall Venue Experience.
 
“Since the inception of rotating the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship to premier destinations around the globe each year, IRONMAN has created an inspirational event unlike any other. We are excited to  be part of the prestigious and elite community of world championship host cities, and to represent the world as we welcome the world championship athletes back,” said Kevin Lewis, Director of the Greater Zion Convention & Tourism Office. “Our course showcases some of the most dramatic landscapes of any IRONMAN 70.3 circuit globally. The powerful combination of scenery and terrain is backed up by an energetic community that is exhilarated to host such an iconic event. Athletes who have raced here rave about the experience. Those who haven’t will soon find out why.”
 

Busy Tri Weekend! From Worlds to Wisconsin to Grand Junction and Avon, Standifer 2nd at Worlds!

By Bill Plock

Coloradans were all over the world this weekend, competing in the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships in France, to IRONMAN Wisconsin to three different multisport festivals in Colorado– Grand Junction, Avon and Loveland (Boyd Lake).

Boulder’s Rudy Von Berg took 3rd overall in Nice at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships (article here). In the age group category, Boulder’s Caitlin Standifer took 2nd in her 30-34 age group and locals Molly Smith and Elise Lagerstrom cracked the top 100 overall in France.

Locally, the 8th annual Deserts Edge Triathlon Festival took place in Grand Junction offering everything from off-road triathlon, to a road sprint, olympic distances a SUP category, runs only and just about any category possible. All the results found HERE

In Avon, the Avon Fest coupled with the Major League Triathlon offered both amateur and professional triathletes a chance to compete in draft legal and non-draft legal events. 303’s Rich Soares covered the event saying, “Multisport, mountains and music – Avon Fest has it all! The Major League Triathlon features a variety of fast pace racing throughout the weekend. This year saw the additional an age-group non-draft Sprint to the line up of draft legal races, mixed-team-relays, beer mile and 5k. The short formats and course designs made for exciting racing and spectating. Avon’s weather and breathtaking scenery make this a great time of year to race during the day and enjoy live music in the park at night.”

In Loveland, Breakaway Athletic Events’, held the first ever Boyd Lake Bash and gave athletes all kinds of options including a kids race and even a Zumba class.

In Wisconsin, Colorado’s Tim Hola got 3rd in the 45-49 category and 27th overall while his dad Ken, won his 75-79 age category! Well known Denver triathlete Todd Lytle completed his 13th Ironman giving him a legacy entry to the 2020 IRONMAN World Championships in Kona. Boulder’s Lauren Vallee punched a ticket there as well by qualifying in Wisconsin and placed 2nd in her age group.

Congrats to all!

Boulder’s Von Berg Takes 3rd at IRONMAN 70.3 Championship

Having grown up training on the roads in-and-around Nice, Von Berg had the home turf advantage, knowing exactly when to attack. Iden, an experienced biker and ITU athlete, was calculating his moment at the same time and passed Kanute for second place as positions changed frequently into Col de Vance. While Brownlee was looking comfortable into the climb, Von Berg saw his opportunity and made a sensational charge for the lead on the descent at about 60km – surprising Brownlee and Iden with the bold move. Von Berg’s gusto paid off as he held off Brownlee, Iden and Kanute to enter Transition 2 in first place with a bike split of 02:17:24, the fastest of any pro on the day.

Having entered T2 with only seconds separating them, the race was on between Von Berg, Brownlee, and Iden. It was a battle of will and skill as the leaders ran nearly side-by-side for the first 6km – Brownlee pushed hard to gain ground, however he could never truly get away from Iden who stayed close and made his pass just before the 6km mark to take the lead of the race. The pro male chase pack led by Von Berg was approximately 01:24 behind at 6km, but the energy expended on the bike course was starting to show as his pace slowed. While Brownlee worked hard to stay with Iden, the Norwegian’s speed in the sweltering conditions was too much to beat. Iden cruised to victory in 03:52:35, putting nearly three minutes between him and his closest rival. Brownlee finished second in 03:55:19, while Von Berg claimed the last step on the podium in 03:56:45 to the delight of locals.