Frankfurt anyone? There’s always great stories about Ironman Frankfurt. Many people rave about the crowds that line the course from start to finish, a certain ambiance around the finish line which takes place in the Romerberg and the depth of the pro field. Frankfurt is one of only four championships events under the WTC tiered system – European Champs (the others are Melbourne – Asia Pacific; New York – USA; and Kona – World) and therefore winning this event is highly regarded and comes with a big pay day and big Kona ranking points – $US25,000 and 4000 points for the winner.
 

A big feature of these championships events is the depth of competitors and the closeness of racing.  All the girls will be racing to win and I am personally excited about the battle that will unfold. Some of the best cyclists in triathlon are here and the battle of the bike will be a feature of this event and may ultimately decide the winner. 2011 winner, Caroline Steffen is back to defend her title and after her win in Ironman Melbourne (with a world record on the bike leg), she is my favorite to win.  The main challenges should come from multiple Ironman Champion and super biker Heather Wurrtele, Abu Dhabi champion, Nikki Butterfield from Australia, Yvonne Van Vlerken who came fourth last year, Sofie Goos who was back on top of the podium at Ironman Brazil for the first time since 2009, and the ever consistent Dr Amanda Stevens from the USA, who you can almost guarantee will be out of the water first.

 

Caroline Steffen is sure to be a favourite to take the win this year, you can’t deny it with her 2012 results. She placed 3rd at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, came and blew everyone away in Melbourne at the Asia Pacific Championships, riding herself into the record books with a record bike split and not far off Chrissie Wellington’s World Record, and a strong win at the very tough Koh Samui long course. Steffen should have a strong bike on the Frankfurt course and prove she’s a force to be reckoned with. I would love to see Stefen win here and then look to win in New York and Kona to be the first person to hold the titles of all four majors, our first Grand Slam Champion!
 
Heather Wurtele placed 2nd at 70.3 New Orleans earlier this year and was on her way to a win recently at Ironman Coeur D’alene when she was contraversially disqualified. “I was pulled out of IM Coeur d’Alene at mile 21 of the run (while in 2nd) b/c I rode another athlete’s wee bike back to T2 after my crank arm fell off and I couldn’t get any assistance.” Wurtele says (to read more about this incident, click here – Ed). Surely she has some fire in the belly and is ready for a hard hit out at Ironman Frankfurt. Wurtele is a very strong cyclist and runs well off the bike, especially on more challenging bike courses. 
 
The sole Australian representative is Nikki Butterfield who has had a big season already. Perhaps the most impressive result is a win at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon in a time of 7:00:22. With a course covered in snow and freezing temperatures, Boise 70.3 was modified to 1.2-mile swim, a shortened bike of 12-miles and a 13.1-mile run and Butterfield flew into 3rd place. Just two weeks later she placed 3rd again at 70.3 Syracuse. With only two weeks since that race it will be very interesting to see if Butterfield can back up at double the distance. She has raced the Ironman distance in the past but not for many years. She’s certainly a strong cyclist so it’s going to be great to watch the race unfold.
 
Dr Amanda Stevens has had a quiet start to the season by her standards. Stevens led out of the water in Kona last year but illness saw her fall through the field. She showed her class and battled home through adversity to finish at her first attempt at Kona. I was expecting big things from Amanda at Ironman Melbourne, but again she fell ill in the lead up and was not able to start. She roared back onto the radar last month winning Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs Lake with a wire to wire performance.  Amanda was also third at Ironman 70.3 Florida in May. She should easily lead out of the water and has a strong bike leg. 
 
Sofie Goos, won at Ironman Brazil this year with the only sub-5hr bike split. Goos had to pull out of Kona last year with a back injury, and hadn’t been on the number step of the podium since Florida 2009. So she is well and truly back in flying form.
 
Others to watch include former Iron-distance World Record holder Yvonne VanVlerken who placed fourth here last year, only 3:30 behind the winner, Steffen. She came second at Texas 70.3 earlier this year and has had gun cyclist, Chris Lieto tinkering with her bike fit earlier this year as well. Germans Anja Beranek, Susan Dietrich and Mareen Hufe will also be lining up for the European Championship race.
 
With a line up like this, expect super fast bike times and some close finishes. If you’re sitting up late watching Le Tour make sure you also have the live tracker going on Ironman.com  because you are in for some exciting racing. There is always a twist and unexpected turn and Ironman Frankfurt will no doubt throw something unexpected at us.  Bring it on girls… Let the race begin!

 
 
Meg Gillmer (Gillmergirl.com)

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