Ironman Arizona Preview Kelly Gallagher November 15, 2013 Race Previews NB: Updated after Leanda Cave advised us she is not racing. Doing a late (North American) season Ironman and accumulating enough points early on to qualify for Kona is the trend with many pro triathletes. Once upon a time athletes would take an extended break after Kona and the fields at Ironman Florida and Arizona would be light on the heavy hitters. As the Kona Points Ranking system matures, it appears to be encouraging athletes to race early (and sometimes often) in hopes of either validating or securing a slot at the big show. At Ironman Florida just two weeks ago we saw a large field that included two top five finishers at Kona – Mirinda Carfrae and Yvonne Van Vlerken. The pattern is repeating at Ironman Arizona where three women who placed in the top 12 at Kona – Meredith Kessler (7th at Kona), Michele Vesterby (8th at Kona), and Amanda Stevens (11th at Kona) will toe the line in Tempe, Arizona on Sunday. Ironman Arizona features a fast and flat course including a smooth, albeit chilly, single loop swim in an irrigation canal, three loops of an almost completely flat bike course in the desert and three loops of a similarly flat run course along the banks of the irrigation canal. With the potential for some very fast times, there are several women vying for the top spot. In the mix will be the American Kessler. Kessler, the 2013 Champion at Ironman New Zealand, Vineman 70.3 and Lake Stevens 70.3, looks to be in good form after winning the Rev 3 Florida Half last weekend and is likely hungry for a win after being pipped at the line in Kona by Caitlin Snow for the honors as top American finisher. Last year Kessler came second to fellow Purple Patch team mate, Linsey Corbin, who has opted not to race in Arizona this year after coming 10th at Kona on limited run training, she is taking a break. Kessler knows how to back up from Kona at this event after doing it several times before. All-around performer and 2012 Ironman Lanzorote Champion, Vesterby, is one of the most underrated talents on the circuit, and she shouldn’t be. She flew well under the radar in the lead up to Kona this year, and pretty much matched Kessler on time over each discipline (with a slightly faster run split), and finishing less than a minute behind her in eighth place at the World Championships. Watch this pocket rocket – we have a feeling about this one. Super swimmer Stevens is the final athlete backing up from Kona who has made remarkable inroads over the iron-distance this past year. In Kona she was pipped at the post by Corbin and came in eleventh. Any of these four have the potential to take top honours on Sunday. The question is, who can back up from the World Champs the best? In addition to the Kona club there will be a trio of fast Europeans nipping at their heels. 2013 Ironman Lake Tahoe Champion Asa Lundstrom will be toeing the line and looking to secure her slice of the $75,000 prize purse. She will be joined by Julia Gajer (third place at Roth in 2013) and Diana Rielser (2013 winner of the ETU European Long Distance Challenge in Vichy), both of whom could run away with the victory. Finally in such a large field, there is the possibility for a dark horse to emerge and grab a spot on the podium. Given her recent performances, including second place at the 2013 Ironman Wisconsin, Beth Shutt is a name to watch. Start list: Pro Women Meredith Kessler (USA) Heleen Bij De Vaate (NED) Michelle Vesterby (DEN) Lisa Ribes (USA) Miranda Tomenson (CAN) Lisa Mueller (USA) Erin Young (USA) Stephanie Jones (USA) Camilla Lindholm (SWE) Kristin Lie (NOR) Asa Lundstrom (SWE) Beth Shutt (USA) Sarah Hankla (USA) Mackenzie Madison (USA) Nina Perkeman (ISR) Uli Bromme (USA) Jessica Meyers (USA) Julia Gajer (GER) Diana Riesler (GER) Kate Bruck (USA) Kristyn Tobey (USA) Morgan Chaffin (USA) Ann Ciaverella (USA) Sarah Baker (CAN) Sarah Piampiano (USA) Eimear Mullan (GBR) Julie Van Veelen (CAN) Sara Gross (CAN) Ariane Monticeli (BRA) Steffi Steinberg (GER) Christine Fletcher (CAN) Tine Holst (DEN) Trish Deim (USA) Katja Konschak (GER) Brooke Brown (CAN) Amanda Stevens (USA) Amy Forshaw (GBR) Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName Email Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.