Looking forward to the 70.3 Championships in Chattanooga

In addition to the ratings for full-distance races, I’ve started to collect and analyze results for “half-distance” races. The most important race on this distance is the “70.3 World Championships”. After being held in Clearwater, Florida from 2006 to 2010 and Henderson, Nevada for three years, the race venue has been changing each year. Last year it was held in Mooloolaba, Australia, this year’s edition will be a two-day event in Chattanooga, TN before it moves to Port Elizabeth in South Africa for next year.

Roughly five months before the race in Chattanooga, this post has a look at some of the athletes we can expect to play a major role in September. The Northern Hemisphere racing is just starting to pick up, so there may be new names coming to the front or established athletes changing their focus. For example, at the start of last season hardly anyone would have picked Holly Lawrence for a top finish at 70.3 Worlds, but then she had a string of good results over the summer and went on to win the 2016 70.3 World Championships. My friends at TriZone will be posting previews for the big 70.3 races using some of my data, have a look at their site as the season progresses!

Male Contenders for the 2017 Title

There’s a pretty big group of established 70.3 racers with excellent winning chances:

  • Sebastian Kienle (23% winning chance)
    Of course the 2012 and 2013 Champion has to be considered as one of the top favorites. But in the last years the 70.3 Champs have “only” been a stepping stone for Sebi to bigger goals in October.
  • Lionel Sanders (16%)
    Lionel has been racing extremely well over the 70.3 distance, but so far a podium at the 70.3 Worlds has eluded him. For 2017 he chose to focus on improving his swim so he has a reasonable to overcome the dynamics of the big fields that made it extremely hard in Mooloolaba to catch up to the main group. He has also said that he will not race Kona and will have the 70.3 Champs as his main focus for the season.
  • Terenzo Bozzone (14%)
    The 2008 Champion continues to race well on the 70.3 distance but it seems that he shifted his focus to the full distance. But he’s an experienced athlete that is still able to mix it up with the best on the half-distance.
  • Ruedi Wild (14%)
    Ruedi was 3rd at the 2016 Champs and has continued to win races even against strong competition. Even though he hasn’t won a big title yet, he should be considered for more than “just” a podium finish.
  • Javier Gomez (12%)
    By winning the title in 2014, Javier has shown that he’ll be a top contender when he decides to focus on the longer distances. It’s not clear if that’s his plan for the 2017 season as he’d love to contend for the ITU World title – and the Chattanooga race is just one week before the ITU Grand Final in Rotterdam. If he’s still in contention for the ITU title, I expect him to skip 70.3 Worlds this season. If he isn’t, he’ll be hard to ignore.
  • Tim Reed (8%)
    Winning the 2016 title in his home country was an emotional highlight for Tim Reed – and quite a surprise.  A successful title defense is probably even more unexpected.
Some other names:
  • Tim Don (4%)
    Tim focuses his racing on the 70.3 distance and is extremely successful. But he might lack just the last 1% of top speed to contend for the title in the stacked field I expect in Chattanooga.
  • Sam Appleton (3%)
    “Appo” has been steadily improving and after a 5th place in 2016, he’ll be eying the podium in 2017.
  • Andy Potts (3%)
    Andy continues to race well but seeing him repeat his 2007 title would be a huge upset. He’s likely focusing on racing well in Kona.
Some notable athletes are missing above because they have no recent 70.3 results (and therefore no winning probability):
  • Jan Frodeno
    Jan hasn’t finished a 70.3 for more than a year – and it’s unclear if he decides to tackle qualifying for Chattanooga. He has shown in 2016 that his main focus will be on defending his title in October and that he will sacrifice other goals for this.
  • Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee
    There has been speculation that the Brownlees will be moving to longer distances – if they decide to do so they’ll be immediately “short listed” for the title. However, it’s unclear if this will happen in 2017 or later. Alistair is on a few start lists for half-distance races so there seems to be a good chance to see him race in Chattanooga.

Female Contenders for the 2017 Title

While there are easily four or more male contenders for the 70.3 title, it looks as if there are two clear front runners on the female side:

  • Holly Lawrence (45% winning chance)
    Holly was the dominating 70.3 athlete of 2016, winning a couple of big races over the summer and also capturing the title with a strong swim/bike combo. Her win at the early season race in Oceanside has shown that she’s able to race at a similar level in 2017.
  • Daniela Ryf (28%)
    The 2016 70.3 Champs was the first race that Daniela was not able to win since her Kona debut in 2014. As usual she’ll have a big racing schedule over the summer (including a rumored world record attempt in Roth), and Chattanoga may be in the middle of a big Kona training block – similar to last year when she didn’t appear to be 100% fresh for Mooloolaba.
However, this does not mean that one of these two will automatically win the title, there are a lot of other athletes to consider. Just a few examples:
  • Melissa Hauschildt (10%)
    Mel has won the title in 2011 and 2013 and was the runner up in 2016. If she’s healthy, she is one of the few that’s able to beat Daniela and Holly.
  • Heather Wurtele (3%)
    Heather has been on the podium for the last three years and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her extend that streak. But in past 70.3 Championship races she had to make up too much time after the swim to be in contention for the title.
There are a lot more athletes that wouldn’t be a big surprise to make it onto the podium when they are healthy and decide to put a focus on 70.3 Worlds: Helle Frederiksen, Angela Naeth, Heather Jackson, Meredith Kessler, Ellie Salthouse, Annabel Luxford just to name a few.
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