Only a fool would bet against Craig Alexander being at the top of the podium in Kona this coming Saturday. Crowie is arguably the most prepared man for the day but he is going to be pressed by Macca, who says he’s got nothing to lose; the Raelert brothers have been looking for the day when both of them will be on top of the world stage; Andy Potts, who will come out of the water ahead and then has been focused all year on not letting go of that lead on the bike; Faris Al Sutan cannot be discounted either, at 33 he is primed for another top race and although he’s been quiet during the later part of the season, do not be lulled into thinking this German is only a winner past his prime; Mario Vanhoenacker has posted some of the fasted times in Ironman ever and has timed his season so he can peak on Saturday and not fade as he did last year, perhaps with too much pressure for a podium finish; and then there’s Rasmus Henning with his last race before retirement which will give him some motivation to go out with a bang.
There are so many great contenders this year, as always, and the race could potentially be another in record-breaking time. Without Chris Lieto, Lance Armstrong and Maik Twelsiek in the race to push the pace on the bike and blow things apart as Norman Stadler once did, we will likely see bunches of men in packs trying to break away and many of these men (Macca, Pete Jacobs, Crowie, the Raelerts, Henning Potts, along with a few others) also have strong runs in their back pockets. This race is going to come down the final miles of the run out of the ever challenging and brutally hot Energy Lab, the place that breaks many athletes.
Matt Lieto gave his predictions for Kona in Lava Magazine last month. I’m predicting the battle for 1-2 will be Macca and Crowie with 3rd place to one of the Raelerts. But indeed that sounds way too predictable because we all know that things may change. Rest and recovery are paramount this week to put every last bit of energy in favor for the best race. We all remember 2 years ago when Chrissie Wellington had to withdraw due to illness and bike mechanicals change the race dynamics in an instant, along with Madam Pele’s whim.
Who do you think will be at the top of the podium on the men’s side? Who is going to surprise the field and push the pace on the bike? Do you think Macca sandbagged his qualifying Ironman just so that no one really knows what kind of Ironman shape he’s in? I’m so excited I can hardly stand it — one day I’m going back to Kona to watch in person!