Without Chrissie Wellington in the mix, the women’s race in Kona is up for grabs with so many strong women looking for the win. Kevin Mackinnon does a great job of outlining the top contenders which includes most women on the list (as does Tim Carlson on Slowtwitch). I do agree that Caroline Steffen is the women to beat and the one who is most comparable to Wellington herself, even coached by Brett Sutton on Team TBB. One former Team TBB member that 2 years ago was said to be able to beat Chrissie is Bek Keat. Bek’s new coach Siri Lindley is a natural progression away from Team TBB as Lindley was also coached by Sutton and follows many of the same principles. Bek had an injurious start to the season, but when in good form, which she appears to be now, she will be at the sharp end of the bike with perhaps a more solid run than Steffen. A few weeks ago on her video-log Bek said, “Gonna get on the bloody podium even if it almost kills me.” And you can bet she’s going to do everything to make that happen.
If I’m honest here, I thought when Mirinda Carfrae stepped away from coach Lindley last year, it was just sour grapes from a hard-fought but disappointing 2nd place to Wellington. But I’ve come to learn that Carfrae, having lost similarly on the bike the way Crowie took 4th to Macca in 2010, has teamed up with Mat Steinmetz as her fitter and coach. Mat was the one who last year helped transform Crowie into a front pack rider while not taking away from his run. If Rinny has been able to transform her bike, there is no doubt that this gritty performer will do everything she can to take the win.
You can’t call Jo Lawn a Dark Horse with 6 top-10 Kona performances, but the women won’t be looking at her for as a top 3 contender, although she’s had a stellar season culminating in a 5th place in Las Vegas last month. Her run was 2nd only to Kelly Williamson (who took 2nd) and with a strong bike and understanding of the course, she is a definite threat.
What’s going to matter on race day is the run and how far away the women are from 1st off the bike. And after a hard bike, who can best hold it together on the marathon. We know that Carfrae can, but who else will be making the charge. And it will be great to see if the group will push each other enough to let everyone know how close would they be if Chrissie Wellington was in the race.