2018 Kona Predictions
Well, we are coming up on the first full moon in October again. Time for me to push in all my chips and tell you who and how it will go down in Kona this year. Some years I nail it and others I’m way off, but it’s still fun to try and predict. As before, I’m not going to comment on every pro racing, but rather the story-lines I find interesting. With big names like Jan Frodeno and Ben Hoffman out the race (Along with Boris Stein and Terrenzo) seems up for grabs on the men’s side. On the women’s side, well, it should be an interesting race on the men’s side. I apologize if I didn’t mention your horse in this race. So Here goes…
Lange, Patrick DEU (Germany)– The defending champ, so an obvious favorite. I had a hunch good things were in order for him when he made the visit to Texas right before the race. This year will be different though as everyone will be planning for him. Only 5 men have been able to defend their title here (Dave, Mark, Tim, Crowie and Jan). The obligations that go along with the crown are many. It becomes quite a juggling act to get the same level of training in. He’s been strong this year, but hasn’t been able to pull off a single victory (not typical for a repeat). Hopefully he closed out the noise and got a good block of training in. If the winds are light on the bike though and the uber cyclists can’t get too far, then I can see a repeat, or at the worst, a podium.
Sanders, Lionel CAN (Canada) – I’ve gotten information from very credible sources and I still can’t put my finger on this guy. He likes to race and is willing to hurt, but he’s really hard to size up. He’s a slow swimmer but can ride like crazy and can run solid. If Amberger, Starykowicz and Gomez (and potentially O’Donnell) make a quick swim he might burn his matches just trying to catch up. I don’t see a repeat of last year as they will be looking for him, but I do see a top 5, or even 3 if he can get some time on the bike.
Kienle, Sebastian DEU (Germany) – My gut tells me this might be his year. Without Jan to counter, if the bike is tough and Kienle, Wurf and Starykowicz can stretch the field, he’ll be the only cyclist with the running legs to do it. Tough bike and he wins, easy bike and he’s top 5.
McNamee, David GBR (United Kingdom) – Third last year so I should have some comment, but I don’t. 17th at Austria. Some races that were DNS. A website that hasn’t been updated in a year. Your guess is as good as mine.
Gomez Noya, Javier ESP (Spain) – The giant wildcard of this race. All eyes will be on him. 8 World titles including 2 at the 70.3 distance. Other pros in the race are calling him the best ever. He’s got the pedigree and the temperament. My hesitation is his only full was in better conditions and he just sat in on the bike (apparently that’s a bit of a habit of his). If he gets left alone and exposed on this course, he’s going pay. If the bike is contained then I could see him win it. With his swim speed though expect to see him leading on the way to Hawi until Starykowicz pulls away.
Amberger, Josh AUS (Australia) – Maybe a top 10 or 15, but I think he has the swim ability to ruin some top contenders day. If he pushes the swim and Gomez, Starykowicz and other strong swimmers go with him, he might just take out the slower swimmers in the process.
Van Lierde, Frederik BEL (Belgium)– Former Champion. This guy is like your dad’s car that you borrowed in high school. It wasn’t crazy fast but it always worked and never faltered when you borrowed it for a date. If the race gets messy he will rise to the podium. If the hot rods in the race hold it together then he’ll be top 10 again (10th 2016). Too much younger talent though to see him win it all again.
Potts, Andy USA (United States of America) – It’s a victory lap of sorts. He’s 41. Hope to see him up front in the water, but that’s about it. If it’s a great day he might crack the top 10. I’d bet his next Kona will involve a microphone and not a bike.
Wurf, Cameron AUS (Australia) – Former Olympic rower, former professional cyclist. HUGE ENGINE. Broke the bike course record last year. Not a great runner or a great swimmer. I’ve seen his stroke, and he will be behind out of the water. Last year it was 5 minutes. I’d guess the same this year. If it’s a tough bike ride we will see him tear up the course again. If he’s improved his run though, I’ll expect his bike to be slower. Overall I see him a non issue. If he takes the lead at all, it will be very late on the bike and then get gobbled up on the run before the turnaround on Alii.
Hanson, Matt USA (United States of America) – Matt won on his adopted home turf again this year at Ironman Texas. He’s proven that he can finish strong in the heat. What he hasn’t done is put it together for a strong Kona finish. I’m cheering for him so I may be a little biased, but I think if he gets out of the water not too far behind and the winds on the bike are light, I can see a podium. He was a little thinner this year at Texas, but apparently not too thin, so perhaps this will help his powerful run. He prepped in Kansas with Rinny and O’Donnell and the gang. We are all about to find out if that was a good idea.
Skipper, Joe GBR (United Kingdom) – I’m a Skipper fan. Got to know him a little when he came down to do Ironman Texas and went on a run with him. Has a pretty large Strava following. This year he did his heat preparation down in San Diego though. Now, this might seem like heat training for someone living in the UK, but for the rest of us, 80 degrees and no humidity is where we go to ESCAPE the heat. So I would expect Joe to catch a nasty sunburn by Pay’n’Save Hill on the way out to the Energy Lab and begin to wither. If the bike went well then maybe he hangs on to a top 10.
Starykowicz, Andrew USA (United States of America) – I love when Starky is in the race because he makes no bones that he is looking to destroy you on the bike. I’d bet there’s a bit of a chip on his shoulder too. After coming back from a major life threatening crash, he went sub 4 on the bike at Texas. Then everyone bitched that it was only 110 miles but keep their mouth shut that Challenge Roth is 108. So I hope that it’s a really tough day on the bike for him and he builds a 10 minute lead, only to walk it in. He also came back to Hippie Hollow and had a beer with us after his race, so I’m a fan.
McKenzie, Luke AUS (Australia) – I sort of feel like Luke is more of a brand now than a top contender. He makes me want to bleach my hair and go surfing for some reason. At 37 he’s got a couple more good ones in him, I just haven’t seen anything this year that says it will be this time. Top 15.
O’Donnell, Tim USA (United States of America) – Not sure about Tim. He is in a whole new world as a dad. My gut tells me we won’t see him on camera and may sneak a top 12. New focus in his life. But you never know. Fathers have won this race before.
Brown, Cameron NZL (New Zealand) – Cam is like the modern day Scott Tinley. Dude just keeps on going. His last podium here was 13 years ago. I roomed with him once and he kept playing ‘Come On Barbie Girl’ before the race. Super nice guy. I think he’s 46 now. Crazy. He’ll get to the awards dinner at 4pm and tell the other pro’s to get off his lawn.
Don, Tim GBR (United Kingdom) – Had a horrific crash last year before this race. I don’t see him on the podium, but $1,000 says he will be one of the special interest stories on the NBC broadcast.
Tough Bike Conditions:
Easy Bike Conditions
Ryf, Daniela CHE (Switzerland) – Unless something crazy happens, she will win. She will be racing toe to toe with the Elephant in the Room right up to the finish, but no one will mention a word about it.
The Elephant in the Room – Will be a factor all day, but no one will talk about it. Won’t even be mentioned at the awards ceremony.
Charles, Lucy GBR (United Kingdom)– If anyone can ruin Ryf’s day, it’s Lucy. Her swim will stretch out the field and could create some real problems for Ryf if she’s having an off day. 2nd place all by herself.
Crowley, Sarah AUS (Australia) – Third last year and third this year in Frankfurt behind Ryf and Sarah True, but was almost a half hour behind off the bike and Sarah carved 10 out of her on the run. Unless she has a different gear in the heat I see her in a clump with the others in the top ten.
Jackson, Heather USA (United States of America)– I really like her enthusiasm and personality, but if I’m reading between the lines, her swim hasn’t improved. So if Lucy stretches the field, then Heather will play chase the whole day when she gets out of the water 10 minutes down. Top 5 if the bike course is windy. Really hope someone tells her to lose that flat bill from 2011.
True, Sarah USA (United States of America) – Super interested to see how she does. She should that the swim speed to get out close to the front. Ryf ripped about 25 minutes into her on the bike at Frankfurt, so I don’t see a bid for victory, but she will make it interesting in the top 10.
Carfrae, Mirinda AUS (Australia)– A mom has never won this race. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but it’s really hard when your priorities shift so much and so fast. I think Rinny can run to a podium though, so 3rd place is where I see her get to VERY late in the race.
McCauley, Jocelyn USA (United States of America)– Sentimental favorite. 10th last year. I think if she puts it together she will easily be in the top 10 again regardless of conditions. I’m just not sure if she’ll be able to crack the top 5 with the athletes that are here. I’ll pick 7th, but hoping for a breakthrough top 5.
Vesterby, Michelle DNK (Denmark)– Everytime I make a comment about someone’s appearance, you people sent me pics of that person at their worst. Puking after a race, in a hospital bed, whatever. So all I will say is I think top 8 is very doable and I hope she gets lots of tv time!
Brandon, Lauren USA (United States of America) – Great swimmer, and strong cyclist. I expect her to use those two strengths to ruin some people’s race, potentially including her own. If she can get out with Lucy and then raise hell, there could be some slow swimmer/fast runner types who never bridge the gap. She won’t finish in the top ten.
Naeth, Angela USA (United States of America) – Due to a course mistake in Europe, a few pros got DQ’d which gave Angela enough points to get in. She was like the alternate in an Olympic final. Got lucky and is now in. I don’t think she’ll stay at the bottom though. She won Ironman Texas not too long ago, and it was a hot day. She’s had some health issues (Lyme Disease) so I don’t expect to see her former self, but I do expect to see her in the first group of women in the last 30 miles of the bike. Top 10 if she’s having a great day.