2017 Kona Predictions
It’s that time of year again. The big race in Kona is Saturday, so in what has turned into a tradition, here are some fearless predictions. This year doesn’t have the build up of rivalries that other years have. Heck, in the women’s race it’s downright boring. So here are some selected predictions for some of the athletes this weekend.
1 Jan Frodeno (GER) – Until about 2 days ago, I had a hard time seeing a situation where Jan gets beat. Still do. But then I saw Jan in some Kona pictures, and my mind was changed . The guy has lost some weight, and it looks like it could be too much. Thomas Hellriegel had a similar fate. The German was unstoppable in the ’90’s, until he came to Kona too skinny and what looked to be a little frail. He lost some strength with that weight and got beat. Is Jan overtrained or are we about to see records broken? There’s a razors edge between those 2 statements so it could go either way. I’m not sure, but if you see him walking at mile 19, you heard it here first. If he is in top form though, I don’t think we will see a real challenge to the throne until Javier Gomez enters the mix or Patrick Lange gets a little faster on the bike.
2 Sebastian Kienle (GER) – If Jan falters then Sebi has a sold shot at victory, but he will have company. Sebi’s challenge like always is that swim. He needs to not lose too much time in the water, or cook himself trying to keep up. People don’t fear him like a few years back
3 Benjamin Hoffman (USA) – The Hoff has a legit shot at the crown if he races smart and Jan falters. Trying to take off with the uber bikers may end his day.
5 Patrick Lange (GER) – I was lucky enough to drink a beer and chat briefly with Patrick in his Texas pit stop. Dude looks relaxed and healthy. He’s shown that he can run through a field, so I can see him as a legitimate challenge to win on Saturday. If he is on and starts running through people, then Jan better be firing on all cylinders or he’s going to get caught.
6 Timothy O’Donnell (USA) – He’s been my pick for the win on a few occasions, but there are 2 big things that can kill a career in this sport. Marriage and Kids. He married inside the sport so that didn’t change a thing, but those two just had a child. and as we all know, kids change everything. There’s a good chance that his focus is changing rapidly. I’ll give it a top ten finish at best.
7 Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) – I don’t see it. He’ll be at the pointy end of the spear most of the day, but top 7 is where I see it. Solid and strong, but not on the podium.
9 Tim Don (GBR)– Crazy fast this year in South America….on a crazy fast course. Good conditions here get him on the podium. Tough day on the lava and it gets him 9th.
10 Boris Stein (GER): Last years fastest bike split. He looks super healthy this year, so I can see another top bike ride, but needs to get out of the water closer to the leaders so that bike isn’t just negating his swim, but rather punishing the field. A calm ocean could swing a lot of results around.
11 Pete Jacobs (AUS) – No man has ever had a 5 year hiatus between wins. Those who had wins 5 years apart were Mark Allen, Dave Scott and Peter Reid, and they had more wins during those 5 years. Enough said.
12 Matthew Hanson (USA) – Another American favorite. The big question will be the swim. Will he get out close enough to the leaders, and not be too fatigued. Crowie mentioned that the year he flatted, he wasted far too much energy trying to catch back up to the cyclists, and he paid for it. Had he raced his race and ran what he is capable of, he would have finished second that year. Good advice for Matt, as he can run through a field if he doesn’t cook his legs.
14 Andy Potts (USA) – After many years of being among the top men and top Americans, last year Andy changed his training by reducing his volume and amping up the intervals. In doing so, he reduced his finish place and amped up the number of people beating him. Hopefully that was a larger lesson to the coaches in this sport, but I doubt it. I have a hunch this year is a victory lap anyway. Enjoyed watching him all this years. Prediction: outside the top 10. Maybe top 20.
23 Ronnie Schildknecht (SUI) – He asks the crowds every year at Ironman Texas to please be quiet as he runs through. “Not a fan favorite” is an understatement. I think that’s all I need to say. Prediction: gets his wish of not getting the cheering fans given to the victor on Alii Drive. Golf clap at the finish (24th).
30 Lionel Sanders (CAN) He’s shown 2 issues, swimming and heat. The talent is there, but if he’s too far behind out of the water it’ll be tough. Likewise, if it’s a hot day he might struggle. I get an all or nothing sense, so I’ll say top 8 or DNF, nothing inbetween.
43 Harry Wiltshire (GBR) – First out of the water last year. I had a chance to swim with him last year and it wasn’t his swim speed that impressed me, it was his swim speed inside a runner’s build. I see a promising road ahead, but outside of the top ten this year.
51 Jesse Thomas (USA) – I have no real prediction here, but I’m curious. He’s won the toughest Ironman (Lanzarote) and has beaten Jan in an Ironman, so I’d like to say top 10 here. 16th last year.
*Bonus Predcition* Allistare Brownlee – DNF – Yes, I know he’s not racing, but a lot of hype has been giving to him entering the Ironman fray. He’s a great talent, but both he and his brother have shown a huge weakness in heat. He’s been unable to stay on his feet for a 10k run in warmer weather. A marathon in stifling heat will take him a long time to get used to, if ever. There are a number of great athletes that crush the cooler races but falter in Kona (See: Marino Vanhoenacker).
101 Daniela Ryf (SUI) – Before I predict her absolute dominance, let’s rewind: Last year she raced Challenge Roth and not only won, but finished 9th overall, beating all but 8 men. Just SEVEN DAYS later, she won Ironman Switzerland and finished 10th overall. The world collectively raised an eyebrow. Hmmmmm. Then, at the Kona last year, she beats the defending champ and course record holder by 24 minutes. TWENTY FOUR. The other eyebrow then went up. Now add to these seemingly unbelievable results with the fact that just about every female pro got pregnant this year and you have what is set to be the most boring women’s race in history. She will win. She can get 3 flats and still win. The race will be for the remaining podium spots, and that will take place a zip code behind her.
105 Heather Jackson (USA) – Had a great day last year with 3rd place with a strong bike and good run. I’m just not sure that a 58 min swimmer (in really good water) will be able to catch up if the oceans get rough. Top 5.
106 Michelle Vesterby (DEN) – In the hunt all day. Top 5 finish. I hope she wears that braid. 🙂 Pig tails would work too. 🙂
111 Leanda Cave (GBR) – Former champ, so you can never count her out, but like Pete Jacobs, as the distance between wins grows, the probability of a repeat shrinks. She also got some food poisoning this week, so a DNF likely.
113 Rachel Joyce (GBR) – Even though she just had a kid, I think she’s a solid pick for second.
136 Jocelyn McCauley (USA) – I could see Jocelyn shaking things up. Top 8 is my pick, but I think podium can happen, especially with the pregnancy epidemic this year.
Disagree? Let me have it. Best of luck to everyone racing on this most epic of days.