2019 Kona Predictions

It’s time for another round of predictions for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. Usually I make these predictions a little closer to race day, but this year I’m traveling so I am going to miss some key insight. Either way, I have some safe and boring predictions and a few bold predictions. As usual, my comments are limited in scope. I don’t know or have insight to all the names. So don’t email me that I didn’t mention this guy or that girl. You will anyway, I know. I’ll try and do better next year. (does that count as a prediction?). So without any more yapping, here we go.

Men

Lange Patrick GER – 2 time defending champion and course record holder. Nice guy too. It’s hard to count him out of a race that he’s defended. But I hear things. He’s looking tired and beat down at the same time in previous years that he looked relaxed and fresh. Also have heard that there’s a chill in the air between athlete and coach. Perhaps he stopped listening to objective 3rd parties with all the success? It happens and it’s common. We shall see. I’m going with 4th.

Aernouts Bart BEL – The Belgian has raced Kona I think 7 other times. He lives under the radar in the States though as people still struggle to know who he is. His history here with multiple top ten finishes makes me think he’ll repeat the stat, but 2nd is the top of the mountain for Bart. This year I’m going 5th for 2 reasons. #1- He’s not a swimmer. Last year the leaders were out in 47 minutes and he was 7 minutes back. That’s 3 miles behind to start the bike with swimmer types like Frodeno back in the race. The last ‘weak’ swimmer to win was Kienle 5 years ago. It just doesn’t happen anymore. #2 – I can’t find 2019 results that tell me he’s ready. He was 9th in Ironman South Africa and they cut the swim in half for that race. 5th place.

Frodeno Jan GER – He’s proven to perform and repeat on the biggest stages. And he’s focused his attention on Kona. Barring a mechanical, he will win. He can swim with the leaders, ride fast enough to not let the contenders get away, and can run as good as anyone. He came in super skinny to Kona before and lost. If he’s healthy, he’s your champ.

Kienle Sebastian GER – He’s a hard fighter and a former champion. I enjoy his no nonsense approach to everything as well. He doesn’t buy into most of the bullshit that people like to pontificate on these days. It’s seems this year the running injuries took a vacation and his run speed is now something for others to worry about. Head to head this year he lost to Frodeno, so I don’t see him winning, but I don’t see anyone else getting past him. 2nd place.

O’Donnell Tim USA – Last year I predicted his time was up, because of the birth of his kiddo. He surprised me and finished solid. It’s a year later though and he’s been tripped up with crashes and injuries, so I’m holding with last years prediction. Lower top 10th at the best.

Russell Matthew USA – 6th last year. Picked up a long overdue Ironman victory this year at Lake Placid, but I get the sense that his racing is too close to the big day and he’s going to show up flat. He’s not a swimmer, so if he is flat, you’ll never hear about him on race day. No snap in the swim puts you off the back and out of the race early. Just ask Kienle and Hanson and the rest of em…Top 20

Skipper Joe GBR – This guy has a Strava following that rivals Lance. The guy splashes some water around in a pool and gets 600 kudos. He’s a really likable guy that finished 7th last year. This year he did Ironman Wales on September 15th. What is it with everyone this year? Maybe he loafed it, I don’t know. But that’s too close for a full for me. And since this is my blog, my opinion is the only one that counts. I think that less than fresh legs and tough conditions put him just outside the top 10 IF he finishes.

Potts Andy USA – He’s been the top American for years, until he scrapped his tried and true training with something he could sell to the masses and flopped. Last year I predicted it was his victory lap on an amazing and hall of fame worthy career. I was wrong. Dude finished 8th after coming out of the water 2 MINUTES behind the lead swimmers. You read that right. I can’t remember Potts being 2 strokes behind the swim leader, let alone 2 minutes. So I basically don’t have a clue. I’ll say 11th.

Wurf Cameron AUS, – DNF. The guy went sub 8 in Italy just DAYS ago. I expect to see him up towards or in the front for the end of the bike, then watching the winners finish as a spectator. That’s a lot to ask for. Peak for two Ironman performances in just a few weeks? Nah. DNF

Hoffman Ben USA – Has proven he can still race in the front, but it’s been a while since he’s been a factor in Kona. His comments tell me he’s mellowed as well. 13th.

Nilsson Patrik SWE – Lot’s of sub 8 hour finishes but a DNF in Kona last year. This year he came to The Woodlands, TX with Patrick Lange and others to prepare for the heat, and let me tell you. Texas delivered. He’ll probably need a windbreaker to keep warm over in Kona now. He and Aernouts have been my internal debate for the final podium spot, but I’m giving the nod to Patrik for a couple of reasons. #1 Patrik can swim with the first pack. #2 Patrik has shown speed in (some) heat with his win at Ironman Texas this year. So 3rd place.

Sanders Lionel CAN – He has a cult following and had a hell of a race 2 years ago. But he likes to try some outlandish stuff and post it on the interwebs. Stuff without any real backing in science or logic. Almost as if the ‘likes’ are more important than wins. Financially they might be.. I’ll say bottom half of the top ten at best.

Beals Cody CAN – I like this guy and have enjoyed chatting with him, but I just don’t know where to put him. Lots of good victories at 70.3 and Ironman, but I think this is his first Kona. Unless your last name is Reid or Puntous, Canada and Kona aren’t the best combo on the first time out. I’m hoping for a strong showing but the field is too deep for me to predict top 10. Top 20

Bozzone Terenzo NZL – Just as I was about to write that this guy trains with too much intensity and keeps getting hurt, guess what? Terenzo has pulled out of the race due to injury. Do I get to count that as a correct prediction? Sure I do.

Brownlee Alistair GBR – DNF. Yes I know he’s a great ITU athlete and has done well in some 70.3’s. But heat and humidity haven’t been his gig. He’s melted to a stagger in a lightly warm 10k before. He qualified at Ironman Ireland, a race that was cold and raining (and had the swim cancelled). His 70.3 experience is almost entirely ideal or cool weather races. Just as Javier Gomez found out last year, ITU and 70.3 success doesn’t mean Kona success. He’ll get camera time out of the water and maybe a some fancy footwork out front on the bike, but I will be shocked if the walking doesn’t start before he hits the Queen K. DNF

Hanson Matt USA – Sentimental favorite of mine. I say it every year. He has the tools to make a run at this race, but hasn’t put it together. The Kona swim can be a tricky one, and as Kienle found out a few years ago, if you spend too much energy staying with everyone in swim will absolutely end your day. Hoping Hanson’s swim is in form. I’ll put him as top American. 7th overall if it is. But he’s doesn’t have the pistons to make up the time by himself on the bike without destroying his strength, the run.

Starykowicz Andrew USA– He’s had some issues with his build up to this race if you follow his social media. I’ve seen this happen before and the extra rest works to an athlete’s advantage. I’m hoping that’s the case here. Starky will be first off the bike with a tired Wurf in tow. My gut says the turnaround on Alii Drive he gets caught, but I’m going to predict Pay n Save hill is where it happens as they enter the Queen K. 8th Place.

So to recap: 1- Frodeno, 2- Kienle 3- Nilsson, 4- Lange

Women

Ryf Daniela SUI – I say it every year and I’ll say it again this year. She will win. Where my prediction changes is in her dominance. Seems like the shine has worn off a little this year. Maybe it’s fatigue. Maybe it’s her coach who burns out athletes at record pace, or maybe it’s that the competition is closing in. I see a couple people making a run at her. She’ll finish first, but the storyline this year will be more interesting. Champion.

Charles‐Barclay Lucy GBR – If Ryf loses, Lucy is the best chance at the crown. She’ll leave the big names behind in the water and force them to work hard, maybe too hard on the bike. If conditions suit her, she’ll be a close 2nd. If Ryf has an issue, she’s your champ. Now if she’d just lose that flat bill from 2012.. 2nd.

Carfrae Mirinda AUS – I wish Rinny was in the hunt this year. Whenever we look back, there are periods in this race where the athletes and personalities make for great story lines. Almost like SNL. We look back at the era of Eddie Murphy or Chris Farley or Adam Sandler. The cast at the front of this race is changing, and the Rinny vs Chrissie or the Rinny vs Ryf are over. She’s been in the hunt for about a decade now believe it or not. She’s older. She’s a mom. The page is turning. 6th place.

True Sarah USA – I woke my wife up to watch Sarah’s absolute meltdown in Frankfurt. It hurt to watch (and unfortunately I could relate) but it’s a great learn. Unfortunately Sarah is looking to find some sort of medical diagnosis for why it happened. It happened because she pushed her body beyond it’s limits and lost. And it might have spooked her. If that’s the case she will not be going back to the well out there for fear of a relapse. Even with a gear to spare and racing conservative though, Sarah will be on the podium and likely giving Ryf fits. 3rd

Jackson Heather USA – I like her personality and her energy, but I don’t see it. As with the men’s race, the swim is becoming important. She was 14th last year with a 58+ min swim. I know that the run is where the day ended, but life is so much easier when you’re not off the back blindly chasing the leaders. Overworking the bike due to a slow swim is like a medical condition. For some it’s chronic, and for others it flares up once or twice and they get it fixed. It seems Heather’s swim is the former. 13th.

McCauley Jocelyn USA – Jocelyn took Ryf to the mat this past April at Ironman Texas. Ryf wasn’t able to take the lead until after 20 miles into the run. That had to put a fire in Jocelyn’s belly. I see a podium finish Saturday. If you’re keeping count, that’s 4 people I’ve predicted for the top 3 spots. So sue me. I’m hedging my bet. 3rd

Steffen Caroline SUI – Like Rinny, we are seeing a changing of the guard. She was once in the mix at the top every year with Rinny and Chrissie, etc. She’s now a mom, a little older and the priorities are shifting. Top 15.

My Prediction: 1- Ryf, 2- Charles, 3- McCauley/True.

I know there are some big names I skipped, and some new names that have a real chance to podium that went unmentioned. I’ll leave that level of discussion to the paid talking heads. In the meantime feel free to flame away, and enjoy our sport’s biggest day while you do. Good luck everyone.

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