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Ironman 70.3 World Championships Preview

Klemen Suligoj gives us a full breakdown of one of the biggest races of the year


Klemen Suligoj takes us through this weekend’s 70.3 World Championships

The PTO Tour has finished, but world class triathlon racing has only just started. What lies ahead are 3 Ironman World Championship events, with the first one being Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Lahti, Finland.

When: Women’s race starts on Saturday, August 26th at 7:30 am local time (6:30 CET, 0:30 EST, 14:30 AEST). Men’s race starts on Sunday, August 27th at 7:30 am local time (6:30 CET, 0:30 EST, 14:30 AEST).

How to watch: Both men and women’s race will be broadcasted for free on Outside Watch.

Big prize: The winner takes home USD $50,000. Second is $25,000, and third is $18,000.



Daniela Ryf
Who dares to doubt Daniela Ryf? Probably not many, especially after her performance in Challenge Roth, where she set the world’s fastest time in an iron-distance event with 8:08:21. She surprised everyone with her swim and came out of the water 2nd, together with Fenella Langridge. She rode away from everyone on the bike and topped her race off with a 2:52 marathon.

After Roth, Daniela got back to training and put all her focus on both Ironman World Championships. First up is 70.3 WC in Finland and we can be sure Daniela focused on building her speed for the shorter distance. She’s already shown that she can perform at the 70.3 distance this year, as she beat Ashleigh Gentle to win her home race in Switzerland.

Given her swim in Roth, we can only wonder where she’ll come out of the water in Lahti. It’s highly unlikely that she’ll be able to keep up with Taylor Knibb, but she might hang on to other great swimmers and thus minimise the gap to the American. We’re then up for an epic battle of two of the greatest cyclists in triathlon. Will Daniela be able to catch up to Knibb? Taylor is a better runner on paper, which might incentivise Ryf to push hard and catch up. At the same time, it might motivate Knibb to stay with Ryf, to work together and ride away from everyone else, effectively securing at least 2nd place. One thing is certain: you should never write Daniela off. She is fresh, undoubtedly motivated and ready to grab her 6th 70.3 World title.

Taylor Knibb
Taylor Knibb is the closest female equivalent of Kristian Blummenfelt. She won the PTO US Open, secured her place in the 2024 Olympics in the Paris test event and now she’s in Finland, ready to defend her Ironman 70.3 World Championship title.

Despite a crowded schedule, Knibb is one of the biggest favourites to win. She dominated in Milwaukee with a great overall performance: Taylor came out of the water 2nd, had the best bike split and 3rd best run time. With that, she beat Ashleigh Gentle by nearly a minute and left the 3rd placed Paula Findlay almost 5 minutes behind her.

Taylor is one of the best, if not the best swimmer in the field. She could team up with Lucy Buckingham to take the lead early and establish a gap to the rest of the field. She is the world’s second best cyclist according to the PTO rankings, closely matched with her biggest competitor this weekend, Daniela Ryf. It’ll be interesting to see which of the two powerhouses takes control and how that will affect their run. Taylor is a fast runner as well, so even if she comes into T2 with Daniela or other athletes, she’s still in a great position for the win. We can all still remember Taylor’s dominating win last year. Will she be able to replicate it and defend her title?


Paula Findlay

Paula came to Finland straight from Scotland, where she competed in the UCI Time Trial World Championships and placed 25th in the world. Her time trial came straight after a great performance in the PTO US Open, where she got on the podium with 3rd place. Now, she was finally able to relax a bit, get familiar with the race course and prepare mentally for the task at hand.

She is undoubtedly one of the best 70.3 athletes on the planet. She is consistently performing at the highest level, placing either on the podium or just below it. Paula is also the 70.3 World Championship runner-up and we can expect to see her in the top places in Lahti. She should come out of the water in front or with Daniela Ryf and we’ll then see if she’ll try to hold on to her on the bike. As 3rd ranked cyclist in the PTO rankings, that could be Canadian’s ticket to the podium. But even if she doesn’t hold on to Ryf, she can work with other strong cyclists like Kat Matthews and Laura Phillipp and set herself up for a fast run. Paula’s bike-run combo makes her one of top contenders for top 3 places.

Laura Philipp

It was quite a surprise not to see Laura Philipp on the start line of the PTO US and Asian Open, but after finishing 3rd in Challenge Roth, Laura decided not to travel abroad and instead stay in Europe to prepare for the World Championship. She tested her form in the 70.3 European Championship in Estonia, beating Imogen Simmonds, Emma Pallant-Browne, LIsa Norden and others to take the win.

Laura already has a 3rd place finish in Ironman 70.3 World Championships, although it dates way back to 2017. She actually hasn’t raced in an Ironman 70.3 WC since, but has competed and won in Ironman Finland in 2021. She is a very consistent athlete, finishing in top 4 in her last 28 races (including multiple Ironman WCs and PTO races). She is also a very balanced athlete, with her biggest weakness being the swim. This might cause her trouble in Finland if she falls too far behind and misses a strong bike group. If she does however get into a good position, she will be hard to shake off. Laura is a good runner, so she can gain places towards the end of the race. She has however said that she had an infection after the race in Tallinn, so her main priority before this race was to rest and recover. We’ll see if she manages to do that or if the illness took too much energy from her.

Kat Matthews

Kat Matthews is one of the athletes getting ready to tackle the Ironman World Championships double. She recently competed in the PTO US Open, where she placed 7th after gaining a couple of positions on the run and nearly catching Salthouse, Lawrence and Byram (Kat finished 34 seconds behind 4th place). She stated that she thought she could swim better, bike better and even run better and she’s motivated to attack the podium in the 70.3 Worlds, where she placed 4th in 2021.

We know Kat is tough as nails and motivated to attack the world title. Given her updates, her training’s been going well and she’s keen to race. It will be very important for her to swim well and stay close to her main rivals. We know she can bike well and run is her best discipline where she can gain a lot of time. If everything goes according to plan, we can expect Kat to be in the mix for top places.

Holly Lawrence
Holly held on to 5th place in the PTO US Open after a dramatic finish with Ellie Salthouse and Kat Matthews storming from behind. This is next in line of Holly’s “near top” finishes and we can’t argue she hasn’t been consistently performing at the highest level, but what’s missing is that extra gear that would enable her to contend for the win.

2016 Ironman 70.3 World Champion and runner-up in 2019 undoubtedly wants to get on the World Championship podium once again. She spent her time after the PTO US Open in St. Moritz, preparing for the race in Finland. Holly’s swim usually puts her near the front and it will be even more important for her to swim well to get a gap against the biggest rivals. Her cycling is not bad, but it’s not on Ryf or Knibb level. Holly’s weakest discipline is the run, where she’ll once again have to fight hard for the result she wants.

Emma Pallant-Browne

Emma competed in the PTO European Open in Ibiza, but then decided to skip the PTO US and Asian Open. She opted to race Ironman 70.3 European Championship in Tallinn instead, where she finished 3rd behind Philipp and Simmonds. Her race, especially the run, did not go according to plan, as she was having trouble fighting the humidity and fainted shortly after crossing the finish line.

Emma is one of the fastest runners around and can gain a lot of places towards the end of the race. With a decent swim like the one in Ibiza or last year’s 70.3 Worlds, she can get herself in a good position for the rest of the rest. She usually also loses a bit of time on the bike, so that part will be crucial for her. Lower temperatures and humidity should suit Emma, enabling her to execute the run to her abilities. We’ve seen her climb the leaderboard many times before and we expect her to do the same in Lahti, but how far can she climb?

Tamara Jewett

I’m picking Tamara as a dark horse because despite already achieving some great results, the 33-year old Canadian still hasn’t established herself as one of the biggest stars in the field and is not often mentioned as one of the contenders for the win.

Tamara won 70.3 Oceanside at the start of the year and finished 2nd in 70.3 Pays d’Aix behind Emma Pallant-Browne. In the PTO European Open and PTO US Open, she lost too much time on the swim and bike and wasn’t able to run herself higher than 6th or 10th place. Her improvement in swimming and cycling is however visible and a larger field like the one in Finland, together with a shorter, 12 metre draft zone, might play to her advantage and cause her to lose less time before the run. We know Tamara is a swift runner and can gain even up to 5 minutes against the rest of her rivals. If she comes off the bike in a good position, she’ll be one to keep an eye on.



Kristian Blummenfelt

Whether you like Blummenfelt or not, one can’t say his performances are anything but extraordinary. Looking at August alone, the Norwegian finished 3rd in the PTO US Open in Milwaukee on August 4th, flew to Paris for the Olympics test event and finished 9th on August 18th, then won the PTO Asian open just 2 days later halfway across the globe in Singapore. A week later, he is on the other side of the world once again as the main favourite to grab the 70.3 World title.

Kristian is the defending 70.3 World Champion and given his current form, it’s hard to see anyone stopping him from defending the title. He has shown that he is one of the top athletes in the 100 km distance and if anything, 70.3 distance should suit him even better. Shorter swim which is Blummenfelt’s weakest discipline, longer bike and run where he excels have his name written all over. He put cramping woes from the PTO US Open aside in Singapore and fatigue doesn’t seem to affect him at all. This is going to be his last longer distance race until Paris 2024 and he’ll no doubt want to repeat his 70.3 World Championship success.

Sam Long

Fresh dad Sam Long is coming to Finland after two 5th place finishes in PTO Open events. In both Milwaukee and Singapore, Sam came out of the water way behind other top finishers, but then showed his cycling and running strength to secure a top 5 spot. Sam said he’s not completely satisfied with his performance and upon closer look, one can see why. His bike and run times were actually not that special (7th best bike and 6th best run split in the PTO US Open, 2nd best bike and 5th best run split in the PTO Asian Open) and in both races, the gap to for example West or Blummenfelt was big: nearly 3 minutes in Milwaukee and 5 minutes in Singapore.

Sam said 70.3 Worlds will be his final race before he’ll call it a season. He’s in good form and it seems that fatigue hasn't affected him too much yet. He has however mentioned in the pre-race interview that he has been feeling down for a couple of days after Singapore, probably catching a food poisoning or something similar, as he is experiencing digestion issues. Hopefully, he will be ok on race day as he’ll be extra motivated to perform well in the 70.3 Worlds after what happened in the same race last year (controversial penalty on the bike). He already has a 2nd place in the 70.3 World Championship from 2021 and knowing that 70.3 distance should suit him better than 100k (shorter swim, longer bike and run), we can expect him to claim one of the top spots. It’s going to be a wetsuit swim, which could reduce his gap out of the water, and a larger field could aid him on the bike. We might once again see the scenario from 2021, when he came from behind to claim the 2nd place in the end.

Jason West

Jason West quickly established himself as one of the hottest triathletes in the world with his performances in the PTO Tour races. He finished 5th in Ibiza, just behind Jan Frodeno. History repeated itself in Milwaukee, only this time West finished 2nd, cracking Kristian Blummenfelt at the end of the run. To top off a great PTO Tour season, West finished 3rd in Singapore and is now heading to Finland as one of the most watched athletes.

He’s coming to Finland as an athlete in form, but we don’t know how a long travel and his bike crash in Singapore will affect him. What we do know is that he has some sort of a health issue, because he was supposed to appear at the pre-race press conference on Thursday, but didn’t. Hopefully, Jason will recover before Sunday and we’ll see him in full strength.

Jason loses a lot of time in the swim and especially on the bike, which puts him into a difficult position before the start of the run. We saw that in Singapore, where he (albeit he didn’t perform his best on the run) wasn’t able to catch Pieter Heemeryck after losing 5 minutes to him on the bike. West ran 1:07 in Oceanside, but we mustn’t forget his competitors are no slouches - many can run 1:11 or 1:12 and might be too far for West to hunt down if he falls too far behind.


Frederic Funk

Freddy is one of the athletes that doesn’t get mentioned that much in the pre-race talks, still he is one to watch in Lahti. He didn’t have his best days in Ibiza and Milwaukee, which probably makes him highly motivated to execute a great race. Funk finished 5th in last year’s 70.3 World Championship after coming off the bike still in contention for a place on the podium, but then lost 5 minutes compared to top 4 finishers on the run.

Fred recently moved to Kufstein, where he has a great training environment and where he prepared for this race. His training seems to be going well, he just needs to translate that to races. In Challenge Walchsee, he had a blistering bike in treacherous conditions and ran a 1:12 to take the win. In the PTO US Open, Fred saw his best ever numbers on the bike, but later blew up on the run. He’ll be hoping to put all the pieces together in Lahti and if he manages to do that, he’ll be dangerous.

Mathis Margirier

Unlike some other athletes, Mathis didn’t do the PTO Open double, but instead skipped the race in Singapore and started preparing for the 70.3 Worlds. Despite the fact that he has been performing extremely well the entire season, Mathis really blasted himself onto the world scene with his 4th place in the PTO US Open. Now, the Frenchman has nowhere to hide as plenty of people have their eyes on him and expect him to perform well.

Mathis is a really well rounded athlete with no big weakness. Even in the swim (as his “worst” discipline) put him merely a minute behind athletes like Royle or Kanute. Mathis is a strong cyclist and had the 2nd best bike split in Milwaukee, only a few seconds slower than Ditlev. This could play into his favour in Finland and with a strong run, he’s definitely one to look out for.


Pierre le Corre

The 33-year old Frenchman primarily focuses on short distance racing and might therefore not be that well known to the longer course public. You’d spend a lot of time searching for him on the PTO rankings, as he is currently in the 250th position. He has raced in his home race Ironman 70.3 Les Sables D’Olonne twice, finishing 1st in 2022 and 3rd in 2023, and also won the World Triathlon long distance World Championships in 2022.

Pierre recently competed in the Olympics test event in Paris, where he finished 4th and barely missed out on an Olympics qualifying spot. As a short course athlete, we know he’s got the speed needed to compete with the best. He’s also shown he’s got the endurance in the past, so le Corre might be the “unknown” name that mixed up with the usual suspects and contends for the top spots.

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