70.3 World Champs Men: Pro Men start-list, favourites, preview, prediction

Brownlee, Gomez, Blummenfelt, Kienle, Lange, Kanute and more... looking ahead to the Men's IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship

Chief Correspondent
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Can Alistair Brownlee top the podium in Nice?

Many in the triathlon world went as far as suggesting that the Men’s Pro race at the 2018 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in South Africa was the greatest race in the history of the sport. Whether you agree with that thought or not, if Sunday’s race in Nice comes close to that, the 14th edition of this championship will once again cement itself as one of the premier events in triathlon.

PORT ELIZABETH - SEPTEMBER 2: (L-R) Winner Podium of 2nd Place Alistair Brownlee of Great Britain, 1st Place Jan Frodeno of Germany and 3rd Place Javier Gomez Noya of Spain celebrate on the winner's podium during the Isuzu IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship Men in Port Elizabeth, South Africa on September 2, 2018. Over 4,500 athletes from over 100 countries will be represented in this years 70.3 World Championship. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images for IRONMAN).
Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images for IRONMAN

Gold last year left Germany’s 2008 Olympic champion, Jan Frodeno, injured and unable to start the following month in Hawaii. He has skipped a title defence and seeking a third 70.3 World Championship to go all-in on Kona – but the field is still stacked… and a British athlete will start as the strong, but certainly not overwhelming, favourite.




The Favourites

Silver last year was good… but Alistair Brownlee has made a career of winning and this is absolutely his A-race goal of the 2019 season. He’ll be making his debut in Hawaii in five weeks time (after winning the IRONMAN Ireland ‘Duathlon’), but his performance two weeks ago at the (hilly) IRONMAN 70.3 Dun Laoghaire – fastest swim, bike and run for a ten minute victory – was very impressive.

IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship 2018 - Nice bike course

The bike course should be tailor-made for Alistair. Every Pro triathlete I’ve ever spoken to has expressed how good a climber he is on a bike (so the Col de Vence will be very welcome), while he is also technically excellent and riding regularly in the Yorkshire hills, his descending should be top drawer too.

Wearing race #1 will be Javier Gomez. Two Gold and two Bronze medals from his four 70.3 World Champs starts, when Gomez races he’s always a threat. On Sunday he finished sixth at the ITU Grand Final – which brought his incredible ITU World Championship senior medal haul to 5 Gold, 4 Silver and 2 Bronze. The winner of the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships in his home town of Pontevedra this year, he’s still on top of his game.

Javier Gomez / Pontevedra ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships 2019

From sixth at the Grand Final to first – Kristian Blummenfelt doesn’t have an extensive history at the distance, but what he does have is pretty impressive. He won the IRONMAN 70.3 Middle East Championship in Bahrain in both 2017 and 2018 – setting a ‘world record’ time in the process, if you put any value in that – though he did suffer frustration this year at IRONMAN 70.3 Dubai when major cramping forced him to DNF at T1.

Just 21 seconds behind Kristian in Bahrain last year – and also coming off of a strong fourth place finish at the Grand Final, is Gustav Iden. The Norwegian athletes train together under the same coach, and have both moved towards top form in the most recent ITU events after some distinctly average performances through the early and middle part of the season. Known for their consistent high-mileage training, the step up from two hour to four hour racing is unlikely to phase them.

IRONMAN 70.3 Bahrain - Casper Stornes / Kristian Blummenfelt / Gustav Iden

Germany’s Sebastian Kienle is one of the most popular racers on the circuit. World Champion in both 2012 and 2013 (and Silver in 2015 and 2016), the 2014 IRONMAN World Champion isn’t racing in Nice casually. He spent significant time training and testing on the course before deciding whether to start, which would suggest he doesn’t have hopes of simply making the top-10. He was very impressive at The Championship in Samorin – and has been making very detailed changes to his bike set up in advance of this race. Expect him to be hammering the flat sections to get back to the leaders after, most likely, losing time through the opening 1.9km swim.

The Championship 2019 - Photo: Jose Luis Hourcade

In the Women’s Pro preview (HERE), I referenced the Regional Championship record of Great Britain’s Holly Lawrence. In a similar vein, check out the incredibly impressive recent results of (the perhaps under the radar), Rodolphe Von Berg:

  • IRONMAN 70.3 European Champion (Elsinore) – 2018 and 2019
  • IRONMAN 70.3 North American Champion (St. George) – 2019
  • IRONMAN 70.3 South American Champion (Buenos Aires) – 2018

The recent win in Elsinore included beating Javier Gomez, plus he was also the winner of the IRONMAN 70.3 Nice event 12 months ago… by five and half minutes. A contender on Sunday? You bet he is.

Rodolphe Von Berg / IRONMAN 70.3 European Championship 2019
Photo by Joern Pollex/Getty Images for IRONMAN

Patrick Lange has dominated the IRONMAN World Championship of the past two years… could he win in Nice? His 2019 racing season has been incredibly light – but did include winning the IRONMAN 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship in Vietnam.  I genuinely have no clue as to how Lange will perform on Sunday – but I have to believe that his focus will be on October, and with such depth here, I’m can’t put him on my podium predictions list. Wonder if that will come back to bite me?!

KAILUA KONA, HI - OCTOBER 13: Patrick Lange of Germany celebrates before he crosses the finish line and sets a course record of 7:52:39 to win the IRONMAN World Championships brought to you by Amazon on October 13, 2018 in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images for IRONMAN)
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images for IRONMAN

The USA’s Ben Kanute is the Mr. Versatile of the sport, racing in all formats from Mixed Relay World Championships through to 70.3, but the IRONMAN 70.3 World’s is where he has excelled. Second in 2017, fourth in 2018 he will want to be at the front of the race from the start given his swim and bike power – and will likely find a willing partner in Alistair Brownlee in that regard.

Ben Kanute / Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon on June 9, 2019 in San Francisco, CA.
Photo Credit: Rocky Arroyo

Tenth in 2017, fifth in 2018 and only a full-time athlete from this past winter – Belgium’s Pieter Heemeryck has been making huge strides and winning lots of races. Second to Sebastian Kienle after leading for most of the race in Samorin, if he continues with his impressive progress and performs on Sunday, he’ll be in the podium mix.

The Championship 2019 - Photo: Jose Luis Hourcade
Pieter Heemeryck was trying to keep cool

The Brits

Adam Bowden has made a great transition from the World Triathlon Series over the last two years, including a close second (to Rodolphe Von Berg) at the 2018 IRONMAN 70.3 European Championship and then a big win earlier this year at IRONMAN 70.3 Dubai. A great swimmer and runner, can he hang with the very best in the sport on a bike course which will expose any weaknesses? He was seventh last year in South Africa – I feel that matching or improving on that, would represent a fine performance.

The Championship 2019 - Photo: Jose Luis Hourcade
Photo: Jose Luis Hourcade

Also in his second 70.3 Pro World Champs is Elliot Smales (16th last year), who won in Sweden this summer and then was second to the impressive Brownlee more recently at IRONMAN 70.3 Dun Laoghaire, the race he won 12 months ago.

JONKOPING, SWEDEN - JULY 07: Elliot Smales of Great Britain finishes first in the mens race during IRONMAN 70.3 Jonkoping on July 7, 2019 in Jonkoping, Sweden. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images for IRONMAN) *** Local Caption *** Elliot Smales
Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images for IRONMAN

There are three Brit Pro men making their debut at the championships – Thomas Davis, George Goodwin and Sam Pictor.

The Championship 2019 - Photo: Jose Luis Hourcade
Photo: Jose Luis Hourcade

Davis (pictured above),has probably raced more than anyone this year and with a good swim, likes to try and go aggressively from the start. Goodwin – winner of 70.3 Staffordshire – excels on dry land, while Staffordshire didn’t go so well for Sam Pictor – he broke his elbow, wrist and hand – but he’s worked his way back to fitness and recently won the Gauntlet Middle Distance at the Chateau de Chantilly Triathlon.

George Goodwin - IRONMAN 70.3 Staffordshire 2019
George Goodwin – Photo: Huw Fairclough for IRONMAN


This is a tough one – particularly when you consider that I didn’t even mention the likes of Sam Appleton (AUS), Frederik Van Lierde (BEL), Florian Angert (GER), Bart Aernouts (BEL), Andi Boecherer (GER) and others who will all start believing the podium is within reach.

All that said, I can’t look beyond Alistair Brownlee has the favourite. He will surely be out with the lead group on the swim and then once the hills (and descents) hit, surely looking to distance the running legs of Javier Gomez. The weather  predicted low to mid 20’s °c looks like it will also not be a factor.

And with that, I’ll go for…

  1. Alistair Brownlee (GBR)
  2. Javier Gomez (ESP)
  3. Rodolphe Von Berg (USA)

Full Male Pro Start-List

9RodolpheVon BergUSA
12FrederikVan LierdeBEL
34Paulo RobertoMaciel Da SilvaBRA
42AlanCarillo AvilaMEX
43PabloDapena GonzalezESP
67IuriVinuto JosinoBRA
John Levison
Written by
John Levison
TRI247's Chief Correspondent, John has been involved in triathlon for well over 30 years, 15 of those writing on these pages, whilst he can also be found commentating for events across the UK.
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