There will be a strong British presence at the penultimate IRONMAN 70.3 event of 2023 in Bahrain on Friday 8th December – including some young short-course stars taking a significant step into the unknown.
The field is headed by double Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee, who returned to action after an injury layoff with three races in successive weekends during October, notching podiums in two of them – Challenge Barcelona and Challenge Mallorca.
We’ve been told he’s currently intending to race and will be one of several athletes in action from the Bahrain Victorious team, with Henri Schoeman (RSA), Kat Matthews (GBR) and Amelia Watkinson (NZL) others to feature.
Lee and Buckingham join Matthews
World #6 Matthews announced Bahrain, which is the Middle East Championship, would be on her schedule as she looks to put a disappointing IRONMAN World Championships in Kona behind her.
Her fellow Brit Ruth Astle is also on the start list but has said her season is over after her frustrating and ongoing Achilles issue flared up last time out at IRONMAN Cozumel, with her focus now on getting back to full fitness in 2024.
But India Lee, up to #15 in the rankings, will be in action after her fine second place at IRONMAN Florida recently and we’ll be featuring an in-depth interview with her before the Bahrain race.
And a strong British female contingent is further boosted by the likely presence of Lucy Buckingham, twice a winner this season at IRONMAN 70.3 races in Warsaw and Knokke-Heist – the latter one of the best finishes of the 2023 season.
Super League stars step up
There are some intriguing names on the men’s side too from the other end of the experience spectrum compared to Alistair Brownlee.
For both Max Stapley and Dan Dixon are better known for their short-course exploits.
But Stapley was the winner last time out of the Laguna Phuket Triathlon in Thailand at a slightly extended distance of 1.8km swim / 55km bike / 12km run.
Bahrain will be another step up but both have enjoyed progressive campaigns, and we caught up with Dixon to gauge his thoughts ahead of the race.
He told us: “It will be quite a challenge for me – not only is it a significantly deeper field than last year but there are also a lot more guys on the start list too.
“There’s a lot of quality and I’m exceptionally excited that my name is there. I think from my point of view it’s hard to look past Alistair and I do hope he starts.
“It could be one of the only chances I get to race him which would be cool because he’s been an idol – much like Jonny – for a long time so to get to race both of them is something I’ve always wanted to do. And hopefully I can give him a bit of a race too if he is there!
“I really, really wanted to do this race and approached my coach with the idea and he was down for it – it’s obviously a relatively short turnaround off the back of the World Triathlon season but I ticked some necessary boxes there this year, especially towards the back end so I’m pleased with how I was able to wrap that up.
“And now I’m into what we could call an experimental project in 70.3 Bahrain. I’ve been really fortunate that I’ve got some fantastic partners and people around me that have managed to tie in everything from the bike, the wheels, the fit and aerodynamics through to nutrition. It’s a slightly different ball game to what I’m used to.
I’ve had some really good training leading into it and it’s given me an indication of what I think I can do.
“This is going to be a reasonably big claim but I do think a top five would be a really, really solid result and I think that on a perfect day it could be within reach. Ultimately it’s an experiment and another opportunity to learn and hopefully put a good benchmark down for the future.”