This is a preview of the Middle East Championship, check out our reports to read more about a second win in a week for Vincent Luis and a breakthrough 70.3 success for Marjolaine Pierre.
This weekend will see a host of elite athletes battling it out at the last IRONMAN 70.3 regional championships of the year, as some of the best in the world compete for qualification to the 2023 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships and a slice of the $75,000 prize purse.
Start time and tracking
The race takes place on Friday, December 9th with the athletes starting the race with the 1.9km swim on Reef Island.
The men will start at 6:20am local time, with the women setting off at 6:23am, which corresponds to 3:20am and 3:23am in the UK, 4:20am and 4:23am CET and 10:20pm and 10:23pm Eastern Time on Thursday, December 8th.
As always, the ever reliable IRONMAN Tracker is the perfect data addition to support your viewing. If you haven’t got it on your phone already, where have you been?!
In the men’s race, the likes of Pieter Heemeryck (BEL) and Antonio Benito Lopez (ESP), will hope they have the endurance to hold off Frenchman Vincent Luis, who will be racing fresh off a victory at Challenge Daytona last weekend.
The Frenchman, who is set to make the switch to long course racing after the 2024 Paris Olympics, is a lock to lead out of the swim with fellow ITU specialist Henri Schoeman (RSA), and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the pair spend the majority of the swim-bike portion of the race together, as they did last week in Florida.
[UPDATE – Schoeman has now confirmed via his Instagram page that he will NOT be racing in Bahrain. Following his race last week in Daytona, he said: “Unfortunately as the last lap of the bike rolled around, I started feeling extremely ill and weak. As I hit the run, I had absolutely nothing to give.
“I endured a very rough travel to Bahrain and I have been doing everything possible to try and recover in time to toe the line and represent @bahrainvictorious 13 right here in Bahrain but unfortunately I am not race ready yet.
“I am devastated as I was so excited to race here with the team and close out my 2022 season on a high note.”]
Heemeryck, Lopez and Filipe Azvedo (POR) might have to work their way up to the front on the bike and do some damage on the second half of the bike leg. Last week, we saw Luis pushed over the final few kilometres at Daytona so it will be interesting to see how he fares over the longer distance.
The likelihood is, however, that Luis will prove to be too strong for the rest of the field if he has recovered. As there is likely to be a group that gets away in the water, lookout for Sam Dickinson (GBR), who may capitalise on his strong swim-bike to sneak his way onto the podium.
Holly Lawrence (GBR) heads the women’s race as the defending champion and will hope her run of good form in the Middle East continues as she looks to secure her fourth successive title in Bahrain.
The Brit, ranked #12 in the PTO Rankings, has had a tough season since back-to-back podiums at IRONMAN 70.3 California and Chattanooga at the beginning of the year and will be looking to make amends this weekend.
Lawrence is up against a small field of athletes, with only twelve other females racing, including Lottie Lucas (UAE) who will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing DNF at the IRONMAN 70.3 Worlds and will likely be towards the front in the water.
Among the other contenders for the podium are French 23-year-old Marjolaine Pierre and Dutch athlete Diede Diederiks, both of whom finished in the top 20 at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships in St George and also now feature inside the top 100 of the PTO Rankings.
Realistically, however, it looks like Lawrence’s competition may come from the relatively unproven Australian Natalie Van Coevorden. The ITU athlete, who has twice finished second at the Noosa Triathlon, last competed in an IRONMAN 70.3 race in 2016, where she was third at IRONMAN 70.3 Western Sydney.
Having previously found success in the Middle East, where she finished third at WTCS Abu Dhabi in 2018, she may fancy her chances against Lawrence in the hot and humid conditions that Bahrain is bound to bring.
You can find the full start list here.
Prize Money: What’s on the line?
The prize purse on offer this weekend is $75,000 – with each of the winners collecting a $12,000 share of that total.
The total funds will be paid ten-deep, as follows:
Of course, thanks to the formation of the Professional Triathletes Organisation, financial rewards from performance are not solely from on-the-day performances.
The PTO World Rankings will see a total of $2million awarded at the end of 2022, based up on the final standings in those points tables. The rewards there can be substantial, with a move up or down the rankings system potentially earning you more than any individual event.
- 2015 = Bart Aernouts (BEL) and Daniela Ryf (SUI).
- 2016 = Terreno Bozzone (NZL) and Sarah Crowley (AUS).
- 2017 = Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) and Holly Lawrence (GBR).
- 2018 = Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) and Holly Lawrence (GBR).
- 2019 = Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) and Holly Lawrence (GBR).