In what will surely be one of the best seasons of racing we have ever seen in professional triathlon, there are signs that some our our biggest stars are coming out of winter hibernation over the coming weeks.
We’ve had a few racing morsels to feed on so far – Pucon and Geelong – and while it would be a click-bait to say that the season will explode into life in March, it will certainly start to move through the metaphorical gears.
Utah on their mind
One of the drivers that should ensure some very high quality racing during the next two months, is the rare occurrence of two IRONMAN World Championship events taking place during the 2022 calendar year. With the first, St George on May 7, ensuring that there will be an early season A+++ goal for the best in the sport, you can be all but certain that anyone looking to top the podium there, will be racing once or twice in the lead up, to fine-tune their form for Utah.
We won’t have to wait long to see some of those head-to-head clashes either. Taking place on Saturday 5th March, IRONMAN 70.3 Dubai has just revealed its Pro start list – and there are two notable head-to-heads to watch out for.
Ryf vs. Philipp
The Angry Bird, Daniela Ryf, is no stranger to racing in Dubai. The defending champion from 2021 (winning by more than five minutes), she was also the victor in 2017, 2016 and 2015. That first victory was when the event was held under the Challenge Family banner.
The standout name in terms of potential competition for the Swiss athlete is Laura Philipp. The German, part of the hep sports team who recently added Gustav Iden to their roster, finished 2021 as the PTO’s #3 ranked athlete, narrowly behind the nine-time World Champion, Ryf.
Philipp totally dominated the three races she started last year, winning by 21, 10 and 45 minutes, respectively. Fourth on her Kona debut in 2019, Laura has moved on significantly since then.
I personally think she is massively underrated and has the potential to win the biggest races in the sport. Dubai will give us the first opportunity check her progress, and also assess how Ryf has rebuilt over the winter.
Norway vs. Denmark
The defending champion will return in the men’s race too. Daniel Bækkegård will wear #1, courtesy of his performance last year. From that he went on to finish third at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship and win at The Collins Cup. He ended 2021 as the PTO’s #6 ranked athlete.
There is likely to be a Scandinavian battle in the Middle East, with the much anticipated season debut of Olympic and World Triathlon champion, Kristian Blummenfelt.
Perhaps the most talked about athlete in the sport right now, Big Blu has his eyes set on cleaning up over every distance – before heading to Paris 2024 and seeking a second Olympic victory.
When you make headlines in the likes of the New York Times, you know you are being noticed.
2020 champion, Bart Aernouts (BEL) is among several other high profile names set to race – but it is difficult to see how he can give up perhaps three minutes in the swim, and still challenge the might of Norway and Denmark.
We will of course bring you an in-depth preview ahead of the race next week.