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2023 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship predictions: Can anyone take down Kristian Blummenfelt?

Our predictions for men's race at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships.

Staff Reporter
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All eyes will be on Norwegian triathlon legend Kristian Blummenfelt this weekend in Lahti, as the defending champion, who last weekend took his maiden victory at the PTO Tour Asian Open, looks to cap off a remarkable season of short course and middle distance racing with a world title.

Blummenfelt, who this month has also finished on the podium at the PTO Tour US Open and more recently was in the top 10 at the Paris Olympic Test Event a week ago, will hope he has managed to overcome any lasting fatigue from his prior racing exertions before he toes the line in Finland.

Elsewhere on the start list, there is a strong American contingent, with two-time PTO Tour podium finisher Jason West racing along with compatriots Sam Long and Ben Kanute. In our podium prediction piece below, we try to decipher the form and fitness of the men on the start list and choose our top finishers this weekend.

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Leading contenders

The man with the plan, Olympic champion Blummenfelt, is the runaway favourite in this race, with the defending champion widely tipped to take back-to-back IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship titles, which would ensure the crown on the men’s side stays with the Norwegians for another year.

His compatriot Gustav Iden, who has suffered a season to forget on the short course circuit and was forced to withdraw from the PTO Tour Asian Open last weekend following a bike crash, is also on the start line. However, there are question marks surrounding the two-time IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion, with a number of pundits believing some time away from the sport is required for last year’s Kona champion.

Kanute and Long, who have both previously finished on the podium at IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships, will again look to mix it with the best. Kanute, second behind Blummenfelt in 2022, will hope to take it to the Norwegian again this weekend. Long, who has enjoyed a great run of form recently, will look to cap off a fantastic overseas campaign after also picking up fifth in Singapore last weekend.

Another American worth mentioning is West, who possesses the best run speed in the sport at the moment and after back-to-back podiums on the PTO Tour and will be hungry to cement his status as one of the best athletes in the world over the middle distance and claim a maiden world championships podium in Lahti.

Jason West PTO Tour US Open 2023 Run Milwaukee
Jason West in action during his astonishing run leg at the 2023 PTO Tour US Open in Milwaukee (Photo – PTO Tour).

Elsewhere on the start list, Canadian Lionel Sanders, twice a runner-up in the IRONMAN World Championships, will garner a large amount of attention leading into the race, with his considerable fanbase likely to be cheering hard from all corners of the globe as the Ontario native continues his quest to win a world championship title.

Dark horses

Whilst this race contains only a handful of leading contenders, there are a bucketload of dark horses, the type of athletes who might fly under the radar when big names such as Blummenfelt and Iden are on the start list, but who when given the chance, can battle for the podium.

The Championship winner, Mathis Margirier, is one such name who could really put together something special, with the PTO World #12 having the best run of results in his career so far this season. Fourth at the PTO Tour US Open at the beginning of the month, his ability across the board makes him dangerous in the company of swim-bikers.

German Frederic Funk, fifth at the World Championships last season, hasn’t quite had the season he would have hoped for so far, with a mechanical impacting his race at the PTO Tour European Open and the PTO Tour US Open three weeks ago not quite going to plan. However, the PTO World #19, has been waiting all season for this race and is ready to deliver.

Steve McKenna taking the win at IRONMAN Australia [Photo credit: Korupt Vision]
[Photo credit: Korupt Vision]

From Down Under, Australian Steve McKenna and New Zealander Mike Phillips have proven domestically that they are some of the strongest athletes on the circuit, but will hope that they can demonstrate once and for all their abilities on the world stage come Sunday. McKenna, who has been training hard in Europe in the build up to this race, is excellent across all three disciplines and if not this year, will be a serious podium contender in Taupo next year.

Verdict and podium picks

In Finland this weekend, there will be a lot of athletes treading the fine line between race sharpness and fatigue, with contenders Blummenfelt, West and Long in particular having to navigate back-to-back race weekends and a transcontinental flight after the PTO Tour Asian Open in Singapore.

Should any of these athletes begin to falter, there are a number of dark horses who could come through to claim a spot on the podium or even the win, especially if they are able to execute their races well. Frenchman Margirier and German Funk are two such athletes who will back themselves to make an impact on the big stage should an opportunity arise.

With swimmers such as Americans Kanute and Marc Dubrick, plus Slovak Olympian Richard Varga at the front of the race, the pace will be on from the start, with significant gaps to the danger men such as Sanders and Long likely to open up out of the water.

The pressure will be on for a number of athletes on the bike and on a single lap course, gauging where the rest of the field is at any given time will be made trickier, which could cause the slower swimmers to chase harder in the initial stages of the bike to avoid missing a move at the front later in the race.

If Blummenfelt races as intelligently as he did in Singapore and can execute his race strategy despite the pressure he is likely to be put under across the swim and the bike, he will defend his crown. West, despite having established himself as a world class competitor, will in my opinion have left himself with too much work to do off the bike to put the same amount of pressure on Blummenfelt as he does over the 100km distance.

If an athlete who possess a strong repertoire across the three disciplines, such as Margirier, can put some time between himself and the main pack on the bike, then I believe the Frenchman could find himself on the podium, as could Kanute or Funk in a similar scenario.

Pro Men podium IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship 2022 - Kristian Blummenfelt, Ban Kanute, Magnus Ditlev
Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images for IRONMAN

For me, Blummenfelt wins this, despite his crazy August race schedule, with the rest of the podium a little harder to pick. Kanute will feature once again I think despite a disappointing race on home soil at the PTO Tour US Open, with either Le Corre or Margirier taking the last step on the podium.

Men’s Podium Predictions:

  1. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR)
  2. Ben Kanute (USA)
  3. Mathis Margirier (FRA)

When does the race start?

The men’s IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships will take place on Sunday August 27. On the weekend, the men will start their race at 07:30 local time. This corresponds to 00:30 on the East Coast, 05:30 in the UK and 06:30 Central European Time. On the West Coast, the race will begin at 21:30 on Saturday August 25.

How to watch the race?

Coverage of the 2023 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships will be available for free on Outside Watch, with the broadcast beginning at 07:00 local time on Saturday. In the UK and Europe, coverage will begin at 05:00 and 06:00, with Americans able to tune in from 12:00 on the East Coast and 21:00 on the West Coast (Saturday night).

Tomos Land
Written by
Tomos Land
Tomos Land is a triathlon & running journalist whose expertise lies in the professional world of short course & long distance triathlon, though he also boasts an extensive knowledge of ultra-running.
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