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IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside Predictions: The TRI247 team make their podium picks

We make our picks for the first race of the IRONMAN Pro Series this weekend at IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside.

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In the eternal quest for office bragging rights and complimentary Facebook comments about how brilliant our triathlon knowledge is, the TRI247 team have made their picks for IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside 2024.

Triathlon wizard John Levison, content connoisseur Jenny Lucas-Hill, plus the young and handsome Tomos Land (that’s me) have all put our reputations on the line to bring you these predictions.

Whether you agree or disagree, think Lionel Sanders is washed up or the best thing since pink lycra, let us know your thoughts too as we prepare for another brilliant showdown at IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside.

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Pro Women Predictions and Podium Picks

Jenny Lucas-Hill Podium:

  1. Taylor Knibb
  2. Paula Findlay
  3. Fenella Langridge

All eyes will rightly be on Taylor Knibb. If it were any other athlete, you’d be questioning her form over the middle distance. However, as a two-time IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion, can you ever count her out?

Taylor Knibb wins IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships 2023
[Photo Credit – Nigel Roddis Getty Images for IRONMAN]

Competing for the podium, Paula Findlay comes away from Miami T100 with a solid season opener under her belt which has got to have boosted her confidence about her early season form.

I’d usually have been hoping for an epic run battle between Tamara Jewett and Emma Pallant-Browne. But, you do have to wonder how their Miami DNFs will impact their races, plus the recent bike crash EPB suffered. Coming into Oceanside ready to go full gas might be a step too far this weekend.

Instead, I think Fenella Langridge could be one to watch here for the final spot on the podium. She had that super-strong finish to the 2023 season with her win at IRONMAN Western Australia, and she’s someone who’s putting full focus on the IRONMAN Pro Series. She is not one to count out.

John Levison Podium:

  1. Taylor Knibb
  2. Paula Findlay
  3. Tamara Jewett

Taylor Knibb is also my pick for the top spot. The winner two years ago, she has totally dominated the last two 70.3 World Champs – it’s the obvious pick, but so early in the season, there is also no reason not to make it.

I’ll go with Paula Findlay – winner in 2021 – to race consistently strongly to take silver, with the final podium spot possibly being a showdown between two of the strongest runners in the sport, Tamara Jewett and Emma Pallant-Browne.

Both will want to bounce back from DNF disappointment in Miami at the first race of the T100 Triathlon World Tour last month. In a somewhat symmetrical pick, I’ll take Jewett to win that battle, leaving the final podium filled by the last three winners of the event.

Tomos Land Podium:

  1. Emma Pallant-Browne
  2. Taylor Knibb
  3. Grace Thek

Sorry to spoil the Knibb party, but unless Emma Pallant-Browne is a late withdrawal from this race, my money is on her to run away to victory, just like Tamara Jewett did last year.

Emma Pallant-Browne wins IRONMAN 703 Mossel Bay photo credit IRONMAN South Africa
Another win for Emma Pallant-Browne [Photo credit: IRONMAN South Africa]

I really believe that the huge professional men’s field in Oceanside will have a major impact on the women’s race dynamics, and potentially leave the door wide open for some of the weaker swimmers in the women’s field to get back into the race.

If EPB is as fit as her recent single discipline results suggest, and has recovered from her crash, I really think she can take the race to Knibb and pull off a shock victory.

Although I have no doubt Knibb will finish on the podium, I don’t think it will be the top step, especially if Pallant-Browne is within two minutes coming into transition.

For my third-place finisher, I have factored in race sharpness as the key determinant between a strong pool of contenders. After two middle distance podiums in Tasmania and Geelong over the last six weeks, I think Australian Grace Thek is the best of the bunch.

Pro Men Predictions and Podium Picks

John Levison Podium:

  1. Sam Long
  2. Jelle Geens
  3. Jackson Laundry

Confidence can be key, and Sam Long will have walked away from his second place in Miami with plenty of it. As a heart-on-his-sleeve type of athlete, I think that will mean a lot this weekend. He will, of course, be chasing after the swim – but happy no doubt that RaceRanger will provide additional support to making the bike leg a fair one.

Sam Long fist bumps after taking second at the Miami T100
[Photo Credit – PTO]

Short-course star Leo Bergere took the title last year, something Belgium’s Jelle Geens will hope to replicate here ahead of his Paris 2024 ambitions, with the added incentive of also securing his 70.3 World’s start.

I’m not sure he has quite the same swim-bike prowess as the 2023 champ, but if he is near top run shape and in contention at T2, it’ll take something special to stop him. In Olympic year though, how much specific prep will he have had for this?

With a win (2022) and third (2023) in the last two events, this event is absolutely a focus for Canada’s Jackson Laundry, who is seeking big PTO points to access T100 wildcards later in the season.

Chasing those at a course you’ve got great recent experience at, is a positive. Will that be enough to be ‘first Canadian’, with Lionel Sanders (2-time winner here with plenty more podiums), also in the field?

I’m going to go for a Long / Geens / Laundry podium – but I think that top spot is fair more open for the men, which should provide some great racing at the front of the race. If it can come close to matching the last two years, the IRONMAN Pro Series should get off to a strong start.

Jenny Lucas-Hill Podium:

  1. Sam Long
  2. Jelle Geens
  3. Patrick Lange

The heart says Lionel. But the head says we’ve got to be putting our money on Sam Long to top the podium here. That epic comeback from looking like he would be lapped, to charging back to the podium at the Miami T100, was a bold statement which says he means business.

Two podiums from two so far in 2024 means you’d be a fool to bet against Long and I believe that even if the front of the field takes the swim out hot, it’s not over until the ‘yo, yo, yo’ sings.

Nevertheless, as JL says, the podium is pretty open in the men’s race. Laundry brings plenty of on-course experience and has the added carrot of T100 wildcard points to chase.

Additionally, if the likes of Geens, Lange and Joe Skipper are at the pointy end of affairs coming into T2, we can expect plenty of excitement in the run battle to the finish line.

Tomos Land Podium:

  1. Lionel Sanders
  2. Joe Skipper
  3. Sam Long

Why would I back Lionel Sanders to the edges of the earth? Is it because he is a brilliant triathlete? Partly. Is it because he wears his heart on his sleeve? Perhaps. But above all else, what I love about Lionel is that he never, ever, gives up.

Lionel Sanders at the press conference ahead of 70.3 World Championship 2023
Lionel Sanders at the press conference ahead of 70.3 World Championship 2023 [Photo credit: Ville Kashkivirta / IRONMAN]

The guy has been badmouthed on social media since before social media was a thing, and has had every single race result of his career scrutinised by armchair quarterbacks who enjoy nothing more than to watch him fail.

But still he persists. A two-time champion here in years gone by, I am backing him to come out swinging at his first race since September and take this one, in a race where I foresee the old guard of Sanders, Skipper, Braden Currie and Patrick Lange putting on a clinic.

In second place, I’m backing Mr Joe Skipper, who by all accounts is in great shape and will be out for vengeance after by his own high standards an underwhelming 2023. In third, I think Sam Long will start off his Oceanside-Singapore double header the right way with a podium finish.

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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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