The delayed 2021 IRONMAN World Championship in St George next May 7 already has triathlon pundits and fans licking their lips in anticipation.
Two sensational races are in prospect, with star-studded casts set to line up in both the women’s and men’s pro fields.
Six-times IRONMAN World Champion Mark Allen assessed the women’s landscape last week on his ‘Mondays With Mark Allen’ YouTube series, and now he looks at the leading men.
Jan Frodeno, Gustav Iden and Kristian Blummenfelt might be the ‘Big Three’ – but there are other contenders too. Here is Allen’s verdict on where they all stand right now.
Early St George analysis
“No-one in my opinion is a favourite yet, they’re all equal on the start line. As the season progresses in 2022, of course that prediction will change.
I’m calling it a dead heat. The top guys, they each have strengths, they each have weaknesses, here’s how I see it right now:”
“He has experience, I don’t know if he can race on that course that well. It’s hillier than a lot of the courses I’ve seen him just crush – we’ll see in St George in May next year.
“But if he uses that experience against the other guys to pace it properly, he knows how to pace and prepare for one single race. That’s one of things he does best and when he can do that, he has the ability to just put it together on the day that counts most.
“He’s getting old though – the dude is getting old – I mean come on, you have to admit he’s over 40. That is a disadvantage in terms of recovery and in terms of the lifetime toll on his body of training.
“But again he has that experience and he knows that he doesn’t have to crush – all he has to do is cross that finish line in first place. Kind of like he did in Beijing winning that gold, he waited until the very last moment, sprinted away and won it.”
“The guy has a lot of natural talent. He’s sharp, he did IRONMAN Florida, said there’s a lot of work to be done in the Ironman distance, which is pretty amazing because he broke 8 hours in his very first Ironman.
“That natural talent will carry him across that finish line in first place IF he continues that progression in his fitness, doesn’t take anything for granted, works on the weaknesses that he has.
“He has shown that he can race that course – he won the 70.3 Worlds there this past September. Definitely a contender, but there are some guys out there that have a lot of motivation.”
“He’s stocky, he’s heavy, he’s strong. I’m not sure that he’s suited specifically for that course. Over an Ironman distance race, with the pounding that it’s going to take on the marathon, with the demand on the bike, that weight could be a disadvantage to him. But so far he’s shown that he can use that as a strength.
“The thing that he has going for him is that he just has this incredible burning desire to win. He’s kind of like a predator that has finely honed his skills to the point where he knows if he’s on, he’s gonna get it. He loves to get that prey – his other competitors.
“If that super-competitive drive comes out on raceday, he’s not afraid of pain, he’s gonna be a contender. A favourite? I don’t put him ahead of any of those other guys I’ve spoken about.”
“He has changed his coaching, he’s progressing, he’s building, he has experience, he has done well on the 70.3 course in St George – he knows how to race and the demands of the hills on the bike and the demands of the run.
“Disadvantage? I’m just not sure he’s got all the same natural tools that Frodeno, that Gustav Iden, that Kristian Blummenfelt have.
“But, he is tough as they come, he is just as tough as any one of those guys and if he’s on on the day, he also knows that he doesn’t have to lead it, he just has to win it.”
“He had a pretty lacklustre season the last full season in 2019, but he came back and had an incredible race at Challenge Roth – on a shortened course yes, but still it showed that he’s come back from a place where he just didn’t seem to be able to put it together.
“Can he race against those other guys on that course? I think so – he loves hills, he trains in Austria, he’s gonna be prepared for that course.
“The disadvantage? He hasn’t raced those guys in a long time. We will see on raceday – certainly a contender but not the favourite.”
“He was second in St George at 70.3 Worlds. He has won multiple Ironmans. He has shown he can put it together. The question is, can he close that gap between where he was last season and Gustav Iden.
“Definitely has what it takes – he has closed down the outer world. He is looking with laser focus at IRONMAN World Championship in St George in May. If he can close that gap, watch out everybody.”