PTO World Ranked #5 Lionel Sanders has shared a tentative race schedule for the remainder of the 2023 season on his YouTube channel, with the Canadian looking likely to be absent from some major start lines over the coming months.
Sanders has endured a mixed start to the season, with an impressive performance in Montreal at the Arena Games followed by a crash and a DNF at CLASH Miami.
Most recently, the 35 year old has battled through some illness after his trip to Florida and as a result had to withdraw from last weekend’s IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside.
Sanders, who became a father for the first time late last year, looks to be concentrating on the middle distances this year, as he works his way towards a championship event in Europe at the end of the summer.
Next up, North America?
Sticking to his guns, Sanders is set to miss the PTO European Tour in Ibiza at the beginning of May, instead opting instead for St George, where over the 70.3 distance he has raced five times, winning in 2016, 2018 and 2021.
In 2021, IRONMAN 70.3 St George was the venue for one of the most entertaining races of all time, as Sanders took the win over Sam Long by just six seconds following a memorable final 5km in Utah.
This year, the battle for the win will likely be just as ferocious, with Long tipped to return to the race and recent IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside third place finisher Jackson Laundry also recently sharing that he will to be on the start list.
Victory in St George would be an incredible 25th win over the IRONMAN 70.3 distance for Sanders.
After IRONMAN 70.3 St George, Sanders will head back to his native Canada on June 25, to race an event where success has not been hard to find in recent years.
IRONMAN 70.3 Mont Tremblant in 2023, will once again see Sanders go for gold, at a venue where he has won an astonishing five titles since 2015, as he looks to win back-to-back races after triumphing here in 2022.
Whilst Mont Tremblant is a happy hunting ground for the Canadian, it also offers a second chance to qualify for IRONMAN 70.3 Worlds, should the former ITU Long Distance Champion miss out on the qualifying spots in St George.
With both St George and Mont Tremblant on the cards for the first half of the season, it looks as though we are seeing a return to the formula that made Sanders so dominant over the distance between 2015-2019. In that five year period, Sanders raced an average of five 70.3 events a year.
PTO US Open test
With no races pencilled in for July, the two time IRONMAN World Championship runner-up looks set to gear up for a big block of racing in the month of August, where he intends to race in Milwaukee at the PTO US Open.
After seventh at the PTO Canadian Open in 2022, followed by the third fastest leg at the Collins Cup for Team International, Sanders looked to be in great form heading into the PTO US Open in Dallas.
However, the Canadian struggled home in 21st, with that calibre performance replicated at the IRONMAN World Championships in Hawaii, where he finished 34th as his season broke down at the most crucial point.
This year, Sanders will again back up the US Open with a championship event, but will undoubtedly have learnt some valuable lessons from last year’s struggles. After a slower start to the season than most, could 2023 be the year that Sanders stands on top of a PTO podium?
Finland and the Grand Finale
Whilst missing the PTO European Open in Ibiza is a big shock, the biggest surprise is that Sanders is slated to miss the IRONMAN World Championships in Nice, with any potential IRONMAN races set to come in the final months of the year.
Despite this, the Canadian may decided to race IRONMAN Cozumel or Arizona in November, but the tentative schedule shared shows he is very much focused on one thing, the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships in Finland.
Having finished on the podium twice over the IRONMAN distance, he has never been in the top three over arguably his best distance at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship.
Having last raced the event in 2016, where he finished ninth, Sanders is set to head to Finland on August 27 to take on the best in the world over the half distance. With such a heavy focus on 70.3 throughout the season, this may well be the year we see Sanders on a 70.3 Worlds podium for the first time.
Given the obvious sacrifices he’s making and the big events he’s choosing to miss, Sanders will mean business come August, and if he makes it to the start line healthy, could be the man to beat in Milwaukee and Lahti.