This weekend the focus for long distance triathlon fans around the world will undoubtedly be IRONMAN South Africa, which is set to be an exhilarating and hotly contested event. The race begins in the world-famous Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth, before heading out on arguably the most spectacular bike course on the IRONMAN world circuit. The final leg is a fast, flat beachfront marathon that will likely be the deciding time for the podium spots.
This race will act as the first IRONMAN Regional Championship of 2019, and with Kona spots on offer for at least the first two finishers in the male and female categories, there’s set to be a huge battle up front. Three top tier Zone3 athletes will be racing in the male race, keep an eye on Zone3 athletes Josh Amberger, Tim Don and Bart Aernouts!
MALE RACE PREVIEW
The men’s race is set to be a high-octane event, with lots of fierce contenders but no real favourite to speak of. The lead will probably change hands a lot throughout the race, so expect to be glued to your live feed for the entire event!
The beginning leg of the race is set to be dominated by Josh Amberger (AUS), who is widely regarded as the fastest swimmer in long-distance triathlon and was first out of the water at countless events last season. Not only this, but he has a track record of impressive swims at this Regional Championships. In 2018 Josh exited the water solo in 46:24, almost 2 minutes clear from his nearest competitor. With the new Vanquish on his back in 2019, Josh is set to go even quicker and has his sights set on climbing onto the top step of the podium.
The returning champion from 2018, Kyle Buckingham (RSA) will also be set to battle for the podium positions and will be hoping to blitz through towards the end of the race with his strong marathon.
Eyes will also be on Bart Aernouts (BEL), who will be back to high-level racing after his phenomenal performance at the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona, Hawaii last season. This event saw him finish second, and in the process was only the second person ever to break the 8-hour barrier in this famous race. This race will be a return to South Africa for Bart, who last competed in 2015 where he finished in 3rd. David McNamee (GBR), who ended in the third position on the podium alongside Bart in Kona, will also be racing at IRONMAN South Africa and looking to secure his qualification for the 2019 event.
Tim Don (GBR) is set to start his 2019 season with a bang at IRONMAN South Africa, determined to qualify for the World Championships by having a strong race. Tim’s return to form in 2018 was a journey followed around the world, and this previous IRONMAN World Record Holder is a force to be reckoned with when he’s on top form. His time of 7:40:23 at IRONMAN Brazil in 2017 is still the 2nd fastest of all time and the British IRONMAN Record. Tim is a fierce competitor and phenomenal all-round triathlete so will have plenty of fans willing him on throughout the race.
Tim told us “I’m super chuffed to finally be doing an IRONMAN in South Africa. It’s like a second home to me, having trained out here so much over my career. The field is mega, and I am up for the challenge. The crowds here are always amazing so I hope that they can get me through to a top finish!”
FEMALE RACE PREVIEW
The women’s race is also set to be fast from the gun, with the two fastest female swimmers in long-distance triathlon set to push the pace early.
Returning Champion from 2018, Lucy Charles (GBR), will be heading back to IRONMAN South Africa for her first race of the season. Lucy led from gun to tape in the 2018 race, setting the fastest swim and bike splits in the process. She’ll be the one to watch at IRONMAN South Africa this year, although she won’t be given an easy ride to victory.
Lauren Brandon (USA) will be hot on Lucy’s tail during the swim, and with her biking prowess is likely to stay in the mix for much of the race. Lauren was 2nd out of the water at Kona in 2018 so expect to see her in the same position after the swim in South Africa!
The German duo of Anja Ippach and Mareen Hufe will be chasing hard throughout the bike and run to get into contention, with a huge number of IRONMAN and 70.3 podium finishes between the two of them. Coming off the back of a big block of training in the Canary Isles, Anja Ippach will be set to rip up the bike course in an attempt to gain her qualification spot for Kona.
Another name to watch will be Angela Naeth (CAN), who spent much of 2018 recovering from Lyme Disease. This infection was originally caused by a tick bite and left her bedridden and unable to train for much of last season. Each race last year was a small stepping stone and learning experience of how to train and perform to the high standards required of a professional female triathlete, and was rewarded with a top 10 finish in the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona last year!