7. Eneko Llanos
Past results: IM 70.3 Lanzarote winner 2015; Ironman Europe Champion 2013; Three-time XTERRA World Champion
Of the four Spaniards on the startlist, Llanos looks to have the all-round talent to produce the best result in Kona. At 38, there are plenty of miles on the clock with an Ironman career stretching back over a decade, three XTERRA world titles and an appearance in the first Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000.
He DNF’d last year in Kona after the bike leg and an eighth place in the Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt with a 3:18:34 marathon was also below par, but Llanos is still a regular top 10 performer and retains some of his short course speed, as proven by a 1:11:16 half-marathon in a packed Challenge Dubai race in February. He’s also proved he’s in good current shape with a win at the recent Lanzarote 70.3 race, so expected to be in the mix.
6. Brent McMahon
Past results: IM Arizona winner 2015 (course record); three-time IM 70.3 North America champion
Owner of the fastest Ironman debut time ever at Arizona last year (7:55:48), the Canadian certainly has the speed to impress on debut in Hawaii.
Now 35, he experienced two Olympic Games eight years apart in Athens and London, improving from 39th to 27th, and will not have lost all the speed from the 31:09 10km split he put in at Hyde Park. Hailing from Victoria, British Columbia, McMahon has also worked with the same coach, Lance Watson, for two decades and despite the extended short course career, Watson believes his protege was always destined to go long, saying: "I knew when he was in his early twenties that he'd be best at Ironman, but Brent's complete commitment to what we were doing long-term gave us the luxury of not rushing him to that distance." The pair will hope the cool, calculated approach pays off on October 10.
5. Andy Potts
Past results: 4th IM World Championship 2014; IM 70.3 Calgary winner 2014; Escape From Alcatraz winner 2014
At 38, time should be running out for the ever-dependable Potts, and yet he’s showing few signs of slowing down, particularly in Hawaii. Save 2013, when he pulled out injured on the morning of the race, the American has been competing on the Big Island since 2008, collecting three top 10 finishes in the process.
Such is Potts’ reputation and history as the perennial swim leader, the lead kayak might as well be assigned as his personal companion, although Jan Frodeno tried to upset the etiquette by out-muscling him on to the pier last year and it’s likely New Zealand’s Dylan McNeice will have a say this time around. A 2004 Olympian in Athens where he was first out of the water and finished 22nd, Potts will undoubtedly lose a few spots on the bike, before – if he’s having a good day - forge back into race on the run.
Log on to Potts’ website and the first thing that greets you is a slogan saying: ‘Andy Potts is always a contender’. I don’t see anything changing here.
4. Bart Aernouts
Ninth IM World Championship 2014; IM France winner 2014; IM 70.3 Wiesbaden winner 2014
Two things to know about Aernouts: he won’t win, yet he won’t be overtaken on the marathon. On dry land, the former duathlete and Uplace BMC team member excels.
The Belgian is the type of athlete you don’t hear about all day then pops up on Ali’i Drive in an impressive position having clocked just about fastest run split. In 2013 the 2:44:03 was good enough for eighth, last year’s 2:50:12 resulting in ninth. The non-wetsuit swim is where he suffers, but he’s improving - in 2012 he couldn’t break the hour, last year it was down to 55.43.
This year does offer more hope, as neither Kienle or Skipper are front-pack swimmers either, but will be amongst the strongest bikers in the race. If they come out of the swim in dribs and drabs it may not suit, but as a combined second or third chase pack it will be fun to watch, fireworks will fly and it could set Aernouts up perfectly to unleash yet another impressive run.
Find out who our tip for the top spot is on page 3