Countdown to Kona

We pick this year's top contenders for Ironman Hawaii

Leanda Cave

It’s nearly time for the big one! Yep, unless you’ve been living in a hole for the last few weeks, you’ll know that this Saturday (12th October) over 2,000 athletes will take on the 45mph crosswinds, 95 degree heat and barren lava fields to cross the finish line in the world’s most iconic triathlon – Ironman Hawaii.

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We’ll be bringing you all the latest interviews, coverage and news over the next few days – starting with our guide to the athletes 220 think could clinch it this year…

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Pete Jacobs (AUS)

Last year: 1st place in 08:18:37
www.petejacobs.com

Although defending champ Jacobs has largely failed to impress in 2013 (including a peculiar outing at Ironman Frankfurt where he walked the last 10km of the run), the competition would be wise not to call his bluff. This below-par season makes the Aussie something of a dark horse coming to Kona.

Craig Alexander (AUS)

Last year: 12th place in 08:40:49
www.craigalexander.net

His impressive run of 70.3 results this year suggests that the veteran Kona course record-holder can’t be written off. After placing third in Ironman Asia Pacific back in March, ‘Crowie’ took half-Ironman titles in Hawaii, Kansas and Lake Stevens. Can he become the first 40-something Kona king?

Eneko Llanos (ESP)

Last year: DNF
www.enekollanos.com

Tipped for the podium by Jacobs himself, Llanos’ season couldn’t have been more different to the Australian’s, having won the Ironman Asia Pacific and Frankfurt titles, posting easily the fastest run split in both. Arguably the most in-form athlete on paper, but has he peaked too early?

Photo: Delly Carr

Leanda Cave

Leanda Cave (GBR)

Last year: 1st place in 09:15:54
www.leandacave.com

The women’s defending champion won with true British grit last year, while others succumbed to the heat on the run. Despite everything seemingly going against her this season (including a shocking skin cancer diagnosis), her never-say-die attitude will make her a contender again.

Caroline Steffen (SUI)

Last year: 2nd place in 09:16:58
steffencaroline.ch

With two second-place finishes on the Big Island, Steffen’s form this season – including a convincing Challenge Roth triumph – has demonstrated she’s ready to go one step further. Special focus will be paid to the marathon’s last 10km which Steffen admits “cost me the race” in both 2010 and 2012.

Mary Beth Ellis (USA)

last year: 5th place in 09:22:57
www.marybethellisracing.com

Ellis has had a solid season, winning the Alpe d’Huez Long Course Triathlon and breaking course records at Ironman France and Florida 70.3. Her fifth-place Kona finish last year was the only Iron-distance race she’s entered and not won. If she’s got her preparation right, she could be a real contender.

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Photo: Delly Carr