There are plenty of big name contenders missing from the top ten shortlists for Kona 2014, which is one reason why this race is so engaging.
Having already predicted who I think will be posting a top-ten finish in the male and female races this weekend, here are my thoughts on some of the other interesting possibilities…
Craig ‘Crowie’ Alexander, 41, Australia
For a triathlete who rolls in just behind Mark Allen and Dave Scott as the greatest male Kona racer in history, only a fool would completely disregard Craig Alexander’s chances.
The Australian delivered almost the perfect race to win his third title in 2011 with a course record 8:03, but ever since his career has been on the wane with regular declarations of retirements in the aftermath of disappointing Ironman results.
The Australian’s finishing record in Kona of 2, 1, 1, 4, 1, 12th and then 21st last season, sends a clear message. If he’s within striking distance emerging from T2, he will be a threat, but the chances are slim at best. Like many great athletes, it seems he only realises he’s past his prime when he’s in the thick of battle.
Pete Jacobs, 32, Australia
Since his 2012 victory, the cerebral Pete Jacobs has struggled with niggling injuries and achieved little other than incurring the ire of Ironman WTC Andrew Messick for not trying hard enough. As a former champ the Albino Tiger stamped his ticket for Hawaii by jogging through in Zurich a week after an aborted assault on Challenge Roth.
Where Jacobs controlled the bike leg in 2012, he led out again briefly last year before a red-hot pace line engulfed him on the Queen K. A serene triathlete at his masterful best, but Jacobs, admitting to suffering high level fatigue, looks a way off that at present.
Andrew Starykowicz, 32, USA
Andrew Starykowicz came close to Stadler’s Kona bike course record last year despite regurgitating most of his Powerbar drink on to the asphalt.
The run was not a pretty sight, but with the nutrition fixed he reappeared a few weeks later in Florida to lay down a new Ironman bike best of 4:02:17.
Yet, he still didn’t win – and that’s the perennial problem for the straight-talking American. While he’ll be blasting away at the front again this year, he’s a big lump to carry it off for 26.2 miles.
Luke McKenzie, 33, Australia
Luke McKenize is no newcomer to the sport, but last year’s runners-up berth was a breakthrough for the Australian who has been trying to master Hawaii since 2006.
It also saw him introduce the trucker hat to a wider audience as an endurance sport accessory and while the jury might be out on that, McKenzie certainly showed he had tuned the diesel engine to keep chugging on.
His ability to live with Sebastian Kienle and Andrew Starykowicz on the bike impressed but while a dark horse, his season had included impressive wins at Cairns in June.
This year has been nothing like as spectacular. A bizarre helmet strap issue at Ironman Melbourne started it, a 10th place at Roth lacked reassurance and it would be a major surprise if he repeated last year’s epic adventure.
We continue our look at the big-name athletes who haven’t made our top ten lists, but still pose a real threat come race day…
James Cunnama, 31, South Africa
Nothing about James Cunnama’s season suggests he can repeat the fourth place of last year. He was 13th in his home country race in South Africa and fifth in Roth with 8:11. Granted on a hot day that is a commendable effort, but Cunnama is a class act and will have wanted better.
The 70.3 season has been more of a disappointment. In the stacked North American Championships in St George, Utah, he rolled in 28th, and crashed out of Mont-Tremblant last month displaying some gritty road rash.
Cunnama is now under the guidance of the wily Chris McCormack, which no doubt ups his chances and he makes a tight-knit team with girlfriend Jodie Swallow, so while he has the credentials to perform similarly to last year, the form just does not stack up.
Andreas Raelert, 38, Germany
Not so many years ago there was $1,000,000 on the line from sponsors K-Swiss if the Raelert brothers delivered a one-two in Kona. Michael was the king of 70.3 and older brother Andreas the heir apparent to McCormack/Alexander.
For all the Rostock siblings undoubted ability it hasn’t work out. Many believe they are too lean, but injury is the most overt sign. It’s struck both and while Andreas scrambled qualification with third at the North American Championships, Kona will be a bridge too far.
Heather Wurtele, 35, Canada
Most of the women contenders have been covered in the top 10, but consistent Canadian Heather Wurtele, who travels in a mobile home with husband and fellow professional Trevor, will believe she’s worthy of a prize money slot.
If she’s not it will be because her marathon best of 3:09 doesn’t cut it in the increasing depth of the women’s field.
Yvonne Van Vlerken, 35, Netherlands
Yvonne Van Vlerken, fourth last year, is another who misses out on our top ten. Primarily because a broken clavicle earlier in the year that will not help her swim split shifting from the wrong side of an hour.
Who do you think is a major threat for Kona 2014? Let us know in the comments below!