Although Ironman and Challenge races are all year-round, Kona is the culmination of the long distance racing season. Last years race didn’t follow the usual script, however, with Kona being the beast it is, it’s always going to be hard to predict. The race certainly threw up many questions regarding what to expect in 2018, and on top of that we are sure to see new faces on the non-drafting scene, either those coming from an ITU background or those progressing through the age group scene.
Men - 2018
The biggest questions on peoples lips… Will Frodeno bounce back this year, will we see Alistair Brownlee and Javier Gomez at Kona, is 2018 the year of Lionel Sanders, will Dave McNamee continue his progression, will Kona be won on the bike or the run next season or can Patrick Lange outrun any deficit? From the wide range of questions, it shows just how open and exciting this year will be, and that is just looking at head to head battles. Tim Don’s annihilation of the Ironman World Record might tempt others to steal his crown, and Tim will undoubtedly be back with vengeance after getting knocked off his bike just days out from Kona. He is already back training, albeit with a neck brace on while on the turbo!
There will certainly be some impressive performances, but key races to tune into will no doubt be the championship events. The 70.3 World Championships will head to Nelson Bay, South Africa. Challenges’ ‘The Championship’ is heading back to Samorin, and it will easily attract a stellar field again. Kona will round off the season, however amongst these headline events are numerous other long-distance races, in fact, you can pretty much pick a country or a weekend, and there will be a race!
The returners - Jan Frodeno, Lionel Sanders, Sebastian Kienle, Patrick Lange, David McNamme.
The (relatively) new names - Javier Gomez, Nick Kastelein, Alistair Brownlee, Justus Nieschlag, Ben Kanute.
Women - 2018
This year there are just as many questions in the women's category as the men's. Will Daniela Ryf reign supreme again, can Lucy Charles continue her rise, will Liz Blatchford and Jodie Swallow come back stronger after becoming mums, will Emma Pallant move up to the full distance? What ITU stars are making the move to long distance? When you look at all the athletes that have featured on the long distance scene over the years, the list is long. The nature of long-distance racing means that results are somewhat unpredictable, it seems form can be very up and down. Long distance careers are often long and don’t always favour the young ones. Therefore you can find names popping up for many years, unlike ITU where there is a handful of favourites, with everyone in their peak form. In long distance there are numerous potential winners, and 2018 will probably be the most significant year for movement of ITU athletes to the long distance racing scene. These athletes will likely change the dynamic of racing as they look to push on the swim.
The returners - Daniela Ryf, Sarah Crowley, Heather Jackson, Jodie Swallow.
The (relatively) new names - Lucy Charles, Emma Pallant, Sarah True, Susie Cheetham, Kim Morrison.