This event is going to be epic.
On the men’s side Sebastian is given the favourite’s role as defending champion because of his experience on the island, but let’s face it, defending this title is a very difficult thing to do. In the last 15 years only two athletes have been able to do that on the men’s side. From my view I think Sebastian could be the guy to look at.
Jan is a special case as well with such massive pedigree and a flawless season, and if anyone can make it difficult it will be him. He has had the better of Sebastian all year.
I am also looking at the massive Belgian contingent to shape this race in 2015. Freddie [van Lierde], Bart [Aernouts] and Marino [Vanhoenacker] will be real shapers of this race on the men’s side and three guys I see being very close to the front of this event.
Freddie knows what it takes to win here and lose here. That is experience. Marino has done his time and has nothing to lose. He has had a heavy season of racing, but came at his season with better timing than years past. He was fat in February when Jan and Sebastian were winning races. This is a good thing. Bart in my opinion is the fastest guy in this field on foot and if given the chance to be within striking distance has the confidence to follow this through.
Outsiders to watch shape the race are rookie Brent Mcmahon who is simply stunning at this distance, but an experienced professional in every capacity. Australian Tim Berkel can be a real top 10 threat again and Tyler Butterfield seems to be in very good shape of late. Andy Potts and Ben Hoffman on the USA side are always major players and newcomer Lionel Sanders can really open this bike course up especially if the wind is on. A real dark horse is former ITU world champion Ivan Rana, but he has to be close on the bike to do so.
On the women’s side the overwhelming favourite is Daniela Ryf and this is her event to lose this year. More athletes go from second place to the winner’s podium than anything so she is poised to do that. She has had a single blemish on a two year season, being her defeat last year to Mirinda Carfrae on this course. She is a better athlete than she was last year and her season has been flawless. This is her race to lose.
Caroline [Steffen] and Jodie [Swallow] are two stellar athletes poised to keep her honest. I think at the moment though the fight on the women’s side is for the podium places. I just cannot fault Daniela in any way.
Leanda Cave I always enjoy watching compete and she has the experience and the confidence to be really competitive still in this event.
No one has talked about defending champion Mirinda and we all know what she can do on foot. If she is close she will win. I just think this bike ride will be too much this year for even her.
Look for Angela Naeth and Meredith Kessler to be competitive.
Kona is always a difficult one to ascertain winning, as the elements play such a huge role in the outcome of the race. To me this is the absolute purity of the event that makes it so special.