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2023 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships: Can Taylor Knibb go back-to-back?

2023 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships: Can Taylor Knibb go back-to-back?

With the 2023 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships in Lahti, Finland just a couple of days away, we have chosen our podium predictions for the women’s race, based on the leading contenders and dark horse candidates who have made their way over to Europe.

Taylor Knibb, the defending champion from St George last October, returns to a middle distance start line after her PTO Tour US Open win and will be racing off the back of a superb performance at the Paris Olympic Test Event where she secured her place on the US Olympic Team for Paris next summer.

Former middle distance world champions, such as Daniela Ryf and Holly Lawrence, have also made the trip out to Finland and will ensure that the battle for the win is as hard fought as it is exciting. In our prediction piece below, we try to decipher form and fitness to determine who will come out on top.

Leading contenders

Whilst there is an abundance of top-end quality in the women’s field, the race for the win seems to be set between Knibb and Ryf, with one of these women widely tipped to add to their considerable accolades, as Swiss star Ryf chases her sixth IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship title.

Daniela Ryf fist pump finish line Challenge Roth 2023
Daniela Ryf celebrates her amazing new record time [Photo credit: Challenge Roth]

Knibb, the defending champion, has got the better of Ryf in their previous two encounters, at both the 2021 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships and the Collins Cup two years ago. However, PTO World #5 Ryf has seemingly raised her level yet again in 2023 and will be incredibly hard to beat in Finland.

After not finishing in her first race of the season at the PTO Tour European Open, people were once again doubting Ryf’s ability to get back to her best. However, after putting PTO World #1 Ashleigh Gentle to the sword at IRONMAN 70.3 Switzerland in June, Ryf then went on to set an incredible record at Challenge Roth in a stunning 8:08 clocking, beating German duo Anne Haug and Laura Philipp in the process.

Whilst Haug and Gentle are absent in Finland, Philipp will be racing and over the middle distance is one of the strongest athletes in the sport. She may find it hard to compete with Ryf and Knibb, but has the quality to get the better of a competitive field and secure the remaining spot up for grabs on the podium if the race plays out as expected with Knibb and Ryf at the front.

From Great Britain, Emma Pallant-Browne, who picked up a fantastic third place last year in St George, will be chasing her fifth straight middle distance podium and is the best bet for a top performance. Former IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion Holly Lawrence is another British contender, with The Championship winner India Lee also racing.

Finally, Paula Findlay, the Canadian triathlon and now cycling superstar, has another opportunity to shine on a big stage, with the Edmonton native having made a point of performing at the biggest stages each season, following second at last year’s World Championships and more recently a third at the PTO Tour US Open.

Dark horses

Tamara Jewett, who has run her way to some fantastic results so far this season, such as a stellar win at IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside ahead of the likes of Chelsea Sodaro and Kat Matthews, could be an athlete that could shock some people with a podium performance in Lahti.

The Real Tri Squad member, who is the PTO World #11, only stopped balancing her training with work at the end of last season but has come on a long way in 2023, with podiums in Oceanside and IRONMAN 70.3 Pays d’Aix accompanying two creditable top 10 performances on the PTO Tour in Ibiza and Milwaukee.

Marjolaine Pierre wins Long Distance World Champs Ibiza 2023 [Photo credit: World Triathlon]
[Photo credit: World Triathlon]

Frenchwoman Marjolaine Pierre, who was victorious earlier in the year at the World Long Distance Championships in Ibiza is another dark horse for a strong showing, as the 23 year old looks to boost her rankings and possibly break into the PTO World top 10 with a podium or better in Finland.

Finally, Swiss athlete Imogen Simmonds, who is coming off the back of a transcontinental flight from Singapore after finishing fourth at the PTO Tour Asian Open, seems to be one of the in-form athletes heading into this race, with the PTO World #22 racking up three podiums in the Challenge Family Series earlier this year.

Verdict and podium picks

Forget Frodeno and Blummenfelt, for me, this race between Ryf and Knibb is the biggest coming together of two triathlon generations we will see this season, with one of the most successful long course athletes of all time going up against the rightful heiress to her throne.

Photo by Donald Miralle for IRONMAN
[Photo credit: Donald Miralle for IRONMAN]

Prior to her performance at Challenge Roth, many including myself would have looked to this race and written off any chance of Ryf contending with Knibb. However, the Swiss rocket’s recent form, combined with her legacy at this event, makes me wonder if Knibb will meet her match in Lahti over the middle distance.

The American, who has arguably been running better than ever so far this season, would likely back herself to beat the Swiss in a run race. Therefore, I foresee this head-to-head coming down to shrewdness and race tactics as much as it will pure strength, with Ryf pulling out every trick in the book to outsmart her younger rival.

I expect the racing to be incredibly close, unlike previous World Championship wins by Knibb or Ryf, and I think that at the end of the day, it will all come down to who can conserve the most energy for the back half of the run, not who can blast the biggest hole in the groups on the bike, as Knibb and Ryf are unlikely to have much company aside from perhaps Findlay coming into transition.

On Saturday, I think Ryf takes the tape, with Knibb closely behind in second and Pallant-Browne getting the better of Jewett in a foot race to secure her second consecutive World Championships podium. Findlay, who is the only other athlete in the field with anywhere near the bike strength of Ryf and Knibb, will round out the top five.

Women’s Race Predictions:

  1. Daniela Ryf (SUI)
  2. Taylor Knibb (USA)
  3. Emma Pallant-Browne (GBR)

When does the race start?

The women’s IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships will take place on Saturday August 26. On the weekend, the women will start their race at 07:30 local time. This corresponds to 00:30 on the East Coast, 05:30 in the UK and 06:30 Central European Time. On the West Coast, the race will begin at 21:30 on Friday August 24.

How to watch the race?

Coverage of the 2023 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships will be available for free on Outside Watch, with the broadcast beginning at 07:00 local time on Saturday. In the UK and Europe, coverage will begin at 05:00 and 06:00, with Americans able to tune in from 12:00 on the East Coast and 21:00 on the West Coast (Friday night).

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