Open men’s race on the cards at IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa
The big news of race week was the withdrawal of defending champion and local favourite, James Cunnama. This leaves the field wide open for Bart Aernouts who would have been Cunnama’s biggest competition on the day, with some arguing that he might have just edged the favourite tag. Cunnama announced earlier this week that he was unable to recover from a calf injury in time for the race.
Aernouts was the 2013 champion and was in East London in 2014 to defend his title before he was struck by illness forcing him to withdraw on the morning of the race.
South Africa’s Stuart Marais along with Kyle Buckingham and Matt Trautman, will be South Africa’s best hopes of toppling the current IRONMAN 70.3 European Championship. Marais finished fourth in 2014 and recently won his first IRONMAN 70.3 title in 2014 at Pescara, Italy with podium finishes at IRONMAN 70.3 Taiwan and IRONMAN 70.3 Malaysia.
Cyril Viennot, who placed fifth at the IRONMAN World Championship in 2014, is another athlete with vast experience and who is used to racing in strong fields. The Frenchman is a good bet for a podium.
In the absence of the traditionally fast swimmers that this race has seen in previous years, we could see a much closer start and a more tactical approach which will make for fascinating racing.
Swallow aiming for fifth consecutive title in East London
With Jodie Swallow in the field, the ladies’ race has a more predictable look to it. Swallow will be aiming for an unprecedented fifth consecutive title in East London and with her record she will be odds on favourite to get it. Not only has she won this event for the past four years, it is the manner in which she has won that demonstrates her ability. No one has been able to come close to the former world champion in previous years. She is currently one of the best long distance female triathletes in the world.
Swallow will face her biggest competition from Lucie Reed who gave her the closest race in her four-year domination when she finished second in 2014. Susie Cheetham, better known as Susie Hignett, also returns to East London having not had the best time in 2014. The tough Brit is well accustomed to the tough Standard Bank IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa course and local conditions having raced in East London in 2012 and 2013.
Making her first appearance at the Standard Bank IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa is American athlete, Sarah Piampiano. Piampiano will come into the race as something of an unknown quantity but with some impressive podium finishes at IRONMAN 70.3 races in Chile and the United States, she is not an athlete to take lightly.
Flying the flag for South Africa in the professional ladies’ field is Lynette Van Der Merwe, Riana Robertson, Andrea Steyn and Jeanni Seymour.
We're minutes away from the start of the Standard Bank IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa. The South Africa national anthem is being sung.
The 8th Standard Bank IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa has started - PRO men are in the water.
PRO ladies have just entered the water.
Early sea conditions are looking good. The wind has caused havoc in the sea over the past few days, very calm on race morning though.
First age group wave men 18-29 have now started.
Wind starting to pick up slightly now causing some chop in the water.
Leading men now approaching the final turn buoy.
Here come the leading men.
First out the water is Matt Trautman, Kyle Buckingham and Stuart Marais.
Bart Aernouts in 4th, Gerhard de Bruin and Cyril Viennot now out the water.
Leading lady is Jodie Swallow, now out the water. What a swim!
Looks like Swallow will have a big early lead.
Susie Cheetham behind Reed in fourth followed by Lynette van Der Merwe for the ladies.
The cyclists are now on the N2. Matt Trautman leading 10km into the bike route
Jodie Swallow is the leading lady on the bike route.
#IM703SA Jodie Swallow first out onto the bike course after another great swim! Behind her are Reed, Cheetham and Van Der Merwe.
#IM703SA Matt Trautman leads the way through the opening stages of the ride.
Jodie Swallow just past the 10km mark and is 4 minutes behind the male PRO athletes.
#IM703SA Very close between the leading men, Kyle Buckingham and Trautamn exchanging the lead. Stuart Mariais also up there with them.
#IM703SA Leading men now at 21km into the bike, approaching the first aid station. Some big climbs on that section of the course, undulating hills.
#IM703SA Jodie Swallow with a commanding early lead in the ladies' field. Emma Bilham and Lucie Reed her closest rivals but not not in sight
@JodieSwallow now past the 25km mark on the bike, still comfortably out in front.
Emma Bilham, the second lady now past the 25km mark on the bike.
Jodie Swallow has just overtaken number 10 of the male pro athletes, Gerhard De Bruin.