Japan has a long history with IRONMAN, dating back to 1985 as the first IRONMAN event in Asia and the second international qualifier after New Zealand. 2015 race day features an inviting swim in the flat, clear drinkable water of Lake Toya; a bike course with impressive views of imposing mountains, volcanoes and lush farmland; and wraps up with arguably one of the sport’s most spectacular run courses alongside Lake Toya showcasing fireworks in the night sky.
Challenging bike course holds key at IRONMAN Japan
With none of the podium place getters from last year returning, the men’s field for this weekend’s au Insurance IRONMAN Japan is wide open.
However that is not the case for the women where Taiwan star Shiao Yu Li is chasing her third victory in a row in Japan.
American Patrick Evoe heads from his home in Texas to the Asian climes as the number one seed for Sunday’s race.
A new men’s champion will not be the only difference to the 2014 staging of the event, the field will tackle a new course on the bike this year. A bridge spanning the middle of the course last year collapsed during the winter, with riders now tacking on two big climbs on the revamped course.
After exiting the stunning surrounds of Lake Toya, the early going on the bike to Kutchan is mostly flat before the first climb of Mt Niseko-Annupuri, which is followed with a climb up Mt Konbu.
Once the bike is out of the way the run remains largely flat, taking place with the stunning backdrop of Lake Toya.
Evoe is no stranger to Asia, having finished third at IRONMAN Taiwan 70.3 this year. He is a seven time podium finisher in IRONMAN with success in Kentucky in 2012 where he also podiumed in 2013 and 2014.
Seychelles’ sole professional triathlete, Nick Baldwin is the second seed and hopes to build on a solid year that has seen him notch up a sixth place in Taiwan and fifth at IRONMAN Australia.
Kiwi Simon Cochrane was sixth at IRONMAN Cairns and seventh at IRONMAN New Zealand this year, which has helped him earn the No 4 bib ahead of American Colin O’Brady, who makes his IRONMAN debut after racing on the ITU circuit.
The highest ranked local is Shinozaki Yu who makes a return to the sport after some time out while Daiki Masuda is not without hope after finishing 13th in New Zealand last year.
Watch out for No 13 Swen Sundberg from Germany, who may prove far from unlucky after a recent win in Bangkok and he was eighth at IRONMAN Canada this year.
Li is one of the most successful female triathletes in Asia and is chasing her third straight women’s title in Japan after impressive victories in 2013 and 2014. The former age group world champion won IRONMAN Japan 70.3 last month and was fourth at IRONMAN races in Lanzarote – which features a tough bike course like Hokkaido - and Taiwan this year.
Popular Japanese athlete Emi Sakai returns as No 2 seed after finishing fourth last year.
American Bree Wee may be the biggest danger to a Japanese topped podium. She was 10th at IRONMAN Asia Pacific Championship in Melbourne this year and last year took out IRONMAN Canada along with fourth placings in Texas and New Zealand and sixth in Western Australia.
Watch too for Kiwi mother Kathryn Haesner, who is based in Singapore, and turned pro this year at age 38 to finish on the podium at Taiwan. She had an impressive fourth placing at IRONMAN Philippines Cebu 70.3 recently.
Former IRONMAN Australia winner Lisa Marangon (AUS) has plenty of experience while Japan’s Kaiko Tanaka has a strong heritage in the sport.
Good morning from Toyako #IMJapan begins at 6am with a Pro Male race start and the Womens race at 6.01am. It is a calm and cloudy day with water temps of 23.5 degrees.
10mins until Male Pro race start at 6am and the supporters are gathering along Lake Toya. The Japanese band is set to entertain as our athletes start their #IMJapan journey in this stunning destination, Toyako
6.00am and our Male Pros are seconds away from a race start #IMJapan at Lake Toya Hokkaido
#IMJapan Male and Female Pros are in the water. Next up is the age-group swim start 6.10am at #LakeToya
All age group wave starts have begun in the #LakeToya
It is said that the lake was created over 110 thousand years ago due to a giant volcanic eruption #IMJapan
1st Male Pro New Zealands Simon Cochrane was 1st out of water with Brasils Thiago Vinhal close behind chasing into T1 #IMJapan
NZL Pro Simon Cochrane 1st out of T1 with the next 4 males behind BRA Thiago Vinhal +01:03, DEU Swen Sunberg +00:15, SYC Nick Baldwin +00:16 and USA Colin O'Brady +00:17
男子プロ、トップでスイムから上がってきたのは、ニュージーランドのSimon Cochrane 選手です。僅かな差で、２位ブラジルのThiago Vinhal選手が追いながらT1へと向かいます。
Top 5 Female Pros out of the swim
1: JPN Keiko Tanaka
2: USA Bree Wee
3: FRA Sandra Fantini
4: NZL Kathryn Haesner
5: AUS Michelle Duffield
AUS Female Pro, Michelle Duffield is racing #IMJapan for the first time. She spoke pre-race of her new coach and the benefits of her current training program and how she was looking forward to the well known challenging cycle course.
2 x Female Pro defending champion, Shiao-Yu Li from Taiwan is in 9th position out of the swim and +18:16 behind 1st place female Pro Keiko Tanaka JPN however she is well known for her strong bike skills and we expect her to make up time quickly
ディフェンディングチャンピオンのShiao-Yu Li（台湾）は９位でスイムを終えました。１位でスイムアップの田中敬子からは１８分１６秒遅れています。しかしながら、Shiao-Yu Li はバイクが強いことで知られていますので、これからの巻き返しに目が離せません。
Cycle Course update for Female Pro race #24 USA Bree Wee has overtaken #33 JPN Keiko Tanaka at approximately 25km mark. Both ladies are strong cyclists so the race will be interesting as they head into the hills surrounding #LakeToya #IMJapan
A steady stream of age groupers are heading out of T1 ready to take on the challenging cycle course. It is great to see large numbers of spectators here in Toyako.
Pro Athlete update. NZL Simon Cochrane is still leading male race and has gone past the 40km mark on cycle course with JPN Female Keiko Tanaka has over passed USA Bree Wee at 38km mark #IMJapan
1st male Pro NZL Simon Cochrane has gone past the 50km mark and reports are that he is riding strong ahead of 2nd place Thiago Vinhal from BRA who quite a distance behind.
The Pro female race has been switching out between USA Bree Wee and JPN Keiko Tanaka. Bree has once again passed Keiko at the 45km mark
Our oldest #IMJapan participant 79yr old Mr Kazuo Sakamoto #1465 has exited T1 ready for the 180km cycle course. Ganbatte Kudasai Sakamoto san!