We profile the men’s race favourites for this weekend’s Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii

The men’s race at this year’s Ironman World Championship has a number of question marks hanging over it like if Pete Jacobs has managed to recover from early-season injury to winning form or if Craig Alexander can prove a 40-year-old Kona winner is possible despite his sub-par race at Las Vegas. Can Sebastian Kienle dominate the bike to create enough of a buffer on the run to hold on for the win? Is Eneko Llanos in the winning shape he was earlier this year or going into Kona overtired? Can Andreas Raelert finally move up to the top step of the podium?

All these questions will be answered on Saturday, but for now here’s a look at the fortunes of the top men.

Pete Jacobs

Pete Jacobs (AUS)

Top finish in Kona: 1

Defending champion Pete Jacobs has had a mixed year. Running injury hampered training in March and April and Jacobs hasn’t shown last year’s Kona-winning form since he left the Big Island last October. After a couple of top-10 Ironman 70.3 performances, the champ’s legs popped during the run at his validation race at Ironman Frankfurt. We’ve seen this from Jacobs before however, with 2012’s early season blighted with a stress fracture – and we all know how things turned out by Hawaii last year.

The Aussie tends to keep a low profile and plan his peak to coincide perfectly with Kona, and considering the strength shown during his mid-September jaunt to Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast, where he destroyed the field with a time of 3:39:59 despite illness the previous day, Jacobs is very much in shape to defend his crown.

Swim 10/10
Bike 8/10
Run 10/10
Overall 28/30

Craig 'Crowie' Alexander - IronmanCraig Alexander (AUS)

Top finish in Kona: 1

After a disappointing 12th place in Kona last year – contributed to by a back injury – 2011 champ Crowie has had a string of good results in 2013. The Australian came third at the Ironman Asia Pacific Championships and went on to win a trio of 70.3 events in Hawaii, Kansas and Lake Stevens. He suffered a setback at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, coming 20th after a bike penalty on the waterlogged course. This is only likely to have made his desire to prove himself even greater and could actually play into his hands in Kona if the other pros aren’t looking as closely at him this year.

Swim 9/10
Bike 9/10
Run 10/10
Overall 28/30

Andreas Raelert (GER)

Top finish in Kona: 2

Following an excellent second place in Kona last year, Raelert has built on his already-impressive points tally by winning Ironman 70.3 New Orleans, coming third in Ironman 70.3 Mallorca and winning Ironman Austria in 7:59:51. After four podium finishes in Kona, he’ll be doing absolutely everything he can this year to cross the line in first place. If he can manage to hold onto the leading pack during the swim, he could avoid the catch-up he had to play last year before putting in the day’s fastest run split to finally clinch victory.

Swim 8/10
Bike 9/10
Run 10/10
Total 27/30

Frederik Van Lierde - Abu Dhabi Triathlon

(Photo: Wouter Kingma)

Frederik Van Lierde (BEL)

Top finish in Kona: 3

Third in Hawaii last year, Van Lierde is an incredibly consistent performer all year around. His season began early with a win in Abu Dhabi and he’s since won Ironman Nice – one of the toughest M-dot races there is – for the third time, setting a new course record and running a 2:42 marathon. He also sharpened his speed with a second place finish in the Olympic-distance 5150 race in Marseille. He’ll certainly be a danger for the other top contenders and will be well rested too, making the Belgian even more of a threat.

Swim 9/10
Bike 9/10
Run 9/10
Total 27/30

(Photo: Rocky Arroyo)

Bevan Docherty (NZL)

First time in Kona

Ex-ITU star Bevan Docherty blasted into the Kona contenders list by winning his first ever Ironman in New Zealand and smashing the course record in the process. Docherty suffered from illness in May, but bounced back with second place in 5150 Columbia before winning back-to-back victories at Ironman 70.3 Boise and Ironman 70.3 Vineman, where he set a new course record. He pulled out of the Ironman 70.3 World Championships after making it clear pre-race that he’s prioritising Kona. He’s got the capacity to swim, bike and run with the best on the Big Island, but his inexperience of Kona’s savage conditions could undermine his chances.

Swim 9/10
Bike 9/10
Run 9/10
Total 27/30

Sebastian Kienle

Sebastian Kienle (GER)

Top finish in Kona: 4

The 2012 Ironman 70.3 World Champion went into his first Kona in fine form, but a flat tyre put paid to his podium chances. Nevertheless, the German finished in fourth place.

With only the need to validate his Kona entry by completing one Ironman, the KPR points leader hasn’t raced too much this year and didn’t perform spectacularly during the first half of the season. This was partly due to battling injury and illness, but his form was certainly back for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships where he once again overcame a swim deficit with a stunning bike ride and then managed to run 1:14:50, the third-fastest on the day.

If the German can translate that performance to Kona, he’s going to be out in front be the run with the legs to hold off the chasers.

Swim 8/10
Bike 10/10
Run 8/10
Overall 26/30

Eneko Llanos (ESP)

Top finish in Kona: 7

Llanos has had an incredible season this year. Kicking things off in March with second in Abu Dhabi, he took the Ironman Asia Pacific Championship in the same month before winning the Ironman European Championship in July – where he went sub-eight hours. He’s certainly the on-form athlete of the year, with the only question being whether he has been able to maintain that speed after a long season, but if anyone knows about getting things in order for Kona after working hard all year, it’s Llanos’ coach Dave Scott.

Swim 8/10
Bike 8/10
Run 10/10
Total 26/30

Faris Al-Sultan (GER)

Top finish in Kona: 1

The 2005 Ironman World Champion caused a stir when he broke into the top-five at last year’s race with a stellar swim and bike, fading only a little on the run but still posting an impressive 8:28:33 overall. The German has had a quiet season but raced regularly with a classy win in Ironman Lanzarote – where he won in style with a 10-minute lead – being the stand-out performance that shows other pros should discount him at their peril.

That race also proved his mettle again in hot and windy conditions and with only 10 minutes to make up over last year’s performance, don’t be surprised to see Al-Sultan and his swimming trunks at the pointy end of the race all day.

Swim 9/10
Bike 9/10
Run 7/10
Overall 25/30

Challenge Roth 2013 Dirk Bockel

(Photo: image.net)

Dirk Bockel (LUX)

Top finish in Kona: 4

Dirk Bockel has cracked the top-10 each year since his Kona debut in 2009. He came fourth in the 2011 edition of the race, but slipped to 10th last year as he raced nursing a broken hand. Perhaps not on everyone’s podium radar, the Luxembourgian athlete has been quiet this year but came third at the ITU Long Distance World Championship and smashed Challenge Roth in 7:52 with a 12 minute lead, signalling his form is stronger than ever. If he’s managed to get his run time down a bit, he’ll be up there at the head of the race.

Swim 9/10
Bike 9/10
Run 8/10
Overall 26/30

Andy Potts (USA)

Top finish in Kona: 7

Potts was top American at Kona last year with a seventh-place finish. This year he’s won Ironman 70.3 Oceanside, 70.3 Eagleman and took the win at Ironman Lake Placid. He went on to race confidently in Vegas, taking third place at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships to show he’s on course for great form in Hawaii. An incredibly talented swimmer, excellent biker and strong runner, he’ll be wanting to climb the ladder at Kona this year.

Swim 10/10
Bike 8/10
Run 8/10
Overall 26/30

Timothy O’Donnell (USA)

Top finish in Kona: 8

O’Donnell has an impressive race career behind him. 2011 ITU Long Distance World Champion and 2012 US 70.3 champ, O’Donnell won this year’s Ironman Brazil in 8:01:32, 18 minutes ahead of his nearest challenger. After dropping out of his first Kona start in 2011, O’Donnell finished eighth last year and will be challenging Potts for the top US finisher honours on Saturday.

Swim 9/10
Bike 8/10
Run 8/10
Overall 25/30

THE BRITS

Daniel Halksworth

(Photo: James Mitchell/Ironman)

Daniel Halksworth (GBR)

First time in Kona

Halksworth has had a tough season of chasing points to gain qualification, finally clinching a Kona spot at Ironman Mont Tremblant in August a month after taking the win at Ironman UK. Expect Halksworth to be swimming with the fastest in the world on Saturday before sticking with the early leaders on the bike. Halksworth will likely be on for a three-hour run split, which mean’s he’s not going to run away to victory, but could still have a solid finish at his first Kona attempt if he’s had enough time to get used to the searing heat.

Swim 10/10
Bike 7/10
Run 6/10
Overall 23/30

(Photo: JA Sports Photography)

Paul Amey (GBR)

Top finish in Kona: 16th

The triple ITU duathlon world champ won Ironman Texas this year in 8:25 with the fastest run of the day. Like Halksworth, he’s had to fill his racing schedule to accrue enough points to punch his ticket to Hawaii, racing as late as 25 August, where he came third at Ironman Canada. Amey’s a tenacious athlete who will be on for a good race in Kona given this year’s form – as long as he’s had time to recover a little from earlier exertions.

Swim 7/10
Bike 7/10
Run 7/10
Overall 21/30

See the rest of our 2013 Ironman World Championship coverage here. We’ll be updating regularly in the run up to Kona.