Ironman Euro-Champs Frankfurt Mens Preview

Friday 07 July 2017
The fifth and final IRONMAN regional championship of the year kicks off Sunday in Frankfurt, Germany. As it has done since its inception, this midsummer classic promises to deliver an amazing show.

It’s impossible to look past last year’s winner, former IRONMAN world champion Sebastian Kienle, as the favorite. The confident German races with the belief that only two races truly matter: Frankfurt and Kona. A regular visitor to the podium for each race, Kienle has what it takes to deliver big.

Other Germans who will force him to execute his best include last year’s second-place male, Andi Boecherer; 2016 Kona third place finisher Patrick Lange; and double IRONMAN 70.3 world champion Michael Raelert.  

Four-time IRONAMN winner Patrik Nilsson (SWE) is a top contender, as is Jeff Symonds (CAN), and James Cunnama (RSA)—all of whom have won multiple IRONMAN titles.  Other contenders include Clemente Alonso-Mckernan (ESP), Cyril Viennot (FRA), and Bas Diederen (NED). 

Kienle ... has worked so hard to convert himself into one of the world’s most complete athletes that I don’t believe he will show a single weakness on the day.

The race starts in the calm waters of the Langener Waldsee, just outside downtown Frankfurt. Water temperatures have always been borderline wetsuit legal for the professional field, so times vary dramatically across the single-loop swim course. After approximately 1500m, athletes will face a short beach run before diving in to tackle the closing 2300m.

Last year Kienle lost only four minutes to the fastest swimmers, and this allowed him to ride right to the front of the field and enjoy the company and accountability of other strong cyclists. Kienle will attempt to duplicate that outcome again this year. But with one of the quickest swims in the field, Andi Boecherer will waste no time getting to the front and attempting to create an insurmountable gap between himself and his dangerous countrymen. Both Kienle and Patrick Lange have run PR’s that exceed his own, so coming off the bike within two to four minutes of these guys will not be a desirable scenario.

Without a doubt, Marko Albert (EST) will lead the charge out of the swim, and he will exit the water with Boecherer and a nice gap to the other contenders.  Once onto the bike, I expect two or three larger packs to form. With over sixty male professionals in the field, and a relatively fast course, it will be difficult to see much separation until the guys hit the challenging climb of Bad Vilbel. 

There is no question that to win the race in Frankfurt will require an aggressive bike ride, one that is fast from the outset, and one that is backed up by a sub 2:45 marathon. Weather conditions are projected to be fast on race day, and that should further encourage athletes to race hard from the gun.

We will all be experiencing a bit of deja vu as we will again see the dynamic duo of Kienle and Boecherer link up later on in the bike ride (which has been shortened to 177km this year due to construction on the race route). Those two will enter T2 together, after each lighting into sub-4:05 bike splits. The question will remain who has saved enough energy to hold off the hard charging Patrick Lange, one of only a few IRONMAN athletes to have ever notched sub 2:40 marathon splits. 

Others who have a shot at running their way into the top five include speedsters Michael Raelert, James Cunnama, and Jeff Symonds. Each of those athletes have shown world class foot speed, and each has the tenacity to fight deep into the marathon to squeeze out a couple more minutes, or even seconds. 

I predict the three-way battle for German dominance to go once again to Sebastian Kienle. He has worked so hard to convert himself into one of the world’s most complete athletes that I don’t believe he will show a single weakness on the day, and he will run a 2:43 marathon as a means to serve notice to his competitors that he ready to again be top German (winner) in Kona. 

Throughout the course of the day, I think we will lose sight of the foreign competitors, with so much focus on the race up front. But later in the day, we’ll see Frenchman Cyril Viennot come through with an incredibly fast marathon to steal second place in the closing kilometer.  

Fighting hard to hold the podium, we’ll see Boecherer overextend himself just a tad in the early stages of the marathon, and that will be just enough to allow Lange the chance to run through to third, with Boecherer holding strong for fourth.  Fifth place will go to a resurgent James Cunnama, one of the sport’s hardest working and most underrated athletes. 
by Michael Lovato ironman.com


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