With the IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa in Buffalo City just around the corner, the excitement for Race Day is becoming contagious. The 26th of January 2020 will see more than 1 500 athletes embark on a 1.9km swim, a 90.1km cycle and a 21.1km run.
The IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa welcomes a variety of athletes from across the board all driven with the determination to make it across the finish line and claim their IRONMAN 70.3 status. Apart from friends and family taking part, you might want to keep an eye out for various professional athletes along the course as they take on the notorious Buffalo City route.
Race day would not be the same without our competitive professional athletes who break barriers and push their bodies to the limit. Returning to defend his IRONMAN 70.3 title from last year is Bradley Weiss from Stellenbosch, Western Cape. Weiss says, “I’d be lying if I didn’t say my goal is to defend my title and gain my slot to the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Taupo, New Zealand.” After winning the 2019 IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa he sustained a severe left leg bone injury. After spending just over four months recovering, he went on to conquer the remainder of 2019 and is more than ready for his first race of the 2020 triathlon season.
Taking it back to last year and what that win meant for him, Bradley responded, “2019 was the year I chose to transition from off-road triathlon racing to on-road middle distance racing. So, winning in Buffalo City last year was the best way I could have started my season. It gave me confidence to race on the road and confidence in my decision to transition to on-road racing. It also meant I had won my slot to qualify for the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Nice, France later that year, so the win took huge pressure off me to chase a qualification slot throughout the season.”
“The most memorable takeout was having a proper head to head dice with Matt Trautman on the run. I had a sizeable lead coming off the bike, but Matt showed promise for the win by closing the gap quickly. We spent most of the run battling it out between the two of us, but I managed to eventually gap him and take the win for my first major regional championship in IRONMAN 70.3. Similarly, my effort on the bike proved that I can be strong on the TT bike, despite my small stature. Although this race has more climbing than most (where my small stature is a benefit), the shift from the more explosive MTB racing had worked, so I grew confidence in myself.”
Another hot professional athlete you do not want to miss is Henri Schoeman. Henri is the man the PRO’s will be looking to beat as the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist, and 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist has arguably got the most consistent and powerful swim and will be keeping the PRO field on their toes when it comes to the run. Henri will be using the IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa as a build up to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. All eyes will be on him to see how he fairs in the longer triathlon distance, it would take a brave man to bet against him.
Other PRO men to look out for is Matt Trautman who will be returning to Buffalo City to take on Weiss who narrowly beat him last year and to test himself against Olympic medallist, Schoeman. Trautman is a fan favourite and will be joined by a strong PRO field with the likes of Kyle Buckingham, Bart Aernouts, Cyril Viennot to name but a few strong PRO competitors who will be looking to upset both Weiss and Schoeman.
Of the PRO female athletes, Emma Pallant from the United Kingdom will be returning to Buffalo City for her third time. In 2012, following a knee surgery, Pallant crossed over from middle and long distance running to triathlon. Since starting with triathlon, Pallant has had multiple podium finishes on the IRONMAN 70.3 circuit, making her an athlete to look out for on Sunday. Pallant narrowly missed out on victory in 2018 losing out to Jeanni Seymour. She came back even stronger in 2019 but fell short again, this time to Annah Watkinson. Pallant will be eager to finally claim that IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa bragging right on Sunday, however, the defending champion, Watkinson, is ready for red hot racing and won’t give up her title without a fight. Being a fan favourite, Watkinson will have the Buffalo City spectators urging her on.
This year sees five other South African PRO women take to the start. With Lauren Cannon coming off a 2019 IRONMAN 70.3 Durban win, she will feel that she has what it takes for a podium spot. Jade Nicole and Mariella Swayer are a force to be reckoned with and they will certainly be giving defending champion, Watkinson, a headache come race day. To round up the South African PRO athletes it’s the experienced Magda Nieuwoudt and Natia van Heerden who is taking on her first season as a PRO after winning her age group at the 2019 IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawai`i.
Not yet mentioned is 2x ITU World Champion, Commonwealth Games Champion and now 5x XTERRA World Champion, Flora Duffy. Although her ultimate focus this year will be winning that gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, Duffy has chosen to warm up by taking on one of the world’s toughest IRONMAN 70.3 races. She will no doubt be looking to kick off her triathlon season with a win this Sunday, and possibly eyeing out a few course records – she’s that good on her day!