Race favorite Faris Al Sultan.
Ironman Arizona appears set to go.....finally.The inaugral Ironman Arizona has not had the easiest of birthings over the past 12 months. Not that it was totally unexpected with the idea of bringing an Ironman event to a metropolitan area.......and one of the bigger media markets in the US. Many, many, many hours and meetings have past and things finally look set to go. The community has stepped up with a volumous volunteer force, along with over accomodating city officials resurfacing the roads right up until the day before, road closures and such to give the athletes and spectators a great show.
The 'controversy' over the necessary change to a three loop bike course has been interesting, particularly since there are other events around the world held in a similar format. However the talk has died down and the overwhelming feeling is one of the 'glass half full' - with athletes very stoked to give something different a whirl and delight the spectactors with non-stop action all day.
The pro field is set has panned out to be very interesting. On the women's side, Kate Major, Joanna Zeiger, Heather Gollnick are the race favorites. However, Desiree Ficker has served notice that she is back with an impressive 2nd place 3-weeks ago at the California Half. Look for Karen Holloway to be in the mix as well, after a training stint in California. To keep things interseting Europe's two finest long course athletes, Lisbeth kristensen, and Tamara Kozulina (2004 Euopean Long Course Champion, are also in the mix. No doubt Joanna will set the early pace, but predictions are for some changes back and forth along the way.
On the men's side Faris Al Sultan, Tom Evans and Chris Lieto look to set to take the early pace. Interestly enough these 3 men did not face each other at all in the 2004 season. Chris Lieto has certainly shown that he is back in fine form with an tremendous race 3-weeks ago in California. Tom Evans is doing his usual sand bagging - but after being the only male athlete with 2 IM victories last year, one has to bee wary if he is on the start line. Keeping a low profile is young Aussie Luke McKenzie, doing his second Ironman after a tremendous debut at IM Western Australia last November. he got out front and set the pace in his first event, only to lose the lead to Ironman veteran Jason Shortis. Throw in Michael Lovato, ready to make a good showing, Dave Harju, Petr Vabrosek, Jan Strangmuller.....and there is no shortage of athletes who have ironman titles in their resumes. Filling out the rest of the field are plenty of others hungry to make their mark, like young Candian Luke Dragstra who has spent the winter in California and came out firing with a 5th place at the California Half. It is going to be a fun match-up all around.
So - with Mother Nature being good to us with the weather.....the temperature has gone from close to 100 degrees 2 days out down to mid 80's with a projection of mid to high 70's on race day.....some good solid 15-20mph winds to keep things honest out on the Highway....the talking is over and we are excited for the day to come. Ironmanlive will be hosting expanded coverage with live feed camera's on the course. Fox Sports here in Arizona will producing a 'same day' show to be aired by 10.00pm Sat night before the event is officially over. The show will be expanded to a full hour to be aired later in the week on the Fox network before it is scheduled for air dates on OLN.