LAPU-LAPU CITY – The Ironman 70.3 Philippines fires off on Sunday at Shangri-la’s Mactan Resort and Spa with Canadian Brent McMahon and Swiss Caroline Steffen all primed up for their respective title-retention drive against a world-class roster of challengers.
McMahon will be up against a slew of tough challengers headed by three-time winner and 2012 world champion Pete Jacobs, five-time world titlist Craig Alexander, multitiled Cameron Brown, 2014 runner-up Sam Betten, reigning Asia Pacific king Tim Reed, Luke McKenzie, Tim Van Berkel, Justin Granger, Clayton Fettell, Mitch Robbins, Matt Franklin, Mitch Robins and Wai Kit Lam.
“It’s great to be back and obviously anytime you get to go back and defend the title at a race, it adds motivation and a little fun,” said McMahon on the eve of the race that attracted a record 2,618 competitors from 52 nations.
Jacobs aims to regain his winning ways in Cebu, where he strung up successive crowns from 2010-12, as he builds up for the big battle ahead in Hawaii.
“I’ve been here the last several years since it started in the Philippines and usually it helped me going to Hawaii. This is a bit of a kickoff for my training – I’ve been training for almost a month now and racing here will be a big boost to my fitness. I’m looking forward to running a good race,” he said.
Alexander, one of the world’s most decorated triathletes, looks to show his stuff on Philippine soil but admitted it won't be easy against younger rivals.
“This is as good a lineup as you can get in Ironman 70.3,” said the 42-year-old Alexander, who was supposed to compete in the Ironman 70.3 in Subic last March but was forced to pull out due to severe back spasms.“The races are becoming quicker and quicker; these young guys, they’re just taking it to another level. I have to swim, bike, and run faster to even win these races now.”
Steffen, meanwhile, welcomed the challenge from Ironman 70.3 Switzeland ruler Beth Gerdes of the US, Dimity-Lee Duke of Australia, veteran Belinda Granger also of Australia, Carole Fuchs of Thailand, Michelle Wu and Kathryn Haeser of New Zealand.
“It’s an honor for me to be back in the start line here. I’m definitely ready to race on Sunday,” said Steffen.
This year’s race kicks off with the swim at Lapu-Lapu’s pristine beach, featuring a new rolling start where athletes are encouraged to self-seed themselves. The bike stage will pass through the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Tasilay, including the “M Loop” similar to the course used in 2013. The run is a flat two-loop course of generally flat terrain of mixed asphalt and concrete roads.