By Bill Plock
IRONMAN Boulder 70.3 is usually a big deal. And it usually is one of the biggest races in all of IRONMAN. But the 2021 race might be the most compelling ever. Especially in the pro field. 47 men and 37 women will by vying for spots not only in the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships, but some will be battling to get a spot at the coveted PTO Collins Cup in Slovakia on August 28th with some major money and notoriety at stake. Boulder is the last qualifying race for the Collins Cup.
The field is stacked with some top pro‘s like Sam Long, Sam Appleton, Chris Leiferman, Tyler Butterfield (all live and train in Boulder) all ranked in the top 30 in the world. Sam Long is the number one ranked American (according to PTO rankings) while Sam Appleton is the third ranked International for the Collins Cup. Chris Leiferman is 5th for the Americans and 1 point out of being an automatic qualifier. If he has a good race he could jump ahead of Ben Kanute and automatically make the team. Tyler Butterfield is 5th for the Internationals.
For the women it’s equally compelling with Skye Moench the number one ranked American battling Britains Emma Pallant, the sixth ranked European and Jeanni Metzler the fourth ranked International. Jeanni is barely ahead of Australia’s Sarah Crowley in the Collins Cup ranking and will need to have a good race to keep her automatic spot. That should create some exciting dynamics where the race matters on many levels. Meredith Kessler and Lesley Smith, ranked 7th and 8th for the American team and Emma Pallant who is 6th for the European team have a lot to possibly gain by good showings in Boulder. And lastly, keep an eye out for Chelsea Sodaro, she is ranked 11th in the world but hasn’t raced this season due to maternity leave. But with the PTO’s policy on holding rank, with a good showing at Boulder, she could be heading to the Collins Cup as well.
The PTO’s Collins Cup will take the top four athletes automatically and two more will be chosen by the captains of the US team, the European team and the International team.
Throw into all of that, you have Taylor Knibb fresh off her silver medal performance in Tokyo racing. She is not known as a 70.3 athlete, but with her speed, youth and fitness coming off the Olympics, she could really make things interesting.
But there are many pro’s in field who also live in Boulder and no doubt some fun rivalries and hometown pride will keep it close. If there were odds, Sam Long would probably be favored but don’t be surprised is someone else is on top of the podium with so many factors at play.
Keep an eye out for Olympian Andy Potts who is participating in the upcoming Paralympics guiding for Kyle Coon and is at the top of his game. Boulders Justin Metzler, Joe Gambles, and Kennett Peterson might emerge near the lead as well, and keep an eye out for Speedo sensation, Boulder native Colin Laughery who always relishes a chance to race at home.
And for Sam Long, born in raised in Boulder, in his most recent video getting ready for this race he says, “I’m the hometown boy coming after this race.” This was Sam’s first pro race years ago and he says he hasn’t had his best race in Boulder yet. He would like to make this years race his best Boulder effort since his first one as an 18 year old in 2014. Fun video here with many of the pro’s and a brief discussion with race director Julie Coleman
The race can be watched on IRONMAN Live here starting tomorrow at 6:50am: https://www.facebook.com/IRONMANnow/
Or come to the Boulder Reservoir tomorrow and check it out. Food trucks and lots of energy will be waiting for you. More on spectator transportation here: https://www.ironman.com/im703-boulder-athletes