Opinions vary on whether Lance Armstrong can win the Kona Ironman world championships in 2011
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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Can Armstrong win the Kona Ironman world champs?

by VeloNation Press at 5:30 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling

Lance Armstrong has two more seasons left as a professional cyclist, after which he is expected to compete in the Ironman world championships in Kona, Hawaii.

His participation in 2011 was confirmed by longtime coach Chris Carmichael during the 2009 event in October, and he hints that he will make a very strong impression there.

“In 2011, he will be here,” he told Everymantri.com. “He is super psyched. And I think he wants to do more than just win his age group….”

Carmichael had earlier told the website that he was certain the gruelling contest would appeal to the rider. “I think you’ll see him do the Ironman in Kona while he is still an active athlete,” he said last June. “It is something that intrigues him, he has got a triathlon background.”

Armstrong then confirmed this in a press conference held at last year’s Leadville 100. “I don’t know how competitive I will be but I think if I can run as fast as I ran in Boston and New York, and ride conservatively so that I can come into the marathon as fresh as I can, then I will be up there. I don’t know if I will win, but I won’t be far off.”

Prior to his professional career, he was a very successful young triathlete in the US, winning the national sprint course championship at 18 years of age, and again at 19. That led onto his career as a pro cyclist, and the world championship title at 21 years old.

Then, after his first retirement in 2005, he ran several marathons. Armstrong clocked 2 hours 59 minutes 36 seconds in his first New York Marathon in 2006, then improved this to 2 hours 46 mins 43 seconds one year later. He went to the Boston event in April 2008 but had to be satisfied with a time of 2 hours 50 minutes 58 seconds there.

If Armstrong does compete in Kona in 2011, he can be assured that he should have the fastest bike split. However he will need to limit his losses in the swim and the run to be in with a chance to challenge. The question is, can he go fast enough in those two disciplines to still be in the hunt?

Opinions vary, but 2007 Hawaii Ironman winner Chris McCormack doesn’t believe that victory is possible.

“There have been a lot of professional cyclists who have come to Kona,” he told TriathlonCompetitor.com three weeks ago. “Lance is a superstar, a guy who I admire incredibly, a guy who I have followed and watched and who has inspired me and many of the triathletes who are racing a the top level.

“But as to whether he can come to Kona and win…I highly doubt it. I am sure he is going to prepare meticulously for it. He has a book ‘It’s not about the bike’ and that is absolutely true – it is not about the bike in Kona, it is about being able to put together a swim, bike and run. I think he is aware of that, I think he is very, very open about that. It would be wonderful to see him being competitive…but I highly doubt it.

“I don’t see Lance winning Kona. I would put money on it that he would have a very, very solid war with someone like Krissy Wellington [triple women’s Ironman world champion], who is an incredible athlete herself.”

McCormack points out that the bike ride comes after nearly an hour’s swimming, making the back very tight. He thinks he can be close to the time set by Chris Lieto, last year’s runner-up and one of the fastest cyclists on the triathlon circuit, but doesn’t believe he can be quicker.

“I think that Lance is capable of doing anything Chris Lieto is doing, but I would not be surprised if Chris out-split Lance and out-split him quite convincingly.”

Armstrong is notoriously stubborn when it comes to his doubters, though, and McCormack’s judgement is likely to spur him on to prove otherwise.

In contrast, Armstrong’s long time team-mate Chechu Rubiera believes that if the Texan undertakes to do something, then he believes that he can shine.

“I think he will do it really well, with chances of winning, otherwise he wouldn´t do it,” he told VeloNation on Thursday. “He is really good at swimming and he has good times in the marathon too.”

Time will tell which of those two assessments is correct. The Tour de France will be Armstrong’s clear focus for the next nineteen months. After that, he’ll turn to triathlon and see if he has what it takes there.


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