IRONMAN 70.3 New Orleans

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On Sunday, the city known for revelry in the streets hosts the fifth running of IRONMAN 70.3 New Orleans.

By Shawn Skene

Men’s race

With the world’s fastest full-distance athlete in the field, Canadian Trevor Wurtele is going to have a tough time defending his title on Sunday. Germany’s Andreas Raelert, who set a world-best time for a full-distance event two years ago, (7:41:33) is making a rare appearance in North America on Sunday. The two-time Olympian has finished second at the IRONMAN World Championship twice over the past four years.

Three-time IRONMAN champion Ben (The Hoff) Hoffman will be on a mission to make amends for a disappointing result at IRONMAN 70.3 California last month.

“It has been a different year for me, not spending as much time in Tucson, but instead training through a long winter in Boulder,” he says. “I haven’t targeted an early season IRONMAN as in the previous three years, so I am getting going now with an eye on top performances in St. George, Boise and Coeur d’Alene.” Hoffman will wait at the finish line for his father, competing in the age-group race.

Some other professionals to watch this weekend will be American Brandon Marsh, who had an outstanding race in Oceanside, as well as the talented Santiago Ascenco from Brazil and Aussie Tim Berkel.

“Andreas would have to be my favorite in this race,” says IronmanLive host Matt Lieto. “It will be hard to shake him in either the swim, bike, or run and with closing speed often under 1:10 for the half marathon, it will take a huge effort to best him on the day.”

Another athlete to watch for, according to Lieto, is Aussie Tim Berkel.

“Tim is the 2012 Australian IRONMAN 70.3 national champion and seems to find his way to the podium in almost every race he enters.”

Women’s race

American Amy Marsh, fourth last year, will be riding the high from her fifth-place performance at Oceanside. She’ll face formidable competition: Multiple IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 champion Joanna Lawn will be starting in New Orleans and is a fearless competitor. Chile’s Valentina Carvallo, the IRONMAN 70.3 Pucon winner, is venturing north as well. And in addition to a solid collection of American regulars on the U.S. IRONMAN 70.3 circuit who can hit the podium at any time, you may want to watch Poland’s Ewa Bugdol, who has enjoyed success in the ITU long distance circuit over the past two years.