The IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, is comparable to the Masters in golf or the Super Bowl in American football. It's where the biggest names gather for the ultimate showdown, facing brutal conditions and a relentless course with a legendary history. And if the 2019 edition is anything like the 2018 race, we're in store for some hard, exciting racing from both the men's and women's fields.
While it's impossible to know for sure—injuries, mechanicals and unlikely up-and-comers could totally disrupt the 2019 IRONMAN World Championship podiums—as of May 2019, here are our irresponsibly early predictions for October 12's race.
Disagree with our picks? Let us know who you've got breaking the tape in the comment section below.
Be sure to check back for our latest Kona updates as we get closer to race day.
Women's 2019 IRONMAN World Championship Podium
Daniela Ryf (SUI): There's no way we can count out Daniela "Angry Bird" Ryf as a serious contender come October. She's a four-time IRONMAN World Champion, four-time IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion and has been on an absolute tear already this season. Her wins at IRONMAN Texas and IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside so far in 2019 shows she's still at top form, and it'll be interesting to see how she sustains this level of productivity throughout the season.
Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR): At only 25 years old, Lucy Charles-Barclay has already seen a whole lot of success in her young triathlon career. She set a blistering swim course record in Kona last year with a time of 48:14 (beating the longstanding record from 1999) and has finished second on the podium for two years in a row. She's also shown she has the legs to back up her stellar swim with strong bike and run splits—it'll just be about putting it all together to give Ryf some competition come race day. She did just that at the IRONMAN African Championship in April (sans Ryf), and despite the pro swim course being shortened, she exited the water more than seven minutes ahead of her nearest competitor as she went on to win the race.
Jocelyn McCauley (USA): American triathlete Jocelyn McCauley is having a breakout year so far. She dominated the field for an impressive win at early-season IRONMAN New Zealand and went 8:39:41 at IRONMAN Texas to finish just behind Ryf for second place overall (she passed Ryf with 10K to go on the bike, with Ryf only catching her with four miles to go in the run). She cracked top-10 at the IRONMAN World Championship in 2017 (riding with a flat in 2018), so we haven't seen McCauley's best on the Big Island yet.
Men's 2019 Ironman World Championship Podium
Patrick Lange (DEU): Lange is coming off impressive back-to-back victories at the IRONMAN World Championship, so he naturally belongs at on the top step for this all-too-early Kona prediction. But with his main competitor, Jan Frodeno (DEU), back to his winning ways (granted he hasn't been tested in an Iron-distance race yet, and pulled out of 70.3 Oceanside) after recovering from his hip injury last season, we'll see if Lange can complete a three-peat on the Big Island. Kona conditions certainly seem to complement his skillset.
Ben Hoffman (USA): We had to put an American on the list, so naturally Ben Hoffman was first to mind. Despite dealing with a stress fracture last year (causing him to DNS at Kona), he returned to clean up the stacked pro field at the IRONMAN African Championship for the third time in four years, and followed it up with a podium finish at Challenge Cancun. He's also been successful at the IRONMAN World Championship with a second-place finish in 2014 and two other top-10 showings. He seems to be in the zone this year, and we're curious to see how he fares come October.
Patrik Nilsson (SWE): Coming off a big win at IRONMAN Texas, Swedish triathlete Patrik Nilsson will be someone to watch at the 2019 IRONMAN World Championship. He's fast—like keeping up with Andrew Starykowicz fast—on the bike and is a front-pack swimmer who isn't afraid to lay it all out on the line during the run. He saw some success on the Big Island in 2017 with a top-10 finish (DNF in 2018), so if he's having a good day, he'll be a threat for a podium spot.
READ THIS NEXT: Celebrities Who Are Kona IRONMAN World Championship Finishers