Race preview: Ironman 70.3 Tasmania women’s race

Grace Thek finished second last year at Ironman 70.3 Tasmania (Picture: Press Release Ironman)

The racing is set to be fierce at the front of the women’s professional field at this Sunday’s Ironman 70.3 Tasmania with a number of athletes in with a shot of claiming the race win.

The women’s field features Ironman and Ironman 70.3 race winners, plus an IM World Champion, all out to stand on the top step of the podium this weekend.

The top seeded athlete heading into Sunday’s race is Melbourne’s Grace Thek, who finished second at last year’s Ironman 70.3 Tasmania.

Thek was edged out for the win by Ellie Salthouse but went on to claim her first IM 70.3 victory in Geelong just a few weeks later.

“I’m very excited to be returning to Hobart again this weekend for IM 70.3 Tasmania,” said Thek. “I loved starting my 2023 season in Hobart last year and really enjoyed the city, the course and the atmosphere. I’m looking forward to returning this year to compete against some fast ladies and see who has what it takes to take the top step.”

Unfortunately, injury cut Thek’s 2023 season short but she’s looking forward to lining up in Hobart again on Sunday.

“Like any injury, the recovery is not always linear, it has had its ups and downs but despite this, I feel like I am in a good place and feeling optimistic for this weekend,” she said. “Given I haven’t raced in seven months it’s a good opportunity to blow the cobwebs out and see where my fitness stands at the start of the 2024 season.

“I was pleasantly surprised with my race last year in Hobart. It was a week after my wedding and the race weekend was a mini-moon for us. I was in a great mental state, and I think my relaxed approach really helped me have a strong race,” said Thek. “I’m hoping to channel some of those vibes this week and set myself up for success, that’s why I am bringing Zach again. I like to think, having raced here before, that I have the upper hand on some of my competitors when it comes to knowing the course.”

Canberra’s Penny Slater was third in Hobart last February, with the race kicking off her best year to date which included two Ironman podium finishes in South Africa and Cairns and finishing as the top Australian woman at the IM World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.

“I’m feeling really excited to start off the year at one of my favourite races. I feel like I had a great year in 2023 so I am excited to hopefully keep that momentum going,” said Slater. “I really enjoyed the course last year in Hobart, I’m certainly looking forward to pushing the pace on the bike and seeing what I have on the run. The bike course is really honest and definitely zaps the legs more than others so I think it will make for a fair and tough race.”

Slater is looking forward to taking on the strong field with numerous IM and IM 70.3 victories spread amongst the top athletes.

“The field on Sunday certainly runs deep and it’s great to have multiple world class athletes toeing the line,” she said. “I’m expecting a fast swim and big moves to be made on the bike to try and split up the field before the run, it will certainly make for an entertaining race.”

The biggest name in the women’s field is American Chelsea Sodaro, with the 34-year-old the 2022 IM World Champion. Sodaro will race for the first time professionally in Australia when she lines up for IM 70.3 Tasmania.

“I’m feeling well, I’m enjoying my time in this hemisphere and it will be great to take on the hills of Hobart soon,” said Sodaro. “This will be my first time in Tasmania, I hear that it’s a stunning part of the world.”

With the northern hemisphere still in the middle of winter Sodaro made the decision to head south to kick off 2023 and has been in New Zealand for the last few weeks.

“I wanted to get back to racing earlier this season and New Zealand and Australia provided that opportunity,” she said. “I love the triathlon community and I expect IM 70.3 Tasmania to be a super fun event.

“I’m looking to test myself against awesome competition and see where I’m at this early in the season,” said Sodaro.

One athlete out to ensure that the top three don’t have it all their own way on Sunday is Brisbane’s Sarah Crowley.

Crowley is a multiple-time IM and IM 70.3 champion who in 2022 won all three Australian Ironman races, becoming the first professional athlete to do so.

Also lining up in Hobart this week are rising stars Hanne De Vet from Belgium, Australian duo Chloe Hartnett and Sophie Perry and Kiwi Laura Armstrong.