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Pros return for 2010 Ironman

by Tom Hasslinger
| June 18, 2010 9:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - Twice as nice.

A pair of past Ford Ironman Coeur d'Alene champions headline a field of top-tier professionals at this year's race.

American professional Michael Lovato, who won the local race in 2003, will line up against Canadian racer and 2008 Coeur d'Alene champion Tom Evans on June 27.

It also includes a few area pros eager to get back on the Coeur d'Alene course.

"I always wanted to come back and race," said Linsey Corbin, of Missoula, Mont., who entered her first professional race here in 2006, but hasn't competed in the Lake City since. She has competed in eight Ironman races, and trains on the Coeur d'Alene course now and then. "It's a great little town and it's as home turf as it gets."

Corbin, who won Ironman 70.3 Baja in 2007 and finished in fifth place at the Ford Ironman World Championship in 2008, will face a tough female field.

Those top contenders include Gina Crawford, of New Zealand, along with Americans Hillary Biscay, Desiree Ficker, Bree Wee, Meredith Kessler and Haley Cooper, who lives in Spokane.

Cooper has also used the home course advantage to her benefit, placing in the top five in Coeur d'Alene the last three years.

Wee, who turned pro two years ago, celebrated podium finishes at 2008's Ironman Japan and Ford Ironman Florida races and Kessler recently finished second at Ford Ironman St. George.

Biscay has seen nearly 10 Ironman podium finishes, and finished first at Ford Ironman Wisconsin in 2008.

Ficker's resume includes a second-place finish at the Ford Ironman World Championship and wins at Spec-Savers Ironman 70.3.

More than 2,200 athletes representing nearly all 50 states and 30 countries are expected to race in Coeur d'Alene this year, chasing after a professional prize purse of $50,000 and 72 qualifying spots to the 2010 Ford Ironman World Championship to be held in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, in October.

Besides their top Coeur d'Alene finishes, Lovato and Evans have other top finishes to their name.

Lovato won the 2006 Ford Ironman Arizona and 2009's Amica Ironman 70.3 Rhode Island.

Evans won Ford Ironman Florida in 2008.

They'll face off against top male contenders American Andy Potts and Australians Chris McDonald and Luke Bell.

"I'm nervous," Bell said on preparing for the race. "It's regarded as the main Ironman event in North America, and it always a draws a good field."

It will be Bell's first race in Coeur d'Alene.

"There are some places you better go and I never heard a bad word about it," he said about the visit. He has wins at a handful of Ironman 70.3 events and podium finishes at Ironman New Zealand and Ironman Australia. "I'm really looking forward to it, it's so highly regarded."

Potts, an Olympian and 2007 Ironman 70.3 World Champion, was the top American finisher at last year's Ford Ironman World Championship and recently won at Ochsner Ironman 70.3 New Orleans.

McDonald, who placed third at May's Ford Ironman St. George, celebrated wins at the 2007 Ford Ironman Louisville and the 2008 Ford Ironman Wisconsin.

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