By Karl Hayes
The Port of Tauranga Half Ironman is on this weekend in New Zealand and Australia has, amongst the many age groupers racing there, a strong pro female contingent heading over. Rebekah Keat and Nicole Ward head this list with Australia residents Caroline Steffen (Switzerland) and Anna Cleaver (NZ) also heading over to tackle the race. (Wed 11pm: I have just had confirmation from Caroline Steffen that she will not be racing this weekend in Tauranga)
Based on 2010 performances Rebekah Keat and Joanna Lawn would have to be the favourites but a close second group would have to include Anna Cleaver, Nicole Ward and Rachael Paxton. There are of course others who could via for the title.
Carrie Lester was down to race but is out with an injury. She would have been one of the main favourites with some great wins this year including her debut ironman race at Ironman Australia 2010, Huskisson Long Course Triathlon and Capricorn Coast Half Ironman amongst many other great results. Carrie is an incredibly strong all round triathlete who is almost impossible to beat when she is on song.
Trizone spoke three of the leading contenders Anna Cleaver, Jo Lawn and Nicole Ward about the race. With Samantha Warriner not returning this year to defend her title this will leave the race more open.
New Zealander Anna Cleaver has been living and working in Australia and is back and better than ever. After winning the 2010 Port Macquarie Half Ironman Anna has increased her training and is now working with Siri Lindley. â€œI am now working with Siri Lindley so my training has stepped up since Port Macquarie. Prior to Port Mac I didn’t have a lot of structure in my training as I was getting back into the sport after so many years off. I think I’ve improved on all areas of the race in the last few months so this should be reflected in how I race at the Mountâ€.
As one of the stronger female swimmers in the sport we expect to see Anna come out of the water in the lead â€œI come from a swimming background so we will be hoping to lead the girls out of the swim. Starting with the guys is sure to mix it up a bit. I’m also looking forward to racing in a Blue Seventy wetsuit for the first time, which I expect will lift my swim performance from the previous racesâ€.
Anna loves a fast and flat bike course so we should see her continue strongly once on the bike. â€œJo Lawn has done this course many times so will know it well. Caroline did it last year so will also know what to expect. The course is flat and fast, which is how I like it! My Argon18 is so well suited to the flat time trial courses like this one. I am going in to this race to have fun. It is hard to predict how the day will go so the strategy usually unravels during the race. I will obviously be aiming to use my swim leg to get a good position on the bikeâ€.
The one thing I get from Anna is how excited she is about racing at home with her family and friends supporting her. She was showing this a couple of months ago. â€œIt is my first half in NZ and I haven’t done a tri in NZ in about 8 years, so whatever the result it will be a special day. The field is one of the strongest in any of the recent Aus/ NZ races. Caroline Steffan is the favorite and after being beaten by Sam last year she will be looking for a win. Bec Keat, Carrie Lester and Jo Lawn are exceptional athletes with a lot of experienceâ€.
Nicole Ward has spent the last couple of weeks training at altitude in the Snowy Mountains in Australia. Whilst it is possibly not ideal for a flat race it was something she and her husband Bern had planned for a while. â€œI am really looking forward to racing in NZ next weekend. Tauranga is a beautiful location and I holidayed in Mt Manganui in 2009 after having a great race at Ironman NZ. I am excited to be kicking off my 2011 season in such a great race! It is good to see such a quality women’s field assembledâ€. Nicole was featured last week in the Bay of Plenty Times.
Click here to read Trizone’s interview with Nicole Ward
Nicole’s results in 2010
â€¢ Geelong 70.3 â€“ February 2010, 5th
â€¢ New Zealand Ironman â€“ March 2010, 6th
â€¢ Busselton – May 2010, 4th
â€¢ Ironman Couer d’Alene June 2010, 6th
â€¢ Capricorn Resort Half Ironman â€“ August 2010, 5th
â€¢ Port Douglas Long Course – September 2010, 2nd
One of New Zealand’s Ironman â€˜greats’ is Joanna Lawn. Jo has won this race twice before and is using it to gauge how she is going in her preparation for Ironman New Zealand in March. With the fast and flat nature of the Port of Tauranga half Ironman it does tend to favour the short course specialists.
We asked Jo where this race fits into her schedule. â€œI really enjoy this race, it is in such a great location and after spending sometime over December training it works well to take a rest week and do a race, as preparation for Ironman NZ!!â€
Training is always tough at this time of the year for everyone including the pros. â€œTraining is going well but is always a tricky time of the year to be doing a full on programme, so I just enjoy whatever the day brings… I will rest up for some days before the race as I also have another Olympic distance race only 5 days before!!â€ Jo did the Whangamata triathlon and finished second to 19 year old Rebecca Kingsford.
Does Jo Lawn have a plan for the race? â€œI just plan on having a solid day. The bike is flat and fast then the run is super challenging, so really my plan is to be strong thru outâ€.
Given that there is a pretty good quality womens field taking part Jo is telling us we will just have to â€œwait and see!!!â€ to find out how she will perform. She is obviously fairly confident but not wanting to say so.
Joanna Lawn 2010 Results
- Ford Ironman World Championship 2010 20th
- Ironman 70.3 Muskoka 2010 2nd
- Ironman Germany 2010 6th
- 2010 Bonita Ironman New Zealand 1st
- Port Of Tauranga Half Ironman 2010 4th
Women’s Start List
|Caroline Steffan (Out)||11||Swizterland|
|Carrie Lester (Out)||17||Australia|