Clayton Fettell claims victory at the 2012 Urban Long Course event - Credit: Eyes Wide Open Images.
Geelong, Australia (February 4, 2013) â€“ Defending Urban Geelong Long Course champion Clayton Fettell and 2011 IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion Melissa Hauschildt head to the Geelong Multi Sport Festival (8-10 February) as pre-race favourites and have staked early claims for the upcoming National Long Course triathlon championship.
Fettell is in the last weeks of his preparation for the Ironman Asia/Pacific Championship in Melbourne and Hauschildt is determined to get her season back on track after a tough day in Auckland. Hauschildt crashed on the bike, causing herself no end of problems that saw her rapidly drop from contention and spend a significant amount of time in the medical tent post race.
Both athletes have the talent to triumph and are fired up coming into Geelong but with the strength of the start lists, they clearly won’t have it all their own way.
Fettell was dominant in 2012 with his ruthless swim/bike combination but he said the depth of talent in the field this year means he will need to be on top of his game to meet all the expected challengers and challenges over the tough 1.9km swim, 90km cycle and 21.1km run Geelong course.
â€œThe race is in the middle of my Ironman block so to defend is going to be very tough against this stacked field this early in a very long season,â€ Fettell said.
â€œMy preparations for Melbourne are on track and Geelong will give me a bit of an idea of where I am at. I am looking at just being the fittest person I can be. My run volumes are high and I am feeling good for Geelong.â€
Fettell has to contend with old foes Leon Griffin and Tim Berkel, who shared the podium with him in 2012, as well as the inform Chris Kemp who tore up the 70.3 course in Auckland in January.
â€œI don’t really think all eyes will be on me. There is another stellar line up of athletes racing Geelong. If there are a few more people watching what I’m doing, it doesn’t worry me, I will still race the way I have always done so, doing all I can to put myself in the best positions to try and win.â€
â€œGeelong is a little bit of an odd one, timing wise for me. It is an Australian Championship race, I’ll be out there giving it 100 per cent and trying to get on that podium. But in the back of my mind my first Ironman in Melbourne is getting closer by the day,â€ Kemp said.
But no-one can discount local ironman hero Luke Bell and Estonia’s Marko Albert, Kiwi Brian Rhodes fresh from his strong performance at Challenge Wanaka, James Hodge, Joe Lampe, Joshua Rix and James Seear have also thrown their hats in the ring, making it anyone’s race.
But if reputations mean anything, the inclusion of three-time ITU World Champion Peter Robertson in the Urban Long course will add an extra special twist to what is an already fascinating race. It is a big step up in distance for Robbo, but as a long time crowd favourite if he gets a sniff of victory he will use the adoration of the crowd for inspiration.
Dual Olympian Brad Kahlefeldt is also making the switch to long course racing in Geelong. Kahlefeldt is untested over this distance but is a world class athlete and will no doubt be among the contenders.
The women’s field has also been bolstered with the inclusion of two time ITU World Champion and Olympic medallist Emma Moffatt, who will battle it out with Hauschildt, Anna Cleaver, Michelle Wu, Michelle Gailey and four-time Olympian Kiyomi Niwata (JAP).
Moffatt is stepping up in distance in the hope of adding another national title to her already extensive resume.
â€œI have no idea what prompted me to enter. I guess it’s something I’ve never done before so it’s a great challenge and a good way to prepare for my upcoming World Championship Series races,â€ Moffatt said.
The furthest I’ve done in a race is Olympic distance (1.5km swim, 40km cycle, 10km run), I still enjoy the ITU races so in the near future they will be my focus. Maybe in years to come I will do more longer racing.
â€œIt is going to be an interesting day. I’m actually really excited to race, doing something new is refreshing but come race day I’m not sure I’ll be overly excited,â€ Moffatt laughed.
Current Australian Ironman champion, Michelle Gailey (nee Mitchell) is hoping Geelong 2013 will yield a much better result than the DNF of last year.
â€œThe last two years I have had a really hectic Ironman race schedule so I have taken a few months off to relax and recover and have just started training again,â€ Gailey said.
â€œI am looking forward to Geelong to blow some cobwebs out from the Christmas period and use the race as part of my training for an ironman (in Australia) later in the season.
â€œI haven’t raced 70.3 distance for a long time so I am excited to be doing this distance but my coach is not easing up on me, so I will be racing under a fairly decent load of training. So I’ll just have to put everything I have into it on the day.â€
The Urban Long Course event is just one of three events on Sunday 10 February. The schedule also features the Subaru Olympic distance triathlon, and age group qualifying event for the 2013 World Triathlon Championships and the Urban Geelong ITU Sprint Championships.