Five time World Champion Craig Alexander and Olympic Gold medallist Jan Frodeno head a stunning group of internationals to contest the IRONMAN 70.3 Auckland this month.
The pair form part of arguably the strongest field assembled outside of the world championship to contest the race that doubles as the official Asia Pacific Championship on Sunday 19 January. It comprises a 1.9km swim in the Viaduct Harbour, 90km three-lap cycle over the Auckland Harbour Bridge and 21km two-lap run along the waterfront.
The field includes defending champion Christian Kemp (Australia), two-time Olympic medallist Bevan Docherty and fellow Kiwis in 10-time IRONMAN New Zealand champion Cameron Brown and Terenzo Bozzone, runner-up in last year’s IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship.
It is the second time that the championship has been staged in Auckland, with the event carrying a NZ$90,000 prize purse as well as qualifying places for age group contestants for both the IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships.
Australian Alexander is the biggest name in the sport, winning the IRONMAN World Championship in Hawaii three times in 2008, 2009 and 2011 and the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in 2006 and 2001.
The 40 year old recently shifted back to Sydney fulltime with his family after being based much of the last 10 years in USA, and move his focus away from IRONMAN to the half distance of IRONMAN 70.3 in the burgeoning Asia Pacific region.
â€œI always considered 70.3 to be my best distance. But once you are doing IRONMAN in Hawaii as the main focus, it basically dominates the year,â€ Alexander said.
He said that his growing family of three needed to come first and be settled back in Sydney.
â€œI am excited for them and I am excited to focus on 70.3 and the Asia Pacific region.â€
He raced on the Auckland waterfront more than 15 years ago as a tyro in the ITU World Cup, while his last race in this country was winning the national long distance title in Mt Maunganui in 2005.
Alexander is excited about racing in Auckland.
â€œI have heard the course in Auckland is challenging and spectacular, with the athletes having to ride over the Harbour Bridge.
â€œI am hopeful my form for the race will be very good. Apart from being a much earlier start to my season than normal, I have trained well but I started back to training much earlier than I normally would to prepare.â€
Frodeno (Germany) won the Olympic gold medal at Beijing and was sixth in London, chalking up three wins and 11 podiums before moving to the endurance distance, where he finished second in the IRONMAN 70.3 European Championship in 2013.
Now based in Australia, Frodeno has also had experience on the Auckland waterfront in the ITU World Triathlon event last year.
The 30-strong final men’s field is a virtual who’s who of the IRONMAN world, including 18 winners from IRONMAN 70.3 races in 2013, nearly one-third of all worldwide events over the distance, and 40 podium placegetters.
Bozzone leads the way with four 70.3 wins in 2013, Alexander had three, Docherty, Kemp, two-time Olympian Courtney Atkinson and super-consistent fellow Australian Ritchie Cunningham two each. The other winners from 2013 in the field include super-talented Tim Reed, and high-flying fellow Australian young guns in Sam Appleton and James Hodge, who was fifth as a teenager in Auckland last year.
Others of note include 2012 Australian champion Tim Berkel, who had four podiums last year, and fellow Aussie David Dellow, who had his first IRONMAN success in Cairns in 2012.
The race will also be a homecoming for former Aucklander Paul Amey, who has competed in Great Britain colours for more than a decade, achieving a breakthrough victory on the IRONMAN circuit in 2013 at Texas to go with a podium in Canada.
The men’s field is:
Andrew Yoder (USA)
Bevan Docherty (NZL)
Brodie Madgwick (NZL)
Callum Millward (NZL)
Cameron Brown (NZL)
Chris Sanson (NZL)
Christian Kemp (AUS)
Craig Alexander (AUS)
Damien Decas (FRA)
David Dellow (AUS)
David Mainwaring (AUS)
Graham O’Grady (NZL)
James Hodge (AUS)
James Seear (AUS)
Jamie Stanley (AUS)
Jan Frodeno (GER)
John Polson (AUS)
Mark Bowstead (NZL)
Matt Franklin (NZL)
Matthew Pellow (AUS)
Michael Poole (NZL)
Paul Amey (GBR)
Richie Cunningham (AUS)
Sam Appleton (AUS)
Sean Donnelly (GER)
Terenzo Bozzone (NZL)
Tim Berkel (AUS)
Tim Reed (AUS)
Todd Israel (AUS)
CAPTION: Craig Alexander (Credit: Eyes Wide Open).
For details: www.ironmanauckland.com
About IRONMAN 70.3 Auckland
IRONMAN 70.3 Auckland is sponsored by Auckland, Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), Auckland’s economic growth agency, and Ports of Auckland.
Make-A-Wish is the chosen charity for IRONMAN 70.3. Â Make-A-Wish grants the special wishes of children all over New Zealand with life-threatening medical conditions to bring hope, strength and joy into their lives.