Previewed: IRONMAN 70.3 Auckland – Asia-Pacific Championship

Bevan Docherty, Christian Kemp and Clarke Ellice

A world-class field is, at this very moment, assembling in Auckland, NZ, for the Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship, to be held this forthcoming Sunday, January 19th 2014. Big prize money, a regional title and a share in one of the best KPR points offerings on the 70.3 circuit has lured some 30 professional men and 13 professional women onto the start line for battle very early in the international season.

The Men’s Race:

The men’s field, in particular, is absolutely overflowing with talent. With such a strong field, we expect there to be  a big pack heading together off the bike and fireworks on the run. So early in the year, it’s going to be anyone’s race.

As TriZone previously reported, the men’s field will be headlined by none other than five-time world champion and living legend, Craig ‘Crowie’ Alexander. Alexander had a disappointing run of form late last season at both the Ironman 70.3 and Ironman World Championships due to a back injury. Announcing he is no longer vying for Kona contention and instead renewing his focus on 70.3 racing -where he believes he is most competitive- it will be interesting to see how the champ’s form is, particularly since it is a very long time since we’ve seen the Shire native race so early in the year.

As with Alexander, it is indeed hard to construct an accurate form guide for much of the 30-strong field. Defending champion Christian Kemp of Australia is back and hungry to hold onto the title. Kemp was off most radars in 2013 after struggling with a long run of injuries, but raised eyebrows blitzing the field in Auckland. According to two-time Olympic medalist, Bevan Docherty, Kemp was strong on the bike and ‘toyed’ with them on the run in his way to the victory. It’s certain then, that this year Kemp will have a target firmly placed on his back.

Docherty himself showed us last year his January form was strong across all three disciplines with a second placing at the inaugural event, so he too -as always- will be one to keep an eye on. He then went on to win Ironman New Zealand on debut and set a course record. His first attempts at the two Ironman World Champs last year did not yield the results he would have been hoping for. Docherty will be out to prove something on Sunday.

Fellow Kiwi Cameron Brown will also be looking to be in the mix. After taking out his 10th Port of Tauranga half-Iron in January, Brown looks to be in great form. Brown took six weeks of towards the end of last year, something he hasn’t done for ten years, to fully recharge some aging batteries. This looks to have worked wonders, particularly on the bike as he showed in Tauranga. This field has some incredibly fast runners and could prove too quick on Sunday for Brown, particularly if he’s gapped in the water.

Terrenzo Bozzone was in scintillating form in 2013, making a resounding return from a prolonged injury hiatus. He finished off 2013 with a string of 70.3 podiums including second at the World Championships in Las Vegas and wins in Miami, Mandurah and Shepparton. Bozzone is making his return to Ironman racing in Taupo this March so whether or not the big training load will dim his run speed off the bike is to be seen. If he’s close to the condition he was in in 2013, Bozzone will be hard to beat.

World number 5 Ironman 70.3 professional Tim Reed will be in Auckland to win. The lead bike pack will be nervously looking over their shoulders for the inevitable onslaught by Reed as he powers his way though the field aboard his new Shimano-equipped Felt whip. If he is there off the bike he will back himself to be able to run with the best of them and take the title.

Tim Reed coached Sam Appleton to a maiden 70.3 title in Canberra five weeks ago after a string of podiums at Port 70.3, Nepean and Mandurah. Appleton is a strong, rounded athlete who will swim and ride with the front packs. With a strong run, Appleton will almost certainly be at the pointy end in the second half of the run, chasing another podium.

Young gun James Hodge had a fantastic season 2013, his second year of professional racing, with a number of podiums and wins at Ironman 70.3 Japan and the Metaman half-distance race. The tall Tasmanian rode off the front in Auckland last year in an impressive display of bike strength and he has shown in recent months that he hasn’t lost any of that power. In fact, it is reported he is riding better than ever right now. With improved bike strength, a front-pack swim and the same off-the-front attitude, Hodge is a good chance to improve on his third-placing from 2013.

Former Australian Ironman 70.3 Pro Champion Tim Berkel will be in unknown form this forthcoming weekend. Berkel was recently hit by a vehicle travelling at about 45kph during the inaugural Challenge Forster race. Coach Grant Giles has been working his squad hard in Lennox, so we expect Berkel to be well conditioned coming into the race. A strong all-round athlete, Berkel has show in the past he’s capable of some exceptional runs over the 70.3 distance.

2008 Olympic gold medalist Jan Frodeno has been transitioning to long-course racing since the London Games where he placed. Racing a mix of ITU and non-drafting events, Frodeno tasted 70.3 success with a second-place at the Ironman 70.3 European Championships in Wiesbaden in 2013. As he continues to adapt his craft to long-course racing, we know we haven’t seen the best Frodeno has to offer on the 70.3 circuit.

Richie Cunningham showed some great form in 2013 taking wins Galveston and St Croix 70.3’s before being hit by a car and breaking his elbow. Cunningham returned to racing with some quick runs netting him podiums at Austin 70.3 and Rev3 Venice Beach.  With a few podiums in Panama – a February 70.3 race – in the last few years, Cunningham has shown he can perform well early in the year, so watch for another quick one from this fast veteran.

There are a number of other dark horse athletes to watch in Auckland. David Mainwaring took a win at Murray Man Half and  second at Challenge Forster in recent months, showing he is in good touch and racing confidently. Matthew Pellow is also in good form, which he showed when ran through James Hodge with a barnstorming effort in Canberra to net second place. The likes of Paul Amey and Dave Dellow can never be discounted either, both bringing experience and speed to the startline.

Full Men’s Startlist:

  • 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)

The Women’s Race:

At the inaugural race in 2013 Annabel Luxford absolutely dominated the women’s field. She was leading out of the water and put time into the likes of Meredith Kessler and Caroline Steffen on both the bike and the run. Despite some simply outstanding results in 2013, Luxford still considers herself somewhat of a long-distance rookie. We expect 2014 to be an even bigger year for Luxford as she continues to push her boundaries over the 70.3 distance.  Luxford will go into Sunday’s race as a strong favourite over some fierce local competition. After coming 3rd at the 70.3 World Champs Luxford backed up to beat the 70.3 champion a week later over the same distance.

Catriona Morrison had a very consistent 2013 which included a number of podiums and wins over the 70.3 distance, including the tough, humid St Croix 70.3. Morrison is coming off a win at the Port of Tauranga Half where she ran a sharp 1:21 half-marathon. We expect Morrison to race strongly and contend for a podium spot.

Kiwi Sam Warriner is an experienced racer who doesn’t appear to have slowed one iota since giving birth to her first child. She took out the Cairns Airport Ironman 70.3 Cairns in 2013,  and dabbled in some ITU racing at the evergreen age of 42. Warriner will need a strong bike performance to challenge for the win, but we expect her to be up at the pointy end of the race all day.

Kiwi legend Jo Lawn is another athlete with the potential to challenge for a podium position. Lawn is again preparing for Ironman New Zealand in March with the hopes of securing an eighth title.  With another consistent year behind her, Lawn will, like compatriot Warriner, look to the bike for a strong result.

Australian Rebecca Hoschke has had a good domestic season so far with a second at the Murray Man half, and a win at Challenge Forster. The reigning Ironman Australia champion will have been working hard with coach Grant Giles to prepare for the this race and hopefully to improve on her eighth place here in 2013. After leaving her full time job late in 2013 Hoschke has been putting more time in to her training and we look forward to seeing the results of this on Sunday.

Australian-based Japanese ITU veteran Kiyomi Niwata will be near the front out of the drink but will need to work hard to stay within touch the likes of Luxford, Morrison, and Warriner on the bike if she is to challenge for a podium. With a few second-placings in 2013 over the 70.3, the swim-run specialist will be looking to start 2014 with a strong result at the Asia-Pacific Champs.

Coming off a podium finish in at Canberra 70.3, Brisbane native Kym Jaenke will join the likes of Michelle Bremer and Michelle Wu as darkhorses who have the potential to nail a big performance on Sunday.

  • Annabel Luxford (AUS)
  • Catriona Morrison (SCO)
  • Hannah Lawrence  (NZL)
  • Jo Lawn (NZL)
  • Kiyomi Niwata (JPN)
  • Kristy Hallett (AUS)
  • Kym Jaenke (AUS)
  • Melanie Burke (NZL)
  • Michelle Bremer (NZL)
  • Michelle Wu (AUS)
  • Rebecca Hoschke (AUS)
  • Sabrina Mohn (SUI)
  • Sam Warriner  (NZL).


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