Two-time Olympic medallist Bevan Docherty believes Sunday’s field for the IRONMAN 70.3 Auckland is the strongest outside of the world championship.
Docherty, who capped off his move to endurance triathlon with a debut victory in Ironman New Zealand last year, is among a stellar field for Sunday’s race.
It features five-time world champion Craig Alexander, defending champion Christian Kemp, Beijing gold medallist Jan Frodeno, last year’s IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship silver medallist Terenzo Bozzone, 10 time Ironman New Zealand champion Cameron Brown and a host of Australian tyros.
The women’s field is headed by Ironman 70.3 podium placegetter Annabel Luxford (Australia), recent New Zealand long distance championship winner Catriona Morrison (Scotland) and top Kiwis Joanna Lawn and Samantha Warriner.
The stars faced the media today ahead of Sunday’s race in Auckland which doubles as the Asia Pacific Championship.
â€œIt’s great that the organisers can put together such an amazing field,â€ Docherty said. â€œI thought I was going to come and have a little bit of a cherry pick race. To be honest I don’t think we are going to see as competitive a field until the world championships. It goes to show we can put world class events on here.â€
His view was backed up by Brown, who played a key role last year in establishing the race in his home city.
â€œThe calibre of the field is incredible. It is fantastic to see. The quality and number of top events in Asia Pacific now means we don’t need to travel again anymore,â€ he said.
Bozzone, who missed last year’s race after a freak accident on his bike two days before the event, is hoping to build on his outstanding end to the 2013 season. He had four wins and medals at both the IRONMAN 70.3 and ITU Long Distance World Championships in the second half of the year.
â€œIt’s great to be able to race in Auckland. I’ve spent the last eight years based overseas mostly in America or Europe. To be able to do a major race like this in my home town, and race over some of the roads that I train on is pretty cool.
â€œThe field we have we will put on a great show and show what a cool city and what a cool venue Auckland is.â€
Another Kiwi keen to race is former world number on ranked Olympic distance triathlete, Warriner who also missed last year’s race after the birth of her first child.
â€œI couldn’t race last year because of the baby but I was itching to do it. We don’t get to race at home very much and having all these great athletes here has created a real buzz out there. I can’t wait to get out there and race,â€ said Warriner.
Most eyes are on the performance of Alexander, who has won the IRONMAN World Championship in Hawaii three times and Ironman 70.3 World title twice.
The Australian recently moved back to his home in Sydney after basing himself in USA for much of the last 10 years.
He has rarely raced in Asia Pacific and at this time of the year, but is looking forward to the race, his first time in the country since racing at Mt Maunganui in 2005, although he competed in ITU World Cups in Auckland in the mid 1990s.
â€œAsia Pacific is one of the sport’s new frontiers. It is really exploding with the number of events and number of participants.
â€œI watched the race here last year and wanted to do it. With the change to have such a prestigious race with so much prizemoney so early, then athletes are getting in shape a lot earlier. And therefore I think it is going to be a great race on Sunday.â€
There are more than 1200 competitors from 53 countries, with professionals chasing a share of more than NZ$90,000 prize purse while age groupers will vie for Asia Pacific titles and qualifying places for both the Ironman and IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships.
The race, which starts at 6.15am, comprises a 1.9km swim in the Viaduct Harbour, a 90km bike over the Auckland Harbour Bridge, and 21km run along the waterfront.
CAPTION: Bevan Docherty out of the water in last year’s inaugural IRONMAN 70.3 Auckland. (Credit: Daryl Carey)
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. Competitors have the opportunity to fundraise for Make-A-Wish by signing up as Wish Racers and encouraging their family, friends and workmates to donate to their fundraising page.
To sign up as a Wish Racer or sponsor an IRONMAN 70.3 competitor please visit http://www.everydayhero.co.nz/event/aucklandironman or http://www.fundraiseonline.co.nz/aucklandironman/