Some big names in long-distance triathlon will take on Challenge Shepparton this Sunday.
DATEV Challenge Roth champion Yvonne van Vlerken will line up for her first Shepparton experience. Van Vlerken is no stranger to Australia, she and partner Per Bittner have made Geelong their training base for the past few years.
The 36-year-old Dutch woman has carved out an impressive career that includes five long course wins but her victory in Roth this year was the sweetest of all.
â€œMy partner Per Bittner and I are thrilled and so excited to spend our whole winter in Australia, the two months last year was too short,â€ van Vlerken said.
The experience we both had at Challenge Bateman’s Bay was amazing and for this reason we decided we want to race some more Challenge events â€œDown Underâ€.
â€œI’ve only heard good things of Challenge Shepparton and we are both looking forward to give it all in a great event in an awesome location,â€ she said.
Germany’s Bittner is a class athlete, finishing fourth in Roth this year and is one of the tour’s most consistent performers.
Australia’s Brad Kahlefeldt, who finished second last year, is back and seeking redemption but is battling to recover from a bunch cycling accident that left him with some hip discomfort.
I’m excited to be returning to Challenge Shepparton again for this year. Shepp always has a great atmosphere with a fast course and such good local support, Kahlefeldt said.
Radka Vodickova also finished second last year and returns with fiancÃ© Kahlefeldt in search of a different coloured medal.
â€œLast year I raced in Shepparton and loved the race, although it was a very cold and rainy day. Hard conditions usually suit me well, so I didn’t mind and was happy with my second place,â€ Vodickova said.
â€œThis year I am coming back and would like to change two things; win the race and enjoy sunny weather. I love racing Challenge family races.â€
Three-time Shepparton winner Rebekah Keat returns to the region where she was born and bred seeking a fourth title in one of her favourite races.
â€œIt’s such a fantastic event, a country race with such a great atmosphere. Having won three times before, it has great memories. I also love that it’s very close to Albury where I grew up, so I really feel relaxed and at home in Shepp,â€ Keat said.
Australia’s Luke Bell has had a testing 2015 season but is determined to end it on a positive note with a solid race performance in the event he holds the course record for, a record that has stood for almost 10 years.
â€œAthletes like Terenzo Bozzone and Tim Reed have come close to the record, however it has stood the test of time,â€ Bell said.
â€œIt will be good to get back to the Shepparton community and have a race at an event with such fond memories.â€
Another Australian athlete lining up is Nick Kastelein who finished fourth at Shepparton last year and is the long-time training partner of world champion Jan Frodeno.
Brisbane boy Sam Betten will make his Shepparton debut and is looking forward to his first Challenge experience. He will go into the race with a load of confidence after a win last weekend over the Olympic distance in the Philippines.
Also racing is Matthew Pellow who finished 3rd last weekend at Challenge Forster after leading out of T2. This will be Pellow’s fourth week of racing after producing a solid swim/bike combo in Port, then backing up to finish a credible 7th overall at Nepean Triathlon before last week’s podium at Challenge Forster.
The Shepparton event, with the same hospitality and new-look course, has received overwhelming approval from athletes, sponsors and supporters.
Now based in the city centre, the course includes a 1.9km swim in Victoria Park Lake, a two-lap 90km bike course on flat and fast roads and a three-lap 21.1km run encompassing the lake and trail tracks.
In addition to the professional field, a huge contingent of competitors in all age groups will take on this iconic Australian race established in 1997.
Challenge Shepparton is part of a weekend-long multi-sport festival that also includes a kids triathlon, open water swim and fun run.