There’s a real international feel to the first Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo next month.
American star Meredith Kessler, already a four-time winner of IRONMAN New Zealand in Taupo, is returning to the town fresh from her repeat victory at IRONMAN Arizona. The San Franciscan will be hoping to make it a Taupo double at the IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo on Saturday 12 December.
She will head a strong field of females including IRONMAN 70.3 Taiwan winner Gina Crawford, fellow Kiwi Michelle Bremer, the IRONMAN Australia champion; in-form Australian Sarah Crowley who was fourth at IRONMAN races in Cairns and Malaysia; British athlete Laura Siddell, who has a host of top five finishes in the last two years, and American-based Kiwi Anna Cleaver, who was fifth in IRONMAN races in Canada and Chattanooga.
With so many established IRONMAN veterans in the field it will be up to Amelia Rose Watkinson to fly the flag for the up and comers. The Kiwi was third in IRONMAN 70.3 Auckland at the start of the year and fifth in Malaysia.
The rest of the file is chock full of experienced athletes with New Zealanders Melanie Burke, Anna Russell and Anna Lawrence while former IRONMAN New Zealand winner Sam Warriner is also a starter.
There will also be interest in the return from hip surgery of Kiwi Tineke Stewart, who had fifth placings in IRONMAN 70.3 races in Cairns and Geelong.
The men’s race is set to be a battle between trans-Tasman rivals Tim van Berkel and Terenzo Bozzone.
Van Berkel, who was fourth at IRONMAN New Zealand last year, has enjoyed another outstanding 2015 season. He won IRONMAN 70.3 Sunshine Coast and was runner-up in a sprint finish with Tim Reed at Cebu in the Philippines. He was also runner-up at IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship in Melbourne.
Bozzone started the year strongly as runner-up in Taupo at IRONMAN New Zealand and has enjoyed six IRONMAN 70.3 podiums including a win in Budapest. After the disappointment at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship, Bozzone is working his way back into form, most recently notching up a third place at IRONMAN 70.3 Mandurah.
There will be considerable interest in the appearance of Wanaka’s Dougal Allan, who has won plaudits in the multisport scene in New Zealand, before turning his attention to IRONMAN with an outstanding runner-up effort in Sweden on debut. Add to that fellow multisport star Braden Currie, a two-time Coast to Coast champion and runner up in this month’s Xterra Worlds, who has his sights on potential qualification for triathlon at the Rio Olympics.
There are some in-form Kiwis who will be pushing for the top of the podium including Dylan McNeice, who was third at IRONMAN New Zealand and Cairns; Mark Bowstead who won the Taupo Half last year and enjoyed a breakthrough IRONMAN 70.3 victory at Buffalo Springs this year; Callum Millward who was runner-up at IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene and Simon Cochrane who was third at IRONMAN Japan after finishing fifth at Cairns, sixth in Western Australia and seventh in New Zealand.
Add to that the likes of veteran Bryan Rhodes, exciting newcomer Matt Franklin, the well-performed Carl Read, German Michael Wetzel and former Olympic cyclist Matt Randall.
The race, which offers 75 spots for next year’s IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship at Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast, has attracted more than 1200 participants from 34 countries.