Can a talented Kiwi triumvirate withstand a brutal international assault in a remarkable menÂ’s field for next monthÂ’s KelloggÂ’s Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand?
The equally remarkable 43-year-young icon, Cameron Brown has been awarded the No 1 seeding for the 15th time in 19 starts at the event Â– one in Auckland and 18 on the trot in TaupÃ´.
To reward last yearÂ’s all-New Zealand podium, four-time runner-up Terenzo Bozzone has been seeded two and CanterburyÂ’s Dylan McNeice seeded three for the 32nd IRONMAN New Zealand on Saturday 5 March.
However the trio face a 30-strong field of strength and superiority from nine nations in perhaps the deepest and most open line-up in the eventÂ’s 32 year history.
Brown enjoyed a fantastic first half to 2015 winning his first IRONMAN New Zealand in four years and second at IRONMAN Cairns. His second half of the year took a nose dive as a period over-training at altitude in Boulder coupled with an emergency dental appointment impacted upon his ability to perform in his return to the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona where he failed to finish.
But he is primed and ready in his return to his Kingdom of TaupÃ´.
Â“It is the race that has made me as an athlete and IÂ’ve a lot to thank the race,Â” says Brown. Â“It has given me a lot of coverage and lot of support and winning that race has held a lot of importance for me.Â”
Bozzone has finished second four times, and the 30 year old father believes he now knows what it takes to reach the top.
Â“In any IRONMAN race you are bound to have those really tough moments and it is understanding how to deal with those bad patches and knowing that you will come through the other side that is key. Cameron Brown has that nailed. He is the ice man. You never see any weakness.
Â“He has proved virtually unbeatable in IRONMAN New Zealand, but IÂ’m hoping to put a stop to that. I definitely know I have what it takes to be top of the podium. I just have to back myself.Â”
McNeice believes he has learned much from his podium finish last year, working hard with coach Tim Brazier to improve his bike strength.
Â“I learned a lot from 2015 and although I was never fighting for the win, to share the podium with Cameron (Brown) and Terenzo (Bozzone) was awesome,Â” he says. Â“The biggest things I learned was I can improve on the bike. If I can get off the bike in a good place and if the run legs are there IÂ’m in with a good shot.Â”
A mob of internationals are set to pounce.
Fourth seed is Frenchman Cyril Viennot who was fifth at the IRONMAN World Championship in 2014 and won in UK in same year before winning the ITU World Long Distance title last year along with sixth at Kona.
Fifth seed is exciting American Matt Hanson, who ran 2:47 to win IRONMAN Chattanooga in a course record in 2014, and set a course record 8:07 to win in Texas last year.
German Per Bittner is an outstanding allround triathlete with six iron distance podiums including second at Western Australia and Barcelona last year.
Seventh seed is strong Australian Paul Matthews who placed sixth on debut at Melbourne in 8:05 three years ago followed by runner-up at Arizona. He returned in 2014 to clock 8:02 to finish runner-up at the IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship and he was 14th in Kona.
Compatriot Alex Reithmeier is a very solid Australian who was fourth last year after podiums at Port Macquarie and Western Australia.
WanakaÂ’’s Dougal Allen is another of the teak-tough southern men who have gained global recognition in multisport and adventure racing. He turned his attentions to IRONMAN with third on debut at Wanaka ion 2014 followed by runner-up at IRONMAN Sweden last year.
The top-10 is rounded off by Frenchman Antony Costes, who is on debut at IRONMAN New Zealand after IRONMAN 70.3 podium last year in Lanzarote and victory at Korea plus runner-up this year in Panama.
The field includes a number of talented Kiwis including Aucklanders Callum Millward and Mark Bowstead who have both won in the IRONMAN 70.3 circuit in USA while compatriot Simon Cochrane was on the podium in IRONMAN Japan, sixth at Cairns and seventh in TaupÃ´ last year. Added to this is Sam Clark, another strong multisporter, who recently won the Coast to Coast.
SwedenÂ’s Swen Sundberg is a strong competitor who won at IRONMAN Japan last year on the toughest bike course on the globe.
BritainÂ’s Joe Skipper has a raft of IRONMAN podiums in UK three times and Florida plus 13th in Hawaii last year, while American Matt Russell had three top-seven finishes last year including runner-up in IRONMAN Cozumel.
There are over 50 competitors in the menÂ’s and womenÂ’s professional field chasing nearly NZ$115,000 in prizemoney while a capacity 1300 age groupers seek one of the 55 qualifying spots available for the IRONMAN World Championship.
The womenÂ’s seeds were released yesterday with top seed and defending champion Meredith Kessler (USA) leading the way from last yearÂ’s fellow podium place getters Gina Crawford and Melanie Burke both New Zealand.
The menÂ’s field and seedings are:
- Cameron Brown (NZL)
- Terenzo Bozzone (NZL)
- Dylan McNeice (NZL)
- Cyril Viennot (FRA)
- Matt Hanson (USA)
- Per Bittner (DEU)
- Paul Matthews (AUS)
- Alex Reithmeier (AUS)
- Dougal Allen (NZL)
- Antony Costes (FRA)
- Brad Williams (USA)
- Callum Millward (NZL)
- Casey Munro (AUS)
- Chris Sanson (NZL)
- Clayton Fettell (AUS)
- Daniel Brown (AUS)
- Darren Jenkins (GBR)
- David Nasvik (SWE)
- Guy Crawford (NZL)
- Joe Skipper (GBR)
- Johan Borg (AUS)
- Mark Bowstead (NZL)
- Matt Randall (NZL)
- Matt Russell (USA)
- Michael Poole (NZL)
- Sam Clark (NZL)
- Simon Billeau (FRA)
- Simon Cochrane (NZL)
- Swen Sundberg (DEU)
- Younghwan Oh (KOR).