Five time World Champion Craig Alexander is heading across the ditch for January’s IRONMAN 70.3 Auckland with a warning.
The 41-year-old Australian, who was seventh in the 2014 race shortly after announcing his semi-retirement from the sport, is back in excellent shape and aiming to add the Asia-Pacific Championship to his glittering array of titles.
The race on Sunday 18 January doubles as the official Asia-Pacific Championship and comprises a 1.9km swim in the Viaduct Harbour, 90km three-lap bike over the Auckland Harbour Bridge and 21km two-lap run along the waterfront.
Alexander is the biggest name in the sport, winning the IRONMAN World Championship in Hawaii three times in 2008, 2009 and 2011 and the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in 2006 and 2001.
He moved back to Sydney with his family fulltime 12 months ago after being based in USA for a decade, mixing some racing in the Asia-Pacific region with new business opportunities.
“I have got into quality work much earlier and I am in much better shape but you have to be for the Asia-Pacific Championship,” Alexander said. “The last two years with the quality of field assembled in Auckland then you have to be in top shape to compete and I think I am this time.”
Alexander said he only had three weeks of quality training for the 2014 race after attending to sponsor obligations in USA.
He is busy with commercial opportunities, including establishing a new coaching business with a hub of coaches, and with his family life, which has meant he has become more selective with his races.
“I now pick races that I know that I can prepare well for. I am not interested in turning up if I am not in good shape.
“I really enjoy racing against the best people and these bigger races have better fields. Most professional athletes want to race the best people. Plus I am based in Sydney so it’s not a long way from things.”
The changing environment of IRONMAN racing means that key athletes now target early season big races.
“Even though it is very early in a traditional season you will get a lot of people in good form and that is why I have got myself in good form too. So hopefully I am in good enough shape to give it a tickle.”
Fellow 40-something, Cameron Brown had earlier confirmed his entry after an outstanding 2014 season, with the full professional field to be announced in the New Year.
The event carrying a NZ$90,000 prize purse as well as qualifying places for age group contestants for the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship.