New Zealand triathletes pose a real threat in Sunday’s 33rd running of one of the toughest sporting endeavours, the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
Veteran Cameron Brown is joined by Hawaii rookie Terenzo Bozzone as top contenders in the men’s field while ironman New Zealand champion Gina Crawford and six-time winner Jo Lawn are looking to overcome the heat and winds in Kona to claim the world title.
There are 39 kiwis on the start line on Sunday (NZ time) with six entered in the professional section and the remainder in age groups which start 15 minutes behind the pros.
Brown, at 37, is a three-time podium finisher in Hawaii and believes he can return to the top three this year, somewhere he has not been since 2003.
Last year Brown arrived as a more powerful cyclist, hoping to get closer to the Europeans after the 180km on bike so that his renowned speed on the run could pay dividends.
“I can’t keep standing up the top guys so much off the bike. I felt really strong last year but a puncture proved my undoing,” Brown said.
“I am really happy with my build-up at Noosa in Australia. It’s gone well. All the data shows that I have at least the same amount of power output on the bike, if not even stronger.
“So the tactics will be the same which is to have a good swim and then have the strength on the bike to go with the big guns, or at least get myself further down the road before the freight train comes through.
“I need to have a run like I did in Taupo at Ironman New Zealand this year – certainly sub 2hr 45min. If I am up there off the bike and can finally put a top run together, then anything can happen. I’d like to think i can get on the podium but I am always searching for that perfect day to win this thing.”
Brown was second in 2001 and third in 2002 and 2003.
It’s a different story for the 24-year-old Bozzone, the 2008 70.3 (half ironman) world champion, who finished runner-up to Brown in his Ironman debut in Taupo in March.
The brilliant North Harbour athlete has put in a huge training load, and has learned much from training partner and two-time world champion Chris McCormack.
“I have put in the work and I have been up here in Hawaii for a few weeks now to acclimatise,” Bozzone said.
“I just want to concentrate on my own race. I am a new boy on the block and anything can happen. I am still learning what this sport is about and of course the heat, the humidity and the winds here in Hawaii makes it a whole new ball game.”
Rookies were always meant to pay their dues in Kona. That was until the likes of defending champion Craig Alexander (Australia) came along, finishing second on debut and then cleaning up last year.
He is the favourite along with Spain’s Eneko Llanos, who was second on debut last year, and McCormack.
Great Britain’s Chrissie Wellington is the overwhelming favourite in the women’s race. The two-time champion has never been beaten in her seven Ironman starts. Last year she lost 10 minutes with a puncture but that did not stop her catching the field, opening a winning break on the bike and storming away on the run.
Lawn has a string of top-10 finishers to her credit in Hawaii – from 10th to fourth and will be looking to re-ignite her career with a strong all-round performance.
Crawford (Christchurch) is in unchartered territory after a break earlier in the year after suffering from a heart condition earlier in the year.
But she says she is on the mend although has had an unusual build-up for Hawaii – concentrating instead on getting married last week to long-time partner Brett in Hawaii.
She is a strong swimmer and has worked hard on her riding to keep closer to the front of the field to build on her outstanding debut eighth place last year.
The race starts at 5.45am New Zealand time on Sunday.