With entries closing at midnight tomorrow (Saturday), Challenge Wanaka has already attracted an exceptional line up of pro athletes ready to tackle one of the world’s toughest iron distance triathlons.
The start list for the eighth annual event includes last year’s champions, Dylan McNeice and Gina Crawford (both originally from Christchurch and partly resident in Wanaka) alongside multiple adventure racing world champion, Richard Ussher (Nelson) who will be looking to repeat his 2010 Challenge Wanaka victory in which he set the current course record.
In the men’s race the two Kiwis will race against 2013 Challenge Penticton winner Jeffrey Symonds (CAN), runner up Scott DeFilippis (USA) and Keegan Williams (Hamilton) who has achieved multiple podium positions at Challenge Wanaka, Challenge Roth, Challenge Copenhagen and IM New Zealand.
Facing down women’s course record holder and five-time winner Gina Crawford are high-calibre pros including Candice Hammond (Cambridge), Tamsyn Hayes (Dunedin), multiple iron distance champion Carrie Lester (AUS) and Wanaka-based endurance athlete Simone Maier (GER) who is looking to improve her best ever finish – second place in 2011.
Other NZ men entered in the pro field are Wanaka’s Dougal Allen, Matt Burgess (Auckland) who is returning from injury after finishing second at the 2010 Taupo Half Ironman, Matt King (originally from Invercargill and now based in Leeds, UK) and Carl Read (Auckland) making his first iron distance appearance as a pro after finishing 10th at Challenge Wanaka 2012.
Overseas pros include Courtney Ogden and Tim Beardall (both AUS), Jaroslav Kovacic (SLO), a member of the Slovenian triathlon team for the last five years, and Paul Hawkins (GBR) who finished third at Ironman UK 2012. Paul is moving to Australia this month for several years and describes Challenge Wanaka as top of his list.
Race director Victoria Murray-Orr said the calibre of the pro field will make for a thrilling event.
“Having Dylan, who also won Challenge Taiwan this year, race against multi-sport legend Richard Ussher is a mouth-watering prospect. They’ll push each other to the limit and both have to keep an eye on the rest of the field. Gina Crawford is a firm favourite for the women’s title. It would be her sixth win in eight races which is an incredible achievement but who knows what will happen on day,” she said.
Challenge Wanaka attracts in excess of 2,000 athletes over a multi-day celebration of sport involving all ages and abilities. The flagship event, Challenge Wanaka long distance triathlon (3.8km/180km/42.2km) is part of the renowned Challenge Family global series of triathlons which features 22 races in 14 countries, including the world’s largest long distance triathlon, Challenge Roth in Germany.