An all-star field is heading to New Zealand’s largest annual triathlon festival, Challenge Wanaka, headed by two-time world champion and 12 times iron distance champion, Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack.
Widely regarded as the sport’s most successful triathlete, McCormack has won over 200 international races since 1993 across a range of distances and is the only athlete to break the magic eight-hour iron distance barrier more than twice (he has broken it four times). As well as being two-times World Champion at Kona, he is the current ITU Long Distance World Champion and has also claimed the ITU World Series Championship title over the Olympic distance, again, the only athlete to hold both distance world titles.
“I’m heading to Wanaka for a win and a new course record,” said McCormack, in his usual straight talking style. However, defending champion and fellow Australian, Aaron Farlow, is returning with the goal to retain his title while 2011 champion Jamie Whyte (NZL) is also aiming to get back on top of the podium. Other contenders include former duathlon world champion, Leon Griffin (AUS) as well as Kiwis Keegan Williams and Bryan Rhodes. The top spot is the only place that has eluded Williams at Wanaka following a third in 2010 and second in 2009 while four times iron distance champion Rhodesy will be looking to make up for a disappointing DNF in 2012 following three punctures.
Challenge Wanaka will mark the first time McCormack has raced a long distance triathlon in New Zealand and he’s looking forward to returning to his “second home”
“I grew up in New Zealand, every school holidays we were there, I still have a lot of family in New Zealand, and to this day travel on both an Australian and a New Zealand passport. New Zealand holds a special place in my heart as it is the home of my mother, so returning to race in Wanaka will be very nice for me. I lost my mother to breast cancer in 1999, and Wanaka was where my mother and father had their honeymoon. It is a special part of the world for me. I would really like to do something special at this race for these very reasons,” he said
The women’s field is once again dominated by four-time winner of Challenge Wanaka and 10 times iron distance champion Gina Crawford (NZL). However, the road to a sixth victory will have to break through the defences of Australia’s Kate Bevilaqua, Kim Loeffler (USA) and New Zealand’s Candice Hammond.
Bevilaqua holds two iron distance titles while Hammond comes off her best career result to date – a win at Metaman Bintan in September. Loeffler is hoping to break her ‘bridesmaid’ resume – she has placed on the podium no less than seven times and holds the run course record at Ironman Brazil but the top spot has so far eluded her.
Crawford is racing off the back of her recent success at the Ironman World Championships where she placed seventh and is returning to Wanaka for the fifth time. Originally from Christchurch, her time racing and training in Lake Wanaka has led to a love of the region that has resulted in her and her family making it their home.
“I just love racing Challenge Wanaka with the scenic and challenging course and am especially looking forward to the changed bike course this year with the double loop encompassing the best parts of the former course. I am excited to be coming back and will be working hard in the coming months in an attempt to take my fifth title,” said Crawford.
Challenge Wanaka takes place on 19 January 2013 and is part of New Zealand’s largest triathlon festival involving over 2,000 participants that runs from 13-19 January and features events for all ages and abilities. Other highlights include the Puzzling World Junior Challenge Wanaka on 13 January, the Radio Wanaka 5km Charity Fancy Dress Fun Run, and the Contact Tri Series Contact Cup featuring the country’s top short course athletes on Friday 18 January.