Great Britain’s Liz Blatchford and American Mary Beth Ellis are two of the world’s best long distance athletes on the circuit and will headline a deep women’s field at Challenge Bateman’s Bay this weekend.
Gold Coast-based Blatchford exploded onto the long course scene back in 2012 after a long and successful ITU career. The 34-year-old admits she still has a lot to learn and gaining strength on the bike is a focus but will go into Challenge Bateman’s Bay as a favourite.
After a 2014 season that started by winning the Huskisson Long Course and included three podiums places and a victory at Ironman Cairns, she ended her season with a win at Challenge Forster.
“I’m looking forward to racing Challenge Batemans Bay. It looks like a stunning location and course, which is always a drawing factor,” said Blatchford.
Blatchford is building into her 2015 season and targeting the half distances in the early months.
“It fits nicely with my season. I’m focusing the first part of my year on half distance races before getting into the longer stuff. I’ve trained well for the past month so will be excited to test my fitness over a challenging course,” said Blatchford.
Ellis has been based in Noosa for the past five weeks training with her squad under the guidance of renowned coach Siri Lindley.
“I’m hoping to finish my training block with a solid race, Bateman’s Bay fit my plans perfectly offering not only an incredible venue but also a challenging course and strong women’s field.
At 37 years of age Ellis has eight Ironman titles to her credit and a career littered with high profile results over all distances including a string of course records but says that is no guarantee of a good result on Sunday.
“This will be the first race of my 2015 season. I am excited to kick off the year and want to perform at my best in Bateman’s Bay but there is always the nervous anticipation when I haven’t raced for several months.
“I expect that it will be a tough fight with the strong women contenders and I’ll do everything I can to come out on top,” said Ellis.
The women’s field also includes Western Australia’s Kate Bevilaqua, a three-time long distance champion, Michelle Gailey working her way back to championship form and a host of up and coming women looking to move their way up the ranks.
The men’s field is billed as a race of the ‘new generation’ as Sam Appleton who is starting to earn himself a big reputation with some outstanding performances.
Appleton recently finished second to Craig Alexander in Geelong pushing the five-time world champion to the wire and gaining high praise from him. He followed up with a win at the Huskisson Long Course and comes into this race a hot favourite and looking to improve on his third place from last year.
Nick Kastelein is a recent recruit to the longer distance after competing on the ITU circuit. In only his second half-iron distance race at Challenge Melbourne he ran his way to a career best second place.
“It was probably the standout performance of my career. It was a quality field and it felt quite good passing people who have made a name for themselves,” said Kastelein.
The evergreen Peter Robertson was a late sign up today after withdrawing from Melbourne last weekend.
Raine & Horne Challenge Batemans Bay is held in the scenic coastal town of Batemans Bay on the South Coast of NSW. The event, which requires competitors to complete a 1.9 kilometre swim, a 90 kilometre cycle and a 21.1 kilometre run, will take place on Sunday March 29, 2015. Professional competitors will race for a huge AUD$35,000 prize purse.
Follow the race updates on twitter @Challenge_AUS.