Australians Luke McKenzie and Liz Blatchford have gone back to the future in their bids for world championship success.
Both are replicating their 2013 preparation which saw McKenzie finish second in Hawaii and Blatchford third, as they prepare for the Cairns Airport IRONMAN® Cairns on Sunday.
Two years ago McKenzie produced a career defining win in Cairns, while Blatchford won her first IRONMAN on debut.
While Blatchford defended her crown last year, the pair did not push on in 2014 and will hope that the Tropical Far North Queensland will turn up the temperature on their 2015 aspirations.
Standing in the way of McKenzie is a strong field led by defending champion Cameron Brown, who became the oldest male to win an IRONMAN in Cairns last year, his Kiwi compatriot Dylan McNeice and in-form South African James Cunnama.
McKenzie was first to admit he was out-of-tune last year.
“I was disappointed at my performance in Hawaii last year. I’ve gone back to what I did in 2013, done a lot of the same sessions, and it all starts in Cairns,” McKenzie said.
He is also hoping that fortune is on his side, after proposing to partner Beth Gerdes when the event ambassadors were visiting the tourist attraction of Green Island off Cairns this week.
“Having both our parents here makes it perfect timing for us to get engaged. We were lucky enough to go on a day trip to Green Island and it was the ideal setting to make the proposal,” he said.
“We have good energy for this time of the year, we started dating here and I won here in 2013. Then there was the birth of our daughter Wynne this time last year. So to get engaged this week hopefully carries good vibes for us into Sunday’s race.”
McKenzie is well aware of how dangerous the experienced Brown is, and is also wary of McNeice’s swimming ability.
“Dylan is probably the best swimmer in IRONMAN, I fully expect to be chasing him out of the water. But that’s okay I’m happy to have someone up the road to focus on.”
McNeice is also expecting to be leading out for the water.
“It’s not really a secret, or my game plan, it’s all I really know. I like leading so we’ll see if it works out for me. There are a lot of great athletes in the field who will be chasing me.”
The men’s field also features Swede Fredrick Croneborg, and Australian Brian Fuller, fresh of a third place at IRONMAN Australia.
Blatchford had dream introduction to IRONMAN racing with a win in her first attempt at the distance here in Cairns in 2013. She followed up with a third that year in Hawaii, and returned to Cairns last year to defend her title.
“I’m using Cairns as the beginning of my build up to the world championships in Hawaii,” she said.
“In 2013 when I managed to grab third in Kona I feel like it all began with Cairns. So this year I am trying to emulate what I did in 2013 and am hoping for a similar result.
“After Cairns I will head over to Boulder where I’ve spent the last few summers (our winters). I will then race IRONMAN Mont Tremblant in mid-August exactly as I did in 2013 with the aim that the two IRONMAN leading into Kona will make me strong for the big day.”
Blatchford’s main threat is likely to again come from across the ditch. In 2013 she defeated New Zealand’s Gina Crawford, last year it was fellow Kiwi Melanie Burke, and this year Crawford is again back.
Blatchford, Crawford and Gerdes, who was fifth at the IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship in Melbourne, will be joined by a deep field of women including recent IRONMAN Australia winner Michelle Bremer from New Zealand.
“I’m feeling great, my lead up has been solid and compared to where I was two years ago here I am in much better shape. I was working full time now I’m a full time athlete,” she said.
The Cairns Airport Adventure Festival, incorporating the Cairns Airport IRONMAN Cairns | Flight Centre Active Travel IRONMAN 70.3 Cairns, will be held from Sunday, June 7 – Monday, June 15, 2015.
For event information visit www.ironmancairns.com
Courtesy: Ironman Asia-Pacific