The Aussies have gathered in force ahead of the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Auckland this weekend, and pose a serious threat to the Kiwis for the title.
The new race on this Sunday is the official Asia Pacific Championship, carrying a professional prize purse of approximately NZ$90,000 as well as crucial qualifying points for both professionals and age group participants for the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas and the IRONMAN World championships in Hawaii.
IRONMAN 70.3 Auckland, which is based at the Viaduct Events Centre and includes a cycle over the Auckland Harbour Bridge, comprises a 1.9km swim from the Maritime Museum to the Viaduct Harbour, 90km bike and 21.1km run.
World champion Melissa Hauschildt, has targeted the Auckland race as an important step in her 2013 programme after a foot injury interrupted her 2012 season.
Hauschildt is aiming to defend her Asia Pacific title in Auckland on her way to a return to the top of the sport next year.
Hauschildt won the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in her first full year in the sport last year along with the Asia Pacific Championship.
Australia ’s Annabel Luxford, winner of IRONMAN 70.3 Shepparton and Rebecca Hoschke who took third at IRONMAN Western Australia will join Hauschildt as contenders for the title.
Two-time world champion Caroline Steffen will also line up in Auckland.
The 34-year-old Swiss star has amassed a remarkable record over the last three years with nine major international victories including two world championships along with twice runner-up in the IRONMAN World Championships in Hawaii.
Steffen said that she wants to regain the Asia Pacific IRONMAN 70.3 title that she lost to Hauschildt last year.
The glamour men ’s field is headed by a trio of super-talented New Zealanders in 10-time IRONMAN New Zealand champion Cameron Brown, the two-time Olympic medallist Bevan Docherty and 2008 IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion Terenzo Bozzone.
However Tim Berkel, the Australian IRONMAN 70.3 champion, leads a brilliant group from across the Tasman to challenge the Kiwis including IRONMAN New Zealand runner-up Tim Reed, the current IRONMAN Australian champion Paul Ambrose, super-talented “Smokin Joe ” Gambles and the much vaunted Luke Bell, who has 19 victories around the world in IRONMAN 70.3 races.