Kiwi scullers face top-class field in France
Blenheim brothers Karl and Robbie Manson will face a high-quality field when the second World Cup regatta of the year starts tonight (NZ time).
New Zealand's womens double sculls crew, Fiona Bourke and Zoe Stevenson were pipped for gold by Lithuania at last year's final World Cup event, then suffered the same fate in their final at the world championships in South Korea.
The Kiwis will be out for revenge in Aiguebelette, France, over the next three days, but it's not just last year's conquerors, Donata Vistartaite and Milda Valciukaite, that they will have to overcome.
New European champions Poland will be represented by the highly-rated crew of Magdalena Fularczyk and Natalia Madaj, while legendary sculler Ekaterina Karsten, 42, will team up with fellow Olympics and world championships medallist Yulia Bichyk in the Belarus boat.
Bourke and Stevenson were among many leading crews who didn't contest the opening World Cup regatta in Sydney in March, but Rowing New Zealand will field 11 boats all capable of making A finals and returning a swag of medals in France despite competition from nearly 700 athletes from 45 other nations.
Current Olympic men's single sculls champion Mahe Drysdale will test himself against fierce rival Ondrej Synek (Czech Republic). Drysdale took a long break following his 2012 triumph in London and a lack of preparation combined with injury saw him eliminated in the quarterfinals of last year's world championships.
Women's single sculler Emma Twigg started her year in fine style with victory over world champion Kim Crow (Australia) and Olympic champion Mirka Knapkova (Czech Republic) in Sydney and the three of them should again be the main force in Aiguebelette.
The Kiwi men's pair of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray will also feature. They haven't been beaten since teaming up at the start of the 2009 season.
Bond's younger brother, Alistair, will have his first taste of elite senior-level competition when he combines with Adam Ling in the lightweight men's double sculls.
The women's coxless pair of Rebecca Scown and Kayla Pratt and the men's lightweight four of Curtis Rapley, James Lassche, Peter Taylor and James Hunter are NZ crews who are expected to be in the hunt for medals. Fairfax NZ
The Marlborough Express