More than 20 Nelson triathletes will be on the start line at Queens Wharf in Auckland on Sunday in selection races for next year's triathlon world age-group championships over the same course.
Later in the day, elite competitors from all over the world will take part in the Auckland round of World Cup races. As well as the big New Zealand names, interest from Nelson triathletes will focus on Dutch entrants Maaike Caelers and Sarissa De Vries, who are based in Nelson throughout the summer and had their race debuts here in a warmup race at Rabbit Island two weeks ago.
For the Nelson triathletes, the focus will be on gaining a top 10 age-group spot, which will ensure selection in the New Zealand team for next year.
New Nelson club member John Hellemans, racing in the 55-59 group, is a multiple former world age-group champion. He's been troubled by a back injury, but if he's on the start line in the first wave of Olympic distance competitors at 7am, it's hard to see him being beaten.
Jon Linyard and Susie Wood are both former national champions, so shouldn't have too much trouble securing a spot.
Gary Milbanke, Colin Wragg and I have all raced in world championships before, so have fingers crossed that we'll be in the team list after Sunday's race.
Campbell Hanson has rejoined the Nelson club after an absence of nearly 20 years and lines up in a field of 73 in the 35-39 group.
Hanson burst on to the Nelson scene in the early 1990s and was almost unbeatable while still at school. He qualified for the NZ junior team in 1995 and 1996 (along with young triathletes Bevan Docherty and Kris Gemmell), but because of university commitments in Otago never made it to the start line.
He now lives in Sydney,where he's a physiotherapist, but he still calls Nelson home. "After a long time of doing nothing competitive I decided to enter Singapore 70.3 in March this year and ended up qualifying for the 70.3 Worlds in Las Vegas," he said.
Hanson's a top competitor and all the indications are that he could make a podium finish.
Eileen Searle has never raced before over the Olympic distance, but is in such great form that she could also be in a podium spot and certainly seems assured of a team place. Racing with her in the 50-54 group is Juliet Wiseman, who has been working in Sydney in recent months. Wiseman has been a world championship competitor before so knows what it takes.
The women's 40-44 age-group has three Nelson competitors lined up among a total of 48 starters. Tracey Perry was quickest of the three on the only outing so far this season, while Carol Cooper raced in this year's world champs in Beijing and is in steady form. Both should gain selection, but nothing can be assured. Donna Shaw is taking on her first Olympic distance triathlon and may struggle to be in the top 10.
Fields are smaller in the sprint distance races, but there's not much time in that race to recover from problems, so there's more focus on clean transitions and avoiding other problems. Murray Tewnion and Alex Grigg will both easily gain selection and probably both will also take podium spots on the basis of experience and current form.
Mark Corlet could find it harder going. New to the sport, he'll need to pace his effort to be in the top 10 of the 29 starters in his 45-49 age-group.
Pogo Paterson-McAuley is another who could find herself on the podium on race day after good early-season form.
For Maria Voigt it's unknown territory. She's performing solidly and must be rated a good chance, but it's difficult to make comparisons or pick top competitors of the 15 entered in her 50-54 age-group.
Kay Stansbury-Ward is also among 15 starters in her 35-39 group, so must be rated a chance of a top ten finish. She's realistic about her chances: "Part of me is wondering what I'm doing, but I'll race as hard as I can, have a good time doing it and try to beat the time I have in mind," she said.
The age-group races are followed by elite World Cup races, that will be broadcast live on TV1 on Sunday afternoon.
- The Nelson Mail