The 2013 Coast to Coast is shaping up as one of the toughest fought ever as winners and runners-up from the last three years take to the start line again.
Pippa Middleton's name may not be on the start list but defending champions Richard and Elina Ussher are. Last year the pair became the first married couple to win the event in the same year.
While Elina had entered a couple of months ago, Richard had been unsure on whether he would race for his sixth title. He had finished 2012 drained following a tough year on the international circuit and only decided to line up for the world title race after New Year.
Wanaka's Dougal Allan, the runner up for the past three years, returns but has been battling a wrist injury. The much anticipated comeback of Christchurch's Luke Vaughan has been hampered by a shin injury that required stitches, and Wellington's James Coubrough (4th last year) has withdrawn completely after breaking his ankle on a training run.
The rematch between Ussher and Sophie Hart will be the most anticipated battle of this women's event.
Ussher won the 2010 and 2012 events, but Hart beat her in 2011 with the second fastest time ever recorded.
Both women, however, will need to be wary of Louise Mark (2nd in 2010, 4th in 2011), Taumarunui's Rachel Cashin (3rd in five of the last 8 years), Christchurch-based Swede Sia Svendsen (two-time winner of the teams event), Hokitika's Tanya Maitland (7th in 2012, 9th in 2011) and Brazilian Camila Nicolau (6th in 2012, 8th in 2011).
The 31st Coast to Coast is scheduled for February 8-9. Racing starts on Kumara Beach, midway between Hokitika and Greymouth, and finishes 243km later on Sumner Beach in Christchurch.
- © Fairfax NZ News