Two-times Olympic medallist Bevan Docherty says tomorrow's international field for the half Ironman in downtown Auckland is the strongest outside the world championship.
Docherty, who moved to endurance triathlon with a debut victory in Ironman New Zealand last year, is among a solid field for tomorrow's Asia-Pacific title, featuring Australia's five-times world Ironman champion Craig Alexander, compatriot and defending champion Christian Kemp, 2008 Olympic triathlon champion gold medallist Jan Frodeno, last year's Ironman 70.3 World Championship silver medallist, Kiwi Terenzo Bozzone, 10-times Ironman New Zealand champion Cameron Brown.
The women's field is headed by Ironman 70.3 medallist Annabel Luxford (Australia), recent New Zealand long distance championship winner Catriona Morrison (Scotland) and top Kiwis Joanna Lawn and Samantha Warriner.
Docherty acknowledged the strength of field faces the New Zealanders with a tough test tomorrow.
"It's great that the organisers can put together such an amazing field," Docherty said.
"I thought I was going to come and have a little bit of a cherry-pick race. To be honest I don't think we are going to see as competitive a field until the world championships. It goes to show we can put world-class events on here."
Bozzone, who missed last year's race after a freak accident on his bike two days before the event, is hoping to build on his outstanding end to the 2013 season. He had four wins and medals at both the Ironman 70.3 and long distance triathlon world championships in the second half of the year.
"It's great to be able to race in Auckland. I've spent the last eight years based overseas mostly in America or Europe," Bozzone said.
"To be able to do a major race like this in my home town, and race over some of the roads that I train on is pretty cool.
"The field we have, we will put on a great show and show what a cool city and what a cool venue Auckland is." Most eyes though will be on Alexander, who has won the Ironman world championship in Hawaii three times and the 70.3 world title twice.
The Australian recently moved back home to Sydney after basing himself in USA for much of the last 10 years.
"Asia Pacific is one of the sport's new frontiers. It is really exploding with the number of events and number of participants," Alexander said.
"I watched the race here last year and wanted to do it. I think it is going to be a great race on Sunday."
Meanwhile, New Zealand's former world number one Olympic triathlete Warriner, who also missed last year's race after the birth of her first child, says she is looking forward to racing.
"I couldn't race last year because of the baby but I was itching to do it. We don't get to race at home very much and having all these great athletes here has created a real buzz out there. I can't wait to get out there and race," she said.
There are more than 1200 competitors from 53 countries, with professionals chasing a share of more than $90,000 in prize money.
The race, which starts at 6.15am, comprises a 1.9km swim in the Viaduct Harbour, a 90km bike over the Auckland Harbour Bridge, and 21km run along the waterfront.
- Fairfax Media
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