Interest spreads in half ironman race

BACK TO BACK: Cambridge’s Candice Hammond made it two from two when she won this year’s New Plymouth half ironman after winning the event in 2011.
BACK TO BACK: Cambridge’s Candice Hammond made it two from two when she won this year’s New Plymouth half ironman after winning the event in 2011.

An Italian and two Australian women are among the early entries for February's New Plymouth half ironman.

Race organiser Selwyn Brown is expecting race numbers to swell over the next month.

"We had 400 competitors this year and there's no reason why we shouldn't go close to 1000 next year. That would be a spectacular sight," he said yesterday.

"Marco Gianassi, an age group competitor from Italy, was one of the first entries in, so the interest in the event is spreading."

Brown says more people are getting out and entering events.

"Just look at the Taranaki Steelformers Round the Mountain relay earlier this month. Last year we had 1400, this year we had 1900. It's encouraging. Summer time brings the weekend warriors out."

Brown said a survey of past participants had brought about a change in date for February's Wells New Plymouth half ironman which comprises a 2km harbour swim at Ngamotu Beach, a 90km bike ride from New Plymouth to Rahotu and back and a 21km run.

"We're trying to grow the event and we asked participants what they wanted. Most wanted the event on a Saturday rather than a Sunday, so we've done that," he said.

"We'll run the whole thing on Saturday. People from outside the province can stay the night and travel home on Sunday. It's probably better all round."

Brown said the feedback from the last event had been very positive.

"The top athletes love the course. The cycle leg is very honest . . . It's not a draft-fest. It can be tough, especially if it's windy, and it's certainly not flat."

First male and first female in the half ironman win $1000 each, with $500 for second and $300 for third in each category. The major spot prize is a trip for two to Fiji.

A new event run in conjunction with the half ironman is "The Enticer".

"It's for those people who feel a half ironman is a bit daunting. It will appeal to those who just what to have a crack at triathlon or those who can't put in the necessary training for a half ironman."

The new event comprises a 300m swim, a 9km bike ride and a 3km run.

"People can enter as individuals or as a team. There's also a women's solo and a women's teams race which should be appealing."

Another new event is the Joe's Garage business house challenge.

"It will run as part of the relay section over the standard distance - 2km swim, 90km bike and 21km run," said Brown.

The Frontrunner section of the event has also been tinkered with.

"They will no longer run or walk from Ngamotu Beach to the Waiwhakaiho Bridge and return. Instead, the turning point on the Coastal Walkway will be Liardet St," he said.

"It will be the same course as those doing the half ironman, three 7km laps. The 10km course has been shortened to 7km. It's very spectator-friendly."