Previous winners Keegan Williams and Brodie Madgwick both know the man to beat in tomorrow's New Plymouth half ironman is Graham O'Grady.
Both agree Kinloch-based O'Grady has been the in-form triathlete over the summer and they will be chasing him from the start of the Wells-sponsored race, which starts at Ngamotu Beach.
"It's a tough field with bonuses for the fastest swim, bike and run. Graham will clean up each one," said Madgwick, a teacher at Auckland's Tamaki College. "He's been going well."
Williams, from Cambridge, said he agreed.
"Graham will start a hot favourite. He's been winning everything."
Winner of the inaugural event in 2011, Williams comes into the race with good form having finished fourth in Challenge Wanaka over the full ironman distance three weeks ago.
"I was pretty pleased with that. I had a few health problems last year and it's good to be back fully fit. The body has bounced back well after racing at Wanaka," he said.
"I had a few days off, then 10 solid days training, followed by a few easy days leading into the New Plymouth race."
Williams, who is preparing for the New Zealand ironman in Taupo on March 2, said the swim cost him at Wanaka.
"I lost heaps of time. My bike and run times were fast and I wasn't too far behind."
Williams knows the New Plymouth course well, finishing fourth in his second attempt last year.
"It's a good course, super honest. There's nowhere to hide."
Madgwick, who was second in 2011 before going one better a year later, has been battling with a knee injury.
"I'm having surgery on the 19th. I competed in the Auckland 70.3 and had a good race. The swim and bike went well, but I was a bit underdone on the run. I haven't done the long runs over the summer."
Madgwick, too, said the New Plymouth course was honest.
"It's rolling hills on the bike and it's tough going.
"The bike sorts everyone out, especially if it's windy. But I like the course and it's a well run event," he said.
Madgwick said he wasn't competing in Taupo.
"I'll take a bit of a break after New Plymouth. My next major event is Kona [Hawaii] on October 12. I've qualified a few times, but never done it. I'm really looking forward to it."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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