Ferguson to defend crown
A cycle trip around the South Island has kick-started Gina Ferguson's step into a new ironman season.
The Christchurch triathlete will defend her Challenge Wanaka crown today in her first ironman race of the year.
Ferguson has been enjoying the hot summer in New Zealand as she resumes her training after a two-week break following her victory in Western Australia last month.
She has been cycling and camping her way around the South Island with her fiance Brett as part of her training programme and after today's race will continue along the West Coast to the top of the island before returning to her Oxford home.
Ferguson said she was looking forward to the Wanaka race.
"I had a good two-week rest after Western Australia and have been building up for the last four weeks with a lot of volume on the bike," she said.
"I'm feeling fit and strong and will just do the best I can."
Meanwhile, multisport athlete Richard Ussher has withdrawn from the 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42.2km run event having failed to regain full fitness after winning the Abu Dhabi challenge last month.
Ussher was unsure whether he had caught a bug at the Abu Dhabi event or if he was just run down after a busy season.
"I went out to just see how the body was feeling and I was struggling just to ride for a couple of hours," he said. He added there was little point competing if he was not fully fit.
"If I went out there it would probably be the last race I'd be able to do over the summer," he said.
Ussher still has hopes of competing at Ironman New Zealand in Taupo in March.
But his next major event will be as support crew for his wife Elina at next month's Coast to Coast multisport event.
Wanaka's defending men's champion, Marc Pschebizin from Germany, said it was difficult to compete, having come from a European winter.
"I've had some really mentally hard rides in mid-winter at home in minus 15 degrees so am prepared to suffer on course which will be a good mental advantage."
Pschebizin had a "phenomenal" run last year (2hrs 48mins) and hopes to be on form for the demanding last leg of the race.
The Wanaka ironman is part of a global series of TeamChallenge events.
This includes six half and full iron distance races in German, France and Spain as well as New Zealand.
Nearly 500 athletes from 21 nations will be on the start line in Wanaka this morning.