Ussher tipped to add to his five titles
Five-time champion Richard Ussher is organiser Robin Judkins' pick to win another Coast to Coast title next Saturday.
The 243-kilometre world multisport championship race from Kumara on the West Coast to Sumner is being staged for the 31st time.
Judkins has watched them all and his annual "top 10" predictions have become something of a bookmaker's must-have come race day.
"Richard Ussher is the favourite," Judkins said without hesitation. "He's the five-time champion and he's the most experienced contender."
If Ussher can recapture the form that won him the title in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2012, he will be hard to beat. But Judkins also warns against Coast to Coast complacency, saying "Richard learned that the hard way in 2007".
"He had won the two previous years, but in 2007 Gordon Walker from Auckland turned the race upside down by attacking right from the start. That's something we could see again this year."
Wanaka's Dougal Allan will certainly be looking to shake things up. The 27-year-old has been runner-up to Ussher for the last two years and his strongest discipline is cycling.
"Last year Dougal and Richard really broke the race open on the first cycle," Judkins said. "Richard then broke Dougal on the run, so perhaps Dougal feels he'll need to push the opening cycle even harder this year."
Among those expected to challenge is Braden Currie, also from Wanaka, who was third last year and finished ahead of Ussher at the Xterra offroad triathlon world championships in Hawaii late last year.
Others who should feature are Nelson's Trevor Voyce (second in 2009, sixth in 2010), Queenstown's Bernard Robinson (seventh in 2012), Christchurch's J J Wilson (eighth in 2012) and Auckland's James Kuegler (eighth in 2011).
Cantabrians Nathan Jones and Nathan Bell, who finished first and second in last year's two-day race, are next week stepping up to the feature one-day race, in which Jones has previously finished in the top 10. Picton's Dan Moore, who finished second in the 2011 two-day race, will also be keen after an eye infection prevented him from finishing last year.
Australian surf ironman legend Guy Andrews, who finished fourth in 2004, is now aged 42 but still a contender in every race he enters. Judkins however, warns to watch for dark horses Luke Vaughan, of Christchurch, and Whakatane's Sam Clark.
The women's race will see a rematch between 2011 champion Sophie Hart and last year's winner Elina Ussher.
In contrast to the men, the women's race is a case of veterans wanting to prove a point against the youngster. Of the contenders, only Hart and Brazilian Camila Nicolau (sixth in 2012, eighth in 2011) are younger than 30.
As well as Ussher, 36, they will face Auckland's Louise Mark (35, second in 2010 and fourth in 2011), Taumarunui's Rachel Cashin (41, third in five of the last eight years), Christchurch-based Swede Sia Svendsen (35, two-time winner of the teams event) and Hokitika's Tanya Maitland (34, seventh in 2012, ninth in 2011).
"Elina and Sophie are definitely the favourites," Judkins said.
"Elina will have the motivation of repeating the husband and wife with Richard. But Sophie will be wanting to show that her win in 2011 wasn't a fluke. It's going to be a cracker."
The feature longest day is contested on Saturday with almost 150 entrants taking on the 3km run, 55km road cycle, 34km mountain run, 15km cycle, 67km white water kayak and 70km cycle course.
The two-day race starts on Friday with the cycle and mountain run, then ends on Saturday with the cycle, kayak and cycle sections. The event has attracted more than 620 entrants.
"Last year we had 522 participants," Judkins said. "This year we're sitting at 623 and entries are still coming in. That's an increase of 19 per cent, so I'm thrilled. We're climbing out of the recession."