Triathlon: Crawford takes short route to her pet event

Well-performed iron distance triathletes Gina Crawford and Julia Grant have thrown their hats into an already hugely competitive ring at the Port of Tauranga Half.

They will line up at Mount Maunganui on January 5 alongside top Kiwis Jo Lawn, Candice Hammond and internationals Monica Dolidawicz (Canada) and Amanda Balding (Australia).

While 32-year-old Crawford is very much an expert over the longer distance, there is no doubt she poses a threat to Lawn and others in the elite women's field. However, Crawford is not setting herself any results-focused goals on the day.

"I don't tend to have goals for the half distance races as I see them as training races with the aim to get stronger working towards the ironman races. I will be happy if I am back up on the podium and have met my individual time goals and achieved a good workout."

It is not the first time Crawford has lined up in the event, finishing third back in 2007 when she was very much a rookie in the sport, after taking it up in 2005 after a break of seven years from all sporting activity.

Crawford says the timing is perfect ahead of Challenge Wanaka, where she will look to defend her title two weeks after racing at The Mount.

"I am working on changing my bike setup and my technique with the aim of improving over the flat bike courses and I would like to test this out prior to racing Challenge Wanaka.

"Also I have come off the back of my most successful year in ironman racing and I found that racing the half distance two weeks before an iron distance event works really, really well for me.

"The intense workout helps a great deal in the building of my strength and fitness. I have come to love racing the half distance, although my strength is still very much over the longer races.

"I also enjoy coming to Tauranga to race and especially look forward to running around the Mount. It's also a very nice place to bring my family [husband Brett and son Benji] for a little beach holiday."

Crawford is not daunted by the strength of the field either - in fact she welcomes it as an incentive to race hard.

"Yes it means that I will be chasing hard the whole race and will get the intense workout that I need and am looking forward to."

Meanwhile, Grant is heading into the race in a similar frame of mind, with Wanaka her ultimate aim.

"It was a last-minute decision to enter the Port of Tauranga Half, thanks mainly to my cycling team Benchmark Homes who made it possible," said the Christchurch-based triathlete.

"I've only ever done the race once before and had a shocker. Now I'm keen to start fresh and change that. I'm using it as a build up to Challenge Wanaka with, of course, the ultimate goal of taking it out."

The race gets under way at 6.30am on Saturday January 5.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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