Ironman: Bozzone rediscovers form

North Harbour's Terenzo Bozzone is already smiling two days out from the caldron that is the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas, USA.

The 27-year-old has begun to rediscover the form that earned him the 70.3 world championship honours four years ago, after the 18 months have been wracked with injury and disappointment.

Bozzone heads an eight-strong New Zealand attack on Monday's elite races, which has attracted white-hot fields and conditions in the Nevada desert.

There's considerable interest in the world championship debut of two-time Olympic medallist Bevan Docherty who has just one Ironman 70.3 race under his belt this year.

He will be joined by Auckland's Callum Millward, Taranaki's Shanon Stallard and Glenbrook's James Bowstead in the men, with the super-experienced Jo Lawn (Auckland) joined by Mid-Canterbury's Julia Grant and US-based Rachel Challis in the women.

After two years of frustration, Bozzone goes into the race on the back of a win in Ironman 70.3 Brasil and a close second in Ireland which have greatly buoyed his spirits.

"I'm really excited. I've been struggling all year to find that form. My coach and I decided I needed to work on my running strength and I got down into a bunch of training and got back to my old ways of doing heaps of training and it seems to have worked," Bozzone said.

"I could see things coming together in my training. Brasil and Ireland were really good indicators of how my form has moved forward and also my racing ability which comes down more to a mental component."

Bozzone's issues came when he suffered an Achilles injury in USA following the 2011 Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Ironman New Zealand.

When Bozzone won his world title it was in the flat and pleasant surrounds of Florida but the cauldron of Las Vegas presents a much tougher test.

"The course is hard, with a super-hilly bike, the conditions are hard and the competition is super-hard, so if I can put it together on the day it will be great. Getting on the podium would be fantastic and I don't think that is out of my reach."

Docherty has made no secret of his desire to now move up in distance to chase success over the 70.3 and full Ironman distance, even though he has completed just two ironman 70.3 races.

His sole 70.3 race this year was during his Olympic build-up when he won in Panama ahead of Lance Armstrong.

The other New Zealand men have all enjoyed solid international seasons.

Millward has been in sparkling form with a deadheat for victory at Ironman 70.3 Boise and podiums in Syracuse (USA), Busselton (AUS) and Hervey Bay (AUS).

Bowstead and Stallard have both completed a series of top-six finishes in major 70.3 races in North America. Bowstead will only fly in to Las Vegas today after a build-up at altitude in Boulder where he has been training with Cameron Brown while Stallard is dedicating his performance to his late coach Jack Ralston.

The stellar men's field is headed by defending champion Craig Alexander, former winner Michael Raelert, and inform Richie Cunningham who leads a strong Australian presence.

Lawn enjoyed a brilliant performance at Las Vegas last year, handling the tough test well to finish fifth, although this year she is measuring her build-up to accommodate a more competitive effort in Hawaii next month also.

She is an outstanding biker and strong runner on a course that seems to favour the Ironman athlete.

Grant, coached by Scott Ballance, has made huge strides in the sport, with a second placing at Ironman 70.3 Hawaii, fourth at Boise and 10th at the famed Wildflower race.

Both Lawn and Grant have prepared at altitude in Boulder, a long-time mecca for endurance athletes.

Challis is based in the US where she and her husband run a coaching business in the sport, after spending time living in Europe. She has enjoyed a series of top-10 finishes in Oceanwide, Wildflower, Boise and Vineman in her build-up.

The women's field is equally deep, led by defending champion Melissa Hauschildt (nee Rollinson), 2010 Ironman world champion Mirinda Carfrae, top Brits Jodie Swallow and Leanda Cave and Ironman New Zealand champion Meredith Kessler (USA).

There are a further 13 New Zealanders in the age group categories with the race to start in the early hours of Monday (NZ time).

- APNZ

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