28-year-old Tony Dodds from Wanaka has a big year in front of him, aiming for a spot at the Rio Olympic Games, 'Doddsy' is looking for a strong start to the season. After a frustrating 2015 campaign was interrupted by injury, Dodds is like Ryan Sissons looking to meet the Tri NZ selection criteria to secure a nomination to the NZOC for Rio inclusion. His first shot at that will be in Cape Town at the ITU World Series event on April 24, but next week, he will be part of a stunning field at the Quality Hotel Plymouth International ITU World Cup race.
Wow, looking back it's been nearly 10 months since I last actually really raced! And by that I mean racing at 100% and being injury free - something all athletes are aiming to do, be in the best condition possible on the big day.
Now that's a long time, I can imagine that seems long for those of you reading this, well trust me for the athlete it feels even longer at times. It has been a long, gruelling summer trying to get injuries right. These are the character building times for sure, when the focus each day is about the rehab and getting yourself into a fit state to train, let alone race.
These times are not done in isolation though, it is thanks to a great support crew, from Tri NZ to family to those close to me - you all know who you are, thank you!
So you can imagine I am super excited to get on the start line in New Plymouth at the Quality Hotel race, an ITU World Cup race at home is something we as Kiwis don't ever want to miss. It's my first race of the season, and well as mentioned, for a very long time! So for me the goal is just wanting to be able to put the day together, piece by piece, then from there we can see what we need to work on, as racing is the only way you can tell where you are with your form.
The race has some real history too, with some amazing clashes between our own legendary athletes over the years, to the presence of some of the best in the world and of course this is a race that Laurent (Vidal) raced many times and loved being part of, that too will be special. Make sure if you are able to come on down and see it live, it will be a blast - give us Kiwis a shout too as we go past!
It's a big and different year for all of us, people are and have been peaking early on, some will be peaking later so it's a real mixed bag of what to expect come New Plymouth, but the first race is always a lung buster regardless of the season, the venue and your condition, it will be divine!