New Zealand will be represented by Dylan McNeice and Terenzo Bozzone in the elite field at the ITU World Long Distance Championships in Oklahoma later this month, with the two athletes named by Triathlon New Zealand today alongside a 23 strong age group team who range in age from Corey Le Le Couteur (18 - 19 age group) to the indomitable Garth Barfoot (80 - 84).
Both are former ITU and Olympic distance triathletes before turning their attention to the longer distance of racing and both have enjoyed considerable success over the longer events, with McNeice a multiple winner of Challenge Wanaka and Bozzone a winner all around the world over the 70.3 and Ironman distance events, including taking out the 2008 70.3 World Championship.
31 year old Bozzone has shown he is approaching something close to his best form with a solid fourth place finish at the World 70.3 Championships in Australia over the weekend and knowing the competitive nature of the former Rangitoto College student, you can expect him to contend when the medals are handed out in Oklahoma.
McNeice is looking forward to the format that presents slightly different distances to the traditional iron distance event.
"The ITU Long Distance Worlds has been an event I have always wanted to race, especially the 4km/120km/30km format. The long swim suits me well and the bike and run are also good distances for me. With Kona not on the cards this year after a tough start to the season I figured it was a good opportunity to have a crack at the ITU worlds."
McNeice admits he is motivated by the thought of an official world championship title to add to his burgeoning CV.
"There is a World Championship up for grabs and that would be the ultimate dream. I think across any triathlon distance the ITU Long Distance Worlds is my best chance at making that happen.
"Of course there is a lot of water to go under the bridge to make that a reality, so first and foremost I just want to get to Oklahoma in the best shape I can and go out there and have a crack... and see what happens!"
Given his background in ITU racing earlier in his career, McNeice is also looking forward to once again wearing the silver fern and being part of a large team that will include 23 age group athletes all chasing the podium in their five year age brackets.
"It is always an honour to represent New Zealand, and it will be very cool to do so again 'officially' at the end of this month, hopefully alongside a big New Zealand team."
Jen Gregory is Triathlon New Zealand's Age Group Experience Manager and says having the likes of McNeice and Bozzone in Oklahoma is great for the age group team.
"We have a very passionate and dedicated group of age groupers heading to Oklahoma, every one of them has worked so hard to earn selection and will be proudly wearing the silver fern on race day.
"It is such a varied group in terms of who they are, the age range and the clubs they represent from Dunedin to North Harbour, from Taranaki to the Hawkes Bay. We have experience in the form of multiple World Champ representatives like Garth Barfoot and Shirley Rolston to our first timers like Karen Russo and the youngest in Corey Le Couteur.
"Their experience on this team will only enhanced by knowing the likes of Dylan and Terenzo are there racing on the same course at more or less the same time (elites start just minutes ahead of age groupers) and we will certainly be looking to have them both interact with the team in the lead up to race day. Often we find that the inspiration works both ways when age groupers and elite athletes get in the same room at the same time!"
Wanaka based McNeice is looking to bow out on a high note as well, given this race not only signals the end of his season but is his last before undergoing hip surgery so he wants his final racing memory to be a good one as he contemplates five months of rehab post the surgery.