Bay of Plenty stars Hannah Wells and 2019 ITU sensation Hayden Wilde line up as the ones to watch at this weekend's Ironman 70.3 Taupō.
Wells is at a fascinating point in her fledgling sporting career, as she puts her other passion in medical research on hold to go fulltime as a professional athlete. She is looking for back-to-back victories this Saturday, following an impressive win at Ironman 70.3 Western Sydney on November 24.
Racing again so quickly will be a new experience for the 29-year-old.
"The legs are feeling pretty good. I don't have a lot of race experience really and therefore have never actually raced two 70.3s this close together, so it will be interesting to see how the body responds on race day. I feel very fit though and my recovery from hard training sessions has been a lot quicker than this, so I think I should be fine."
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Wells will face opposition from the likes of New Zealand's Rebecca Clarke, a renowned swimmer, and fellow Kiwis Laura Wood, Melanie Burke and Julia Grant, along with a host of Australians making the trip to Taupō.
Meanwhile, Hayden Wilde is looking to end a stunning season in which the 22-year-old year old has set the ITU racing scene alight with his front running aggressive tactics. Unlike Wells, Wilde is not yet qualified for the 2020 Ironman 70.3 Taupō World Championship and while Tokyo is the primary goal, he would love to knock that off on Saturday.
"Being so late in the year it's a perfect opportunity to try and qualify without it impacting my big picture goals for 2020, especially looking at Tokyo Olympics as the big one.
"I have been at home getting some well-needed rest and recovery, catching up with friends and family. It's been awesome just to get home and put stuff in your drawers after living in a suitcase for half a year."
Whakatāne born Wilde has enjoyed a fantastic season, ending the year ranked 14th in the world, capped by a stunning bronze medal at the ITU World Triathlon Tokyo test event in August.
"For me it was a breakthrough season we had goals and targets for the year which we successfully ticked off plus other events that for me as a person overachieved in my view of it, it's been a fantastic year and I can't wait to finish it in with my first 70.3 this week in Taupō."
Wilde concedes he may have to tone down his front running tactics however over the longer distance.
"My race tactics are normally gas from the start, so my coach and I have a plan to take it easy, race wisely and do enough to try and take out the title. But it's easier said than done with some fantastic quality out there, and also you have to respect the distance."
Wilde will not have things his own way, far from it, as he is up against a raft of quality young New Zealanders and Australians, foremost of them being Max Neumann. Unlike Wilde, the 24-year-old has already booked his spot at the 2020 70.3 World Championship, so can race with a little more freedom on Saturday.
Ironman 70.3 Taupō - Pro Women's Field
Hannah Wells (New Zealand), Rebecca Clarke (New Zealand), Laura Wood (New Zealand), Grace Thek (Australia), Holly Khan (Australia), Julia Grant (New Zealand), Melanie Burke (New Zealand), Laura Armstrong (New Zealand), Holly Grice (Australia), Krystle Hockley (Australia), Renee Kiley (Australia), Robin Pomeroy (USA), Sarah Short (Australia).
Ironman 70.3 Taupō - Pro Men's Field
Max Neumann (Australia), Hayden Wilde (New Zealand), Jack Moody (New Zealand), Olly Shaw (New Zealand), Kyle Smith (New Zealand), Levi Maxwell (New Zealand), Travis Coleman (Australia), Nathan Groch (Australia), Simon Hearn (Australia), Jakub Langhammer (Czech Republic), Sam Tebeck (Australia), Edward Vining (Australia), Fraser Walsh (Australia).