Defending champions Braden Currie (NZL) and Jocelyn McCauley (USA) headline the seeded athletes for the 34th Kelloggs Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand, to be hosted for the 20th time in Taupo on March 3rd.

Currie (Wanaka) leads a mens field dominated by arguably the greatest era of New Zealand talent on display over the 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42.2km run, with no less than seven of the top ten seeds hailing from the host country.

Included in that list is the evergreen Cameron Brown, as the 45-year-old continues to defy father time and not only compete but contend for a title he has won a world record 12 times previously, as he contemplates a 21st appearance at IRONMAN New Zealand.

The spoiler might well be another familiar face in Taupo though, with 32-year-old Terenzo Bozzone surely due to add a victory to an already impressive resume that includes five podium finishes since 2009. The Aucklander showed great form in the latter part of 2017, finishing sixth at Kona, and winning 70.3 titles at Los Cabos and Cozumel before defending his IRONMAN Western Australia title on a shortened course. His battle with Brown and Currie is hugely antic

The Kiwis will not have it their own way however, with Cyril Viennot (FRA), Kerin Lachlan (AUS) and Stephen Kilshaw (CAN) amongst the many internationals expected to challenge for a place on the podium. Viennot returns looking to improve upon his third-place finish in 2017.

The womens field sees the internationals dominating the seeding list, led by 29-year-old McCauley who looks to defend the title she won in 2017. McCauley was 5th in Taupo on her pro debut back in 2015 after winning an age group World Championship in 2014, she knows the course well and will enjoy good support from the locals.

Laura Siddall (GBR) and Fawn Whiting (CAN) are seeded 2 and 3, with Siddall backing up her runner up finish in 2017 with a breakthrough victory at IRONMAN Australia while Whiting finished 7th last year on her pro debut after enjoying a stellar age group career.

Look for two times runner-up and familiar face to Taupo in Kate Bevilaqua (AUS) to challenge McCauley, Siddall and Whiting. Bevilaqua was on the podium in 2008 and 2012 and starts her year in Taupo after a busy 2017 that saw her get married (to Kiwi Guy Crawford), then cope with illness through the month of May before returning to full fitness at the end of the year.

The leading Kiwis and only two in the top ten seeds include a rookie at the distance in former Olympic distance athlete Teresa Adam (Auckland) and experienced endurance athlete Julia Grant (Christchurch).

Adam is gradually making her way in the longer version of the sport and finished 2nd at the Port of Tauranga Half in January behind the well performed Melissa Hauschildt. She also won the K1 cycling event in October last year, highlighting her all-round ability in the sport.

Grant has mixed up her programme in the lead up to Kelloggs Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand, including a podium finish at Defiance two-day multisport event in January.

History makes it clear that seeding can count for very little over the IRONMAN distance however, with both mens and womens fields deep with talent in a sport that is littered with stories of surprise contenders enjoying career days.

Former multi-sport star Dougal Allan (Wanaka) and Dylan McNeice (Wanaka) have both won over the distance and on form will have a say in the outcome of the race. McNeice eased his way back into racing late in 2017 after hip surgery but showed he is returning to his best with a victory at the Port of Tauranga Half in January.

Amongst a field of experienced athletes is relative rookie Mike Phillips (Christchurch), who set the IRONMAN world alight in 2017 with the fastest time ever on debut over the distance with his 7:52:50 at IRONMAN Barcelona. 27-year-old Phillips backed that up with a solid victory over a strong field at 70.3 Taupo in December.

Simon Cochrane (NZL) and Guy Crawford (NZL) are the remaining male athletes seeded in the top ten, with Cochrane finishing 8th in 2017, while another to watch might be Swiss athlete Jan Van Berkel who has the potential to sneak under the radar, but the 31 year old has four podiums to his name in his home IRONMAN Switzerland event.

- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Triathlon New Zealand