Mahe Drysdale has overcome plenty of tight rowing duels to reach the top of the podium since winning his maiden world championship in 2005.

However, with two weeks until the Lucerne World Cup, Robbie Manson looks like Drysdale's heir apparent in the single sculls.

The best performer at that regatta will be selected to represent New Zealand at September's world championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

Lucerne's Rotsee is arguably the fairest course in the world to decide their respective fates. It has minimal current, and the surrounding hills shield the wind. The only distractions are likely to be trains skirting the hills, and chimes from the odd cowbell in local herds.


Manson's trajectory across the past two seasons make him the favourite to get the nod, barring injury or gear failure.

The 28-year-old won both his World Cups last year – overtaking Drysdale's world-best time at Poznan - but finished fifth at the world championships as he battled back from injury.

Drysdale took last year off after his Rio Olympics triumph by less than the width of a bow ball.

The 39-year-old's pedigree is undisputed as a double Olympic and five-time world champion. He is training under Calvin Ferguson – his coach from 2007 and 2008 – after the departure of former mentor Dick Tonks from Rowing New Zealand's stable.

A Kiwi, courtesy of Drysdale and Rob Waddell, has been the best men's single sculler in the world for 10 of the past 20 years via the world championships or Olympics.

Manson looks ready to assume the mantle.

The duel has endured from Lake Karapiro to Austria, and now Switzerland.

Manson had superior early season form, beating Drysdale at the Christmas regatta and North Island club championships as his rival sought to drop from around 120kg to an optimum 101-102kg.

Manson put 25.82s between them in the national championships' final.

"It's good to know everything I did last year wasn't a fluke," he told Radio Sport this week.

"I've been holding back a bit and not peaking... there's more to come. I may not be as strong as this time last year, and not in my best form yet, but I'm not too far off.

"I'll sharpen up more before Lucerne, but obviously the world championships are the main goal."

Those words will resonate with Drysdale. He has benefited from a long, steady training build-up myriad times.

An unshakeable cold forced him out of the opening World Cup before the semi-finals, meaning time is dwindling to right his season.

"As soon as I breathe deeply, I start coughing, which is not conducive to rowing," he told Radio Sport.

"A couple of races [the heat and quarter-final in Austria] knocked me around a bit. We [Drysdale and coach Calvin Ferguson] decided the best course of action was to get through and train properly this week.

"The goal's still Lucerne, that's the reason I pulled out. In previous years I would've battled through and had a couple of easier days' training after the regatta."

Drysdale got further race practice last weekend against old rival - and incumbent world champion - Ondrej Synek at the Holland-Beker event in Amsterdam. He finished second.

"I'd have hoped to be in better shape but [by Lucerne] I've got to be at my best... and there's no excuse," Drysdale said.

"Now it's about having confidence in the work I've done over the last 18 years, and knowing I'm good at putting it together when it matters.

"The physical stuff is there and that takes time to get. It's just really those top-end technical and mental elements which ensure I can produce what I know I can."

Drysdale acknowledged Manson's form after the national champion moved from fourth after the 500m mark in Austria to win the 2000m race.

"He had a good weekend but I think he showed he is beatable. Yes, he came through the field and [German Tim] Ole Naske ran out of gas.

"There's nothing that scares me there; it's just knowing I've got to get myself in the best shape possible.

"He's never beaten me when I've been at my best, so I'll take a lot of confidence from that; if I can get back to where I need to be."