CAIRNS, Australia (June 3, 2014) - At the 2014 edition of Cairns Airport IRONMAN Cairns it was Aussie Luke McKenzie who claimed his sixth IRONMAN title. It was a drought breaking performance that lead to a career defining 2nd place at the IRONMAN Hawaii World Championships.Port Macquarie’s Tim Van Berkel is in the midst of a similar drought, having last tasted IRONMAN glory at IRONMAN Western Australia in 2008.
He’s hoping a win at Sunday’s Cairns Airport IRONMAN Cairns can provide a springboard to a big year and a strong performance at IRONMAN Hawaii in October.
Berkel comes into the race with that winning feeling on the back of first place at IRONMAN 70.3 Busselton.
“I'm pretty hungry this year. I have been targeting this race all year,” Berkel said.
“IRONMAN titles are hard to come by, but I did win IRONMAN Western Australia in 08. I’m hoping to win another one, it has been a while.”
Standing in his way will be one of the sport’s most enduring athletes New Zealand’s Cameron Brown.
A 10 time IRONMAN New Zealand Champion Brown himself has been absent from the podium’s top spot since his 2011 win, the longest stretch in his career without an IRONMAN title.
By his own admission 2013 was a year to forget, and one he describes as the worst of his career.
“Last year was a complete right off and was one of my worst years in the sport. I ended up shortening my season and had seven weeks totally off in August. It did me a world of good and I came back mentally and physically fresher,” he said.
“I can’t wait until I race again and to get back into some warm weather, I love the bike ride up to Port Douglas, you can't beat that view.”
Brown and Berkel have already battled each other once this year, at March’s IRONMAN New Zealand, exiting the water within seconds of each other, spending the next four plus hours together on the bike before brown pulled away during the marathon to finish 2nd, while Berkel ended the race just off the podium in 4th.
“I'm looking forward to racing Brownie again. I wasn't anywhere near race fitness in IRONMAN New Zealand , I was there to earn points. I have some good form now but I still think he is going to be very hard to beat, the guy has Ironman racing dialled in,” Berkel said.
“I’m after a good solid performance, hopefully if I can have another race like I did at IRONMAN New Zealand I'll be right up there. The training has been going well and I'm now in the taper mode and starting to feel better.”
While the winner is likely to come from either Berkel or Brown they won’t have things their own way in Cairns with a field stacked of talented and experienced athletes assembled. In this last season as a professional, IRONMAN stalwart Jason Shortis, will be looking to go out with a good result after a poor bike leg hampered his efforts to make the podium at IRONMAN Australia last month.
Three time Olympic distance champion Peter Robertson will also be looking for a good result after illness forced him to withdraw at IRONMN Australia and look for Denmark’s Jimmy Johnsen, the 2012 IRONMAN Western Australia champion, to be at the pointy end of the field.
BLATCHFORD AND LUNDSTROM SET TO CLASH AT IRONMAN CAIRNS
In the women’s race the smart money is on defending champion the United Kingdom’s, Liz Blatchford.Blatchford debuted at IRONMAN Cairns last year, then went onto to finish 4th at IRONMAN Mont Tremblant and 3rd at the IRONMAN Hawaii World Championships. On the back of a first up year like that she goes into the race as a red hot favourite.
Favourite or not Blatchford will still be required to work hard to triumph in her title defence with Sweden’s Asa Lundstrom, a two-time IRONMAN winner and fifth at this year’s IRONMAN Melbourne, 2013 IRONMAN Australia champion Rebecca Hoschke and Japan’s Keiko Tanaka all keen to knock off the defending champion.
“I know the abilities of two of the other strong contenders in Bek Hoschke and Asa Lundstom and think I will have a decent gap out of the swim to them. However I don’t know the other girls too well so I probably can’t really predict too much more,” she said.
“It could be a solo day for me but in racing anything can happen and you never quite know how you are going to perform.”
Before last year’s debut Blatchford had never even run a marathon, let alone completed a full Ironman, this year she’s back having three Ironman finishes under her belt.
“I have expectations of myself this year that I didn’t have last year but I also have the confidence from my past races that I can draw on. To me though, all three Ironmans I have done were somewhat daunting — it’s a really long way no matter how may times you’ve done it, or how much training you’ve done,” she said.
“Last year I learnt a lot about pacing and nutrition and that my body is capable of things that I didn’t know it was. Nutrition is a key one though. I am a huge calorie burner and that nearly derailed me last year at this race when I ran out of everything on the bike by 140 km. So I’ll be carrying more nutrition this year.”
Armed with the experience and knowledge that can only come from completing a number of IRONMAN races, Blatchford looks set for a big year.
Before she launches into another season she has a title to defend.
“I’m really excited to go back up to Cairns. The whole experience last year was so positive that it was a no brainer for me to go back to this IRONMAN,” she said.
The Cairns Airport Adventure Festival, incorporating the Cairns Airport IRONMAN Cairns | Flight Centre Active Travel IRONMAN 70.3 Cairns, will be held from Sunday, June 1 – Monday, June 9, 2014.
For event information visit www.ironmancairns.com
Media opportunities and interviews contact
Courtney Akrigg | Courtney.email@example.com |0414 969 808
Photo credit: Eyes Wide Open IMAGES