Sunday’s SunSmart IRONMAN Western Australia has attracted one of the biggest professional fields of the year with nearly 60 pros lining up for the last major race before Christmas.
With 27 women and 29 men on the start line, the two athletes lucky enough to take the title will have will have well and truly earned it.
American Liz Lyles is well aware of what lies in front of her in her bid to repeat her winning performance from last year.
“I am excited for the race especially since I will know what to expect on the course. I'm nervous too, it’s an amazing start list,” Lyles said. “The field is championship race calibre, there are so many talented women.
”Training wise, with the help of my coach, I have been able to recover well since the IRONMAN World Championship and put in some really good days. A few not so good days too, but that's part of the gig.”
The stacked women’s field includes two-time IRONMAN Cairns champion Liz Blatchford, last year’s SunSmart IRONMAN Western Australia runner up Mareen Hufe from Germany, IRONMAN Canada winner Bree Wee from USA and Sweden’s Asa Lundstrom who was third at IRONMAN Cairns and fifth at the IRONMAN Asia Pacific Championships in Melbourne.
The men’s race is no different with any number of potential winners on the start list.
David Dellow will be looking to improve on his third place in Busselton last year, fellow Australian and multiple IRONMAN 70.3 champion Australia’s Joe Gambles, Frenchman Romain Guillaume who was 10th at the IRONMAN World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, and Australia’s Clayton Fettell who has been on the podium here before finishing second in 2011.
Gambles comes into the race knowing exactly where his form is at after securing second place at the inaugural IRONMAN 70.3 Western Sydney on Sunday.
“I have been gearing my training towards Sunday and Western Sydney was a great blow out session. It was a nice welcome back to racing after my disappointing race in Kona,” Gambles said.
Dellow will be keen to show he’s still a force to be reckoned with after an injury-plagued season, while Gambles is looking for a good performance after getting his first taste of the heat on the Big Island this year. Aussie young gun Clayton Fettell also a strong chance to be fighting it out for the win.
“Ultimately on Sunday I’m looking to get through the race and hopefully make it onto the podium,” Gambles said.
In the women’s race Blatchford has had her eye on racing at the SunSmart IRONMAN Western Australia since she made the move to the distance.
“I did the IRONMAN 70.3 Busselton in 2013 and loved it but was just too spent after Kona last year to consider doing an IRONMAN,” she said
“This year I had a lighter schedule leading into Kona so knew I’d be keen to race on afterwards. Busselton was a clear choice. I grew up here in WA and love coming back to spend time with family and friends.”
And after a disappointing day in Hawaii she’s keen to add another IRONMAN title to the two she has already won.
“Finishing 10th was bitter-sweet. I’d hoped for a lot more and believe I am capable of. But it’s still a lot better than a DNF or even 11th (no money) for that matter and a top 10 in Kona is not to be sneezed at. Ironman can be tricky as you only get to race a few times a year so learning can be slow,” she said.
IRONMAN stalwart Jason Shortis will also be looking for a strong race in his 83rd and final race as a professional.
More than 1900 athletes will be chasing their own dreams when racing gets underway from 5.30am on Sunday, 7 December.