LAKE WANAKA, New Zealand (January 15, 2009) – With less than 48 hours to go until New Zealand’s fastest growing iron distance triathlon, Challenge Wanaka, takes place, the top seeds of the race are finishing their final preparations with their eye on the $70,000 prize pool.
Defending women’s champion, Gina Ferguson, said that despite her recent success in the world championships and Western Australia, she did not feel any different than this time last year.
“My one goal is to do the best I can and cope with the circumstances that come my way during the race. I had a good two-week rest after WA and have been building up for the last four weeks with a lot of volume on the bike. I’m feeling fit and strong and will just do the best I can.”
Defending men’s champion, Marc Pschebizin (GER) said he was hoping for a repeat of last year’s performance. “I want to do the same good race as last year but it’s hard as coming out of European winter. I have had some really mentally hard rides in mid-winter at home in minus 15C so am prepared to suffer on course which will be a good mental advantage. If it’s hard conditions, that’ll be good for me but if it’s a hard race, it’s also a fair race as everyone has to fight with the same conditions. I had a phenomenal run last year (2hrs 48min) and it’d be great to do it again.”
Petr Vabrousek (CZE) has, in his words, “some unfinished business” on Saturday. At the inaugural Challenge Wanaka, he was disqualified, something that took him six months to get over. Then last year his flights were cancelled and when he finally arrived in New Zealand his luggage and bike were nowhere to be seen. He raced on borrowed equipment and despite his bad luck continuing with a puncture, still managed to finish sixth.
“This year when my first flight was cancelled I though the bad luck was continuing. This race has made me very mentally strong after my bad luck in the past. This year, everything is perfect so far – I can’t wait for a great race on Saturday with a good result.”
Hillary Biscay’s (USA) goal is to be the fastest swimmer “but I definitely have some competition, it’d be great for Gina and I to lead all the guys out of the water!! I enjoy any kind of extreme conditions – pouring rain, extreme heat, the more extreme the better, we didn’t come here to do something easy so why not just go all the way?”
Biscay has competed at every Challenge Wanaka event, along with Justin Granger (AUS) and Vabrousek. “I’ve raced all over the world – this might be my very favourite, definitely top two that I have ever done,” she said. “The venue is unlike any other – it’s unusual to run on trails let alone the wonderful setting. The small town getting behind the race makes a huge difference, no matter how much you’re struggling in the race, it feels like the whole town is behind you. Coming back year after year is like being at a family reunion – that’s why you’ll see the same faces every year as once people have experienced Challenge Wanaka, they’ll want to come back again and again.”
Challenge Wanaka is part of the global series of TEAMChallenge events with six half and full iron distance races in Germany, France and Spain as well as New Zealand. The race starts at 7.00am on Saturday 17 January and will feature 474 athletes from 21 nations. Live updates will be available at Challenge-Wanaka.com.