|Brit back to defend Takapuna Triathlon|
|Vicky Holland (GBR) is back to defend her Contact Tri Series title at Takapuna this Sunday against a world class field but knows she has no chance of sneaking up on her more fancied rivals as she did a year ago.|
Holland was noted as an ‘up and comer' before the race last year and wasn't expected to test the likes of Sam Warriner, Debbie Tanner and Andrea Hewitt. Her incredible sprint to victory then set up a stellar season, with the 24 year old ending the year ranked at 8 in the world.
Holland knows she will race over the sprint distance with a target on her back this Sunday.
"There is no doubt that last year I was able to enjoy some anonymity but part and parcel of being an improving athlete and reaching your goals is that people recognise you and think of you as a threat. Tactically I will just try to race the same way I did last year; being in the right place at the end of the bike leg and see whether my running legs are there on the day!"
"I've had a pretty good 'winter' so far with a running block in Kenya before Christmas and then 6 weeks in Canberra with my training group coached by Darren Smith. Takapuna fits into my schedule well as a start to the season. It's a fantastically organised race with some decent competition and in a great location. I am based in Canberra so a quick hop over to New Zealand is a reasonable trip for a race. Plus, I love New Zealand and it's a great excuse to come over!"
Amongst those looking to stop Holland going back to back on Sunday is New Zealand number one and a star of the ITU World Champs Series circuit Andrea Hewitt. The Cantabrian is equally enthused about a return to a favourite and exciting venue.
"Takapuna is a great place with a great atmosphere and I can't wait to race. It's nice to begin the year with a race in the NZ. The beach makes for a nice swim, and then winding around the small streets is pretty intense. There is no time for a break really with so many twists and turns on the course.
"I've been spending my time at home this summer to prepare for the International season. Olympic distance racing is all about swimming and cycling strongly and running the fastest. So, my training and preparation is all about balance over the three disciplines. And over the years, I have been able to increase my running and it has shown as my biggest improvement in the last two years. But still, there are three sports within triathlon and I can't discount one, I must train them all."
Also racing after missing the past two years is Nicky Samuels, the Wanaka triathlete has been imperious this summer, winning all three of her starts in the Contact Tri Series.
"I raced in Takapuna the very first time they held the race there. It's an exciting thing for triathlon in NZ as it is in a busy main centre, the roads are closed and everyone who is out to dinner in local pubs around the area has live sport right in front of their eyes. This way a lot of the crowd are not the usual triathlon watchers but they get really into it and behind it. It's a great way to get people involved in our sport one way or another.
"I travel to Auckland for some fitness testing on Thursday and Friday, this links well to finish a hard week off with Sunday's race. For me this race is about testing myself against some good athletes at this time of year to see where my training is at and what needs more focus. I will be looking for a good strong swim, hard bike and see how my run form is in comparison to the likes of Andrea Hewitt and Vicki Holland.
"With live TV covering this event, it's important to race to help develop triathlon in NZ, and to show case ourselves for our personal sponsors and supporters. This year though is all about qualifying for the London Olympics for me. The first qualifying race will be in August in London and this is what all my training is going towards now. I head away for another season early May."
These three won't have the race all their own way however, with a strong field on the start line, including leading U23 triathletes Sophie Corbidge and Rebecca Kingsford with both revelling in the chance to race against some of the world's best in their own back yard.
Racing for the elites takes place on Sunday afternoon, with age group and beginner races earlier in the day from 7.30am.
Contact Tri Series
Elite Women 3.55pm