Defending champ Luxford heads up strong field at IRONMAN 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship Western Sydney
Fresh from a top ten finish at the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Annabel Luxford is looking to finish off 2017 on a high by adding the prestigious IRONMAN 70.3 Asia-Pacific Champions title to her collection.
The Sydney International Regatta Centre course in Penrith has been a happy hunting ground for the defending IRONMAN Western Sydney champ who is looking for a “threepeat” but battling illness and a strong women’s field, she believes this title defence will be her toughest yet.
“The Asia Pacific title has definitely lured some people down like Lauren Brandon from the USA. I know Lizzy (Blatchford) is trying to get points for Kona. She should be super pleased with what she has achieved in Noosa after having her baby, so I expect to see strong things from her. Felicity Sheedy Ryan is always a mixed bag but certainly very talented and if she puts together a decent swim and ride I wouldn’t want to be getting off anywhere close to her on the run.”
“What you notice late in the year is that everyone is so different in their preparation and there are a lot of unknowns. There is pressure on the other athletes as well and that is the beauty of racing. Everyone shares the pressure in their own different way and it is something to look forward to come race day.”
“Three in a row would be nice and I have definitely have my eyes on that but we will have to wait and see. With this chest infection I have no choice than to have some days completely off and then get back into some minimal training. There is a possibility that I will be underdone on race day because I haven’t done much since Kona. When you are gambling it is better to gamble on being healthy and underdone than the opposite. So that is my plan,” Annabel said.
Two time World Duathlon Champion Felicity Sheedy Ryan arrives at the IRONMAN 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship Western Sydney fresh from a stunning result at the Noosa Triathlon where she pushed world number two Ashleigh Gentle all the way.
A new coach in Cameron Watt and a new found belief in her yet untapped potential has added two vital ingredients to the veteran West Australian’s repertoire and she is poised to close out the year with a win that would give her automatic qualification for next year’s IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa.
“The highlight of 2017 was definitely winning the ITU World Duathlon champs again but I have been gathering momentum throughout the year and the back half has been good getting narrowly missing a couple of World Cup podiums. I got some redemption a few weeks later finishing second at Noosa Triathlon behind Ash Gentle.”
Felicity is hoping the non-drafting 70.3 format and longer ride and run will be to her advantage.
“This will be my first time racing 70.3 Western Sydney. However I have raced the Nepean race at the same venue a couple of times. So I know the swim and run course. I have only been riding the TT bike a few weeks but I am pretty confident with my preparation. I have done some good training the last few months and looking forward to mix it up with the different style and demands of a 70.3 race,” she said.
After a successful return to racing at the Noosa Triathlon, IRONMUM Liz Blatchford is keen to make IRONMAN 70.3 Western Sydney another important stop on her journey towards resuming her IRONMAN career and her assault on the IRONMAN World Championship in 2018.
With more than 18 months out of competition with the birth of her daughter Mahli, Liz is loving her life as a mum but she admits that the road back to fitness has been tough, balancing her new role as a parent and the demands of a professional athlete.
“It has been brilliant, like nothing else I could ever have imagined and I am thoroughly enjoying being a mum. But I would have to say that taking so much time off has left me probably the most unfit I have been in my whole life. It has been a steep climb back and the first month of training was pretty demoralizing and there were a lot of questions. But it has been encouraging each week to see the massive improvement and refreshing that I am getting faster and faster.”
“All things considered I was quite satisfied with my race in Noosa and have pulled up really well. I loved being back racing and I am excited about Western Sydney as my next challenge. Despite still feeling quite underdone going into this race, I am taking the opportunity of an Asia Pacific Champs just an hour flight away from home. For me this race serves as my first chance to grab some all important points towards getting to Kona next year, which is my ultimate goal,” Liz said.
Text and image: IRONMAN