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Challenge Wanaka kickstarts the Challenge Series

In New Zealand on January 19, 2013.

Challenge Wanaka features one of the world’s toughest and most honest long distance triathlon courses set against the stunning alpine backdrop of New Zealand’s Southern Alps and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area.

Challenge Wanaka headlines New Zealand’s largest triathlon festival and features the world’s most scenic iron distance course with a 3.8km swim in crystal clear waters, the 180km bike taking in two alpine lakes and the 42.2km run which is 75% off-road along the water’s edge.

Make sure you check out all the action featuring amongst others Chris McCormack, Jo Lawn and Gina Crawford through the live Internet TV at www.challengewanaka.com or through the live results on the Challenge Family SmartPhone app.

Challenge Wanaka announces world class pro field

An all-star field is heading to New Zealand’s largest annual triathlon festival, Challenge Wanaka, headed by two-time world champion and 12 times iron distance champion, Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack.

Widely regarded as the sport’s most successful triathlete, McCormack has won over 200 international races since 1993 across a range of distances and is the only athlete to break the magic eight-hour iron distance barrier more than twice (he has broken it four times). As well as being two-times World Champion at Kona, he is the current ITU Long Distance World Champion and has also claimed the ITU World Series Championship title over the Olympic distance, again, the only athlete to hold both distance world titles.

“I’m heading to Wanaka for a win and a new course record,” said McCormack, in his usual straight talking style. However, defending champion and fellow Australian, Aaron Farlow, is returning with the goal to retain his title while 2011 champion Jamie Whyte (NZL) is also aiming to get back on top of the podium. Other contenders include former duathlon world champion, Leon Griffin (AUS) as well as Kiwis Keegan Williams and Bryan Rhodes. The top spot is the only place that has eluded Williams at Wanaka following a third in 2010 and second in 2009 while four times iron distance champion Rhodesy will be looking to make up for a disappointing DNF in 2012 following three punctures.

Challenge Wanaka will mark the first time McCormack has raced a long distance triathlon in New Zealand and he’s looking forward to returning to his “second home”

“I grew up in New Zealand, every school holidays we were there, I still have a lot of family in New Zealand, and to this day travel on both an Australian and a New Zealand passport. New Zealand holds a special place in my heart as it is the home of my mother, so returning to race in Wanaka will be very nice for me. I lost my mother to breast cancer in 1999, and Wanaka was where my mother and father had their honeymoon. It is a special part of the world for me. I would really like to do something special at this race for these very reasons,” he said

The women’s field is once again dominated by four-time winner of Challenge Wanaka and 10 times iron distance champion Gina Crawford (NZL). However, the road to a sixth victory will have to break through the defences of Australia’s Kate Bevilaqua, Kim Loeffler (USA) and New Zealand’s Candice Hammond.

Bevilaqua holds two iron distance titles while Hammond comes off her best career result to date – a win at Metaman Bintan in September. Loeffler is hoping to break her ‘bridesmaid’ resume – she has placed on the podium no less than seven times and holds the run course record at Ironman Brazil but the top spot has so far eluded her.

Crawford is racing off the back of her recent success at the Ironman World Championships where she placed seventh and is returning to Wanaka for the fifth time.  Originally from Christchurch, her time racing and training in Lake Wanaka has led to a love of the region that has resulted in her and her family making it their home.

“I just love racing Challenge Wanaka with the scenic and challenging course and am especially looking forward to the changed bike course this year with the double loop encompassing the best parts of the former course. I am excited to be coming back and will be working hard in the coming months in an attempt to take my fifth title,” said Crawford.

One of New Zealand’s most successful triathletes, Joanna Lawn, has confirmed her spot at Challenge Wanaka. This is the first time Lawn has visited the spectacular alpine town of Lake Wanaka and is looking forward to a new race experience in her home country.

“2013 is going to be a very exciting year for me, as I have decided to participate in some races that I have always wanted to do, but haven’t been able to because of prior commitments,” she said. “I have not only heard great things about this race, but also about Wanaka itself as being one of the most desirable places in NZ to visit. I am so looking forward to racing Challenge Wanaka!”

Challenge Wanaka takes place on  January 19, 2013 and is part of New Zealand’s largest triathlon festival involving over 2,000 participants that runs from January 13-19 and features events for all ages and abilities. Other highlights include the Puzzling World Junior Challenge Wanaka on January 13, the Radio Wanaka 5km Charity Fancy Dress Fun Run, and the Contact Tri Series Contact Cup featuring the country’s top short course athletes on Friday January 18.