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31st Running Of Ironman New Zealand Set For Saturday

Cameron Brown, Terenzo Bozzone, Meredith Kessler and Gina Crawford highlight the Ironman New Zealand start list.

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This weekend, the 31st running of Ironman New Zealand will feature a pro race with returning champions and international fields. The event, which has been in the town of Taupo on New Zealand’s North Island since 1999, is known for its incredible scenery. It starts with a freshwater lake swim in Lake Taupo followed by a two-loop bike that passes through forests and a spectator-crowded three-loop run course.

The Men’s Race
Highlighting the men’s professional start list is 10-time (yes, 10) Ironman New Zealand champion and Kiwi Cam Brown. He last won the race in 2011, and, at age 42, he’s nearing the end of his career, but he’s been on the podium at this race every year for 15 years, so we might see an incredible 11th win.

His toughest competition will come from countryman and 2008 Ironman 70.3 world champ Terenzo Bozzone, who’s fresh off of an impressive win over a deep pro field at the half-iron-distance Challenge Dubai last weekend. Since Bozzone won’t have fresh legs on Saturday, it will be a good chance for other pro men to have a shot at the podium. Other top names on the start list include Kiwi Dylan McNeice, who won the iron-distance Challenge Wanaka last month and frequently records fastest swim splits; American Andrew Yoder, who’s known for his bike strength but is not an experienced long-course racer; and Nick Baldwin (SEY); James Cotter (NZL) and Joel Jameson (GBR).

RELATED PHOTOS: 2014 Ironman New Zealand

The Women’s Race
It looks like the professional women’s race will come down to a battle between two experienced long-course women: American Meredith Kessler, the three-time* defending champion, and Kiwi Gina Crawford, who’s racing on home soil and has finished second to Kessler the last two years. Like Bozzone, Kessler is traveling Down Under from the Middle East after racing Challenge Dubai. Crawford won Challenge Wanaka in February and seems to be on an upward trajectory in her Ironman career with another top-10 Kona finish in October.

*Kessler has won Ironman New Zealand the last three years, but 2012 it was shortened to a 70.3 due to weather.

RELATED PHOTOS: 2013 Ironman New Zealand

Pro men
Cameron Brown (NZL)
Terenzo Bozzone (NZL)
Joel Jameson (GBR)
Nick Baldwin (SEY)
Mike Schifferle (SUI)
Dylan McNeice (NZL)
Jose Jeuland (FRA)
Andrew Yoder (USA)
Simon Cochrane (NZL)
Todd Skipworth (AUS)
Johan Borg (AUS)
James Bowstead (NZL)
James Cotter (NZL)
Luke Martin (AUS)
Daiki Masuda (JPN)
Graham O’Grady (NZL)
Yong Hwan Oh (KOR)
Carl Read (NZL)
Alex Reithmeier (AUS)
Chris Sanson (NZL)
Shanon Stallard (NZL)
Ricky Swindale (AUS)
Marcus Hultgren (SWE)

Pro women
Meredith Kessler (USA)
Gina Crawford (NZL)
Melanie Burke (NZL)
Mareen Hufe (GER)
Stephanie Jones (USA)
Conny Dauben (GER)
Erin Furness (NZL)
Jocelyn McCauley (USA)

Video: 4X World Champion Mirinda Carfrae Makes Her Picks for 70.3 Chattanooga

Carfrae and former pro Patrick Mckeon break down the iconic course in Chattanooga, who looks good for the pro women's race, and their predictions for how the day will play out.