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“Dispatch” is an online column from Triathlete Editor-at-Large Holly Bennett that features pro updates, industry news, happenings afield and otherwise random reports related to multi-sport. Look for “Dispatch” every Thursday on Triathlete.com and check back throughout this weekend for updates from Pucón 70.3.
The pro athletes racing in Pucón gathered at noon today for a press conference and a final chance to size up their rivals prior to the race. I asked Luke McKenzie and Amanda Balding – both athletes with experience at numerous race venues in the United States – whether any North American event might be comparable to Pucón in terms of the course and its level of challenge. Here’s what they had to say:
AB: “Nothing quite compares to the challenge of the hills on the run course here. It is a bit similar to Vineman, but more so because of the amazing wine in both regions! Athletes who love Vineman will love it here. Wildflower is actually quite similar as well, except that the run there is mostly on dirt.”
LM: “Lake Stevens in Washington has the same sort of sort of alpine feel and it’s a challenging course with similar terrain, but I would say this course is far more challenging than any run you could do in the United States. The venue also has a bit of a Lake Placid feel, except that Pucón is much more action-packed. There’s a lot to do here, whereas Lake Placid is more of a sleepy small town.”
Temperatures in Pucón have peaked in the high 80’s for the last few days, so if that trend continues the heat is sure to highlight the already hard to conquer hills on the run.
Here’s a preview of the featured pro athletes scheduled to toe the line tomorrow morning. The professional field sets off at 7:45 a.m. local time.
Guilherme Manocchio (BRA)
Manocchio comes into this year’s race as the defending champion. 2012 was his second appearance in Pucón; the first was in 2007 when he finished seventh. He’s also a five-time Brazilian long distance national champion.
Luke McKenzie (AUS)
With five full Ironman titles, a top ten in Kona (McKenzie placed ninth in 2011) and countless Ironman and Ironman 70.3 podiums, the Aussie is a clear favorite for the win. He’s also been in town for a week now, giving him valuable time to preview the course and acclimate to the environment of what will be his debut Pucón 70.3 race.
Ben Hoffman (USA)
Hoffman returns to Pucón for a third time this year. While he hails from a winter climate in Boulder, Colo., any disadvantage to racing fresh out of the off-season may well be balanced by his experience earned at several of North America’s toughest Ironman’s. Hoffman proved victorious at Ironman St. George (2012), Ironman Wisconsin (2012) and Ironman Lake Placid (2010), so he’s no stranger to the strength required to conquer a course like Pucón.
Marcel Zamora (ESP)
Zamora boasts a bold iron-distance resume: five consecutive wins at Ironman France (2006-2010), two wins at Embrunman (2009, 2010) and a victory at Challenge Barcelona (2009). Reputed to be like a mountain goat on the run, Zamora may well add Pucón’s top spot trophy to his collection.
Reinaldo Colucci (BRA)
Colucci, a London Olympian, won Pucón in 2010 beating legendary triathlete Oscar Galindez. He also earned the Gold Medal at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. The Brazilian looks to be in top form and will surely be tough to beat.
Daniel Fontana (ARG)
Born in Argentina but residing in Italy, Fontana first raced Pucón in 1994 at the tender age of 18. He is a two-time former Pucón champion (2011, 2005) and he finished an impressive 12th in Kona in 2011. In 2012 Fontana seemed headed for a hat trick here when a flat tire derailed his lead on the bike, ultimately landing him in seventh place.
Santiago Ascenco (BRA)
Ascenco was runner-up at last year’s race. His desire to better that result, along with foot speed on the run that the other pro men will struggle to match, may prove a winning combination.
Felipe Van de Wyngard (CHI)
Also a London Olympian, Wyngard (widely known as “Vande”) is the local men’s favorite. He has three top ten finishes in Pucón to his credit and will surely use the home-country advantage to fuel his push to improve.
Valentina Carvallo (CHI)
Fairly new to the pro ranks, Valentina Carvallo is hands down the local favorite on the women’s side. She posted an impressive second place in 2012 and went on to win the
Ironman 70.3 Brazil, making her a solid threat for victory.
Sarah Piampiano (USA)
Also a relative rookie pro, Piampiano scored a win at the Ironman 70.3 New Orleans (in 2012 when the race was altered to a duathlon format due to inclement weather) and finished fourth at the inaugural Ironman U.S.A. in New York City. Piampiano’s proven bike and run speed, along with Pucon’s expected calm swim conditions, should serve her well in tomorrow’s battle for first place.
Amanda Balding (AUS)
Despite settling for second place in the sport’s limelight next to her Ironman champion husband (Luke McKenzie) and also juggling the demands of her role as an athlete manager, Balding knows what it takes to win at the half-iron distance. She raced her way to victory at Ironman 70.3 China (2009) and Ironman 70.3 Cancun (2007) and is surely a top contender in tomorrow’s race.