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Steffen, Carfrae To Battle At Ironman Melbourne

The fourth running of the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championships is set for this Sunday, March 22.

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The fourth running of the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championships is set for this Sunday, March 22, and both the pro men’s and women’s races have exciting story lines, but for very different reasons. The men’s race will bring forward a new Ironman star, as the start list is full of up-and-coming talent. The women’s race will see some of the greatest champions in the sport battle it out. The race within this race is for the valuable Kona Pro Ranking (KPR) points that are key in getting to the start line at the Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 10as a championship-level event this race hands out more than any other. The dynamics of the race will be interesting as there are several who desperately need those points, but there are otherslike reigning world champion Mirinda Carfrae (AUS)who have no concern for points and may be looking to simply get across the finish line to validate a Kona start. It’s worth noting that this is the first championship event that will automatically send the winners to Kona. Ironman CEO Andrew Messick announced that change, along with several others, at a press conference last August.

Men’s Race
With every past winner (Craig Alexander, Eneko Llanos and Dirk Bockel) not on the starting line, the men’s race will see a new champion on Sunday. Picking a favorite to take the title is tough as none of the names have proven track records at this distance. That doesn’t mean it won’t be an exciting race thoughthere are several names on the men’s start list that are one big win away from being a bona fide Ironman star. Australian Tim Van Berkel and German Nils Frommhold are the top contenders. Both seem to be on the rise and earned coveted top-10 finishes at last October’s Ironman World Championship. Because they have those top Kona finishes, points won’t be a concern for either, but you can bet they each know a win here would be huge for their careers.

“It’s been a long time since I have won an Ironman in Australia, and I’m very hungry for another title,” Van Berkel said in a pre-race press release. “I took a lot of confidence from Kona last year. I feel I can mix it with the best athletes in the sport on the world stage when things are going well.”

Frommhold is also building off of his Kona success. “Kona was brilliant for me. It showed me that I am on the right track and gave me a lot of self-confidence,” he said. “Hopefully I can benefit from that performance; it also showed me that it’s never too late for a comeback, even after 30km of the marathon.”

Joining them on the start list is Aussie veteran Luke Bell, who struggled the majority of 2014 with injuries. “I have been able to nail all my sessions and stay healthy and uninjured, which is half of the battle,” he said. “Training-wise I have been able to complete more than I have for a long time.”

Short-course stars Peter Robertson (AUS) and Brad Kahlefeldt (AUS), who is making his Ironman debut, will also be ones to watch. Other contenders for the podium include Marko Albert (EST), Jan Raphael (GER), Jeffrey Symonds (CAN), Callum Millward (NZL) and Jan Van Berkel (SUI).

RELATED PHOTOS: 2014 Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship

Women’s Race
The headlining battle of this event is the one between two-time race winner Caroline Steffen and three-time Ironman world champion Carfrae. The two competed on this race course in the inaugural event in 2012, with Steffen winning and Carfrae finishing in third. Carfrae and Steffen are no strangers to racing each other. Both have finished in the top five in Kona each of the past five years, and each raced at last year’s Challenge Roth race with Carfrae taking the win and Steffen finishing third. While Carfrae has the edge when it comes to Kona titles, Steffen has been the most successful athlete in Melbourne.

“I feel that the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship is my race,” Steffen said in the pre-race press release. “Every pro likes to pick one race to call their own. I do that with Melbourne. I love the city, love the support I get from all the spectators and I love the coffee. As a huge coffee lover that’s very important.”

Carfrae is excited about racing in her home country, which is something she rarely does. “I’m looking forward to racing again at home,” she said. “Winning an Australian Ironman title is not something I’ve done yet, so I’d love to add one to my resume.”

It is far from a guarantee that Steffen or Carfrae will take the winthey’ll face some tough competition. Two-time Ironman 70.3 world champion Melissa Hauschildt (AUS) has the all-around talent to get the victory. She won her Ironman debut in Port Macquarie last year, but this will be her first time taking on the distance with proper preparation.

“I’m starting to get really excited about racing Ironman Melbourne,” Hauschidlt said. “It will only be my second full Ironman, but it almost feels like my first. When I raced Ironman Australia last year I only decided to do it three weeks out from the race and had just come off a small break. Even though I won there, this time I hope to be better prepared.”

Others to watch include Yvonne Van Vlerken (NED), Annabel Luxford (AUS), Laura Bennett (USA) and Maureen Hufe (GER).

RELATED – Kona Winner’s Gallery: Mirinda Carfrae

See the pro start lists below and check back to throughout the week for more from Melbourne.

1. Nils Frommhold (GER)
2. Tim Van Berkel (AUS)
3. Luke Bell (AUS)
4. Marko Albert (EST)
5. Peter Robertson (AUS)
6. Jan Raphael (GER)
7. Per Bittner (GER)
8. Jeffrey Symonds (CAN)
9. Jens Petersen-Bach (DEN)
10. Nick Baldwin (SYC)
11. Simon Billeau (FRA)
12. Brad Kahlefeldt (AUS)
13. Christian Kramer (GER)
14. Lachlan Kerin (AUS)
15. Casey Munro (AUS)
16. Callum Millward (NZL)
17. Dan McGuigan (AUS)
18. Brendan Naef (CAN)
19. Josh Rix (AUS)
20. Todd Skipworth (AUS)
21. Jan Van Berkel (SUI)

31. Caroline Steffen (SUI)
32. Mirinda Carfrae (AUS)
33. Yvonne Van Vlerken (NED)
34. Mel Hauschildt (AUS)
35. Asa Lundstrom (SWE)
36. Bree Wee (USA)
37. Beth Gerdes (USA)
38. Mareen Hufe (GER)
39. Annabel Luxford (AUS)
40. Laura Bennett (USA)
41. Kym Coogan (AUS)
42. Ashley Clifford (USA)
43. Kristy Hallett (AUS)
44. Stephanie Jones (USA)
45. Marina Jurjevic (AUS)
46. Jessica Mitchell (AUS)
47. Emma Pooley (GBR)
48. Natasha Van Der Merwe (USA)