The International Triathlon Union World Triathlon Series hits Europe for the first time this season with Madrid (Spain) hosting race 4 of the 8 race search to find the 2013 World Champions.
The move to Europe has signalled the biggest and highest quality fields of the season with the New Zealanders knowing they are facing the biggest odds of the season so far in their quest for vital championship points and experience on the toughest triathlon stage.
Andrea Hewitt (Christchurch), Kate McIlroy (Wellington), Nicky Samuels (Wanaka), Ryan Sissons (Auckland), Tony Dodds (Wanaka) and Bryce McMaster (Auckland) will line up on Sunday (NZT) with Tri NZ National Coach Greg Fraine saying Madrid is another step in a busy season.
"Most of our athletes have now been based in Europe for three weeks and have settled well in Banyoles, Spain. The weather has been unseasonably cool and a little wet but this has not impacted on preparation. The first block of training here in Europe is not complete though as we measure progress in Madrid then move on to an altitude block at the end of next week in Font Romeu (France).
"Madrid is another chance to test the athletes in top competition at a venue which has presented some very positive and some negative results for our athletes. The course is a tough one with a short distance to the first buoy in the swim making for a rough congested swim and the bike is brutal; up a steep climb in the first 500m, these two features have seen the race shape take place early on. The run is relatively flat but drags uphill slightly to a turn then fast return to the start finish on each of the four laps."
Kate McIlroy is looking for a solid race after a disappointing effort last time out in Yokohama.
"Madrid is the biggest and most competitive field so far this year in the WTS. I have been looking forward to this race, it is my first race in Europe this year and it's on a course that is pretty testing - a hard bike course with a decent climb each lap followed by a false flat run. It is a course that suits my strengths, so will be looking for a solid result."
Ryan Sissons too was off the pace in Yokohama and has his head down focused on performance this weekend.
"Madrid is always a super tough race and no doubt that will be the same this weekend. It is always a fast swim followed by a hard bike course with a fairly solid climb each lap, and then a flat out ten ‘k’, usually all raced in hot and humid conditions which are ideal for me.
"Training has been good and I am looking for a solid performance before going into a big block of training before the next few races."
Tony Dodds has just arrived in Europe after spending time training with other members of the Tri NZ High Performance team in Cambridge, under the watchful eye of coaches Tim Brazier and Jon Brown.
"Madrid is always one of the toughest races on the circuit; it's hot, hilly and there is almost always a breakaway. My training has been really good, training in Cambridge had been perfect for the two weeks we were there the High Performance squad and support staff.
"I'm looking forward to working through each part of the race in Madrid and if I do that to plan then I will have a good result. For me it's another stepping stone, it’s not until September that I want to be at my full peak, but I will be giving it one hundred percent on Sunday and expect a torrid hit out!"
As is the case for each of the athletes, they have their own agendas and objectives throughout the season and at each race. For Bryce McMaster that means a steep learning curve for the 23 year old as he experiences his first season racing at this high level.
"For me the build up to this race has been great, I had a great prep in Cambridge with Tony and the Tri NZ High Performance athletes and coaching team and I am feeling ready for this race.
"As far as expectation goes I am the youngest of the group and still have much to learn, this is all about developing experience and learning at the highest level of the sport. My main focus is to qualify for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and while I would be stoked to be inside top 25 on Sunday, for now it's all about learning to follow the training process, putting a plan into place on race day and having the result take care of itself.
"My main focus this year is on the ITU World Cup circuit with hope of a podium at one or more of those races later in the season."
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