Sarah Crowley is eyeing back-to-back IRONMAN Cairns victories as the Race in Paradise returns to Tropical North Queensland this weekend.
The 2022 Champion returns after, not only taking the top spot in Cairns last year, but also at IRONMAN Australia and IRONMAN Western Australia, a very impressive feat. She's in hot form with a win at IRONMAN 70.3 Davao in March earlier in the year.
The 40-year-old will be looking to defend her title in a female field that includes fellow 2023 IRONMAN Australia champion Kylie Simpson, and fellow Aussie long-course stars Radka Kahlefeldt and Penny Slater.
Despite the recent rib injury Crowley heads to Cairns confident of a strong result.
“I’m much fitter than this time last year. I started this year off the back of a very good year in 2022, This has allowed me to focus on areas that needed improvement. I’ve worked very hard on my bike and am excited to see what a stronger bike does for my run,” she said.
“I love Cairns, it’s one of the best courses in the world, so beautiful. Particularly the bike. I think I’m built for it. I have always performed very well in hot, humid conditions.”
Sunday’s race is another step towards Crowley’s ultimate goal for 2023, the VinFast IRONMAN World Championship in Hawai’i in October.
“I want a strong hit out. I haven’t raced an IRONMAN for six months so I’m very excited to start my season,” she said.
“It’s easy to race all the time, with races most weekends but it’s important to stop, recover, absorb the year before, revitalise your enthusiasm and rebuild if you want to perform in Kona.”
The men’s professional race is set to be a trans-Tasman battle, with some of the top triathletes from Australia and New Zealand going head-to-head for the title.
New Zealand’s Braden Currie is no stranger to IRONMAN Cairns, having claimed victory at the event in 2018 and 2019, along with two other trips to the podium in 2017 and last year.
The 37-year-old and his family have spent the last few weeks in Queensland as he has prepared for Sunday’s race.
“The lead up has been going really well,” said Currie.
“We've been over in Australia for the last three weeks now, so we’ve been able to finish of my last little block of training with some decent temperatures and sunshine and warmth and also get back into my swim squad here in Noosa, which always helps with the swim fitness. We’re looking forward to it.
“I always enjoy racing IRONMAN Cairns, I think there's probably a few reasons for it. Obviously, Asia Pacific being on pretty much home soil in a kind of way, the travel distances are a lot easier to manage with the family and set up in Australia,” he said.
“I enjoy the race course, I think that the bike course is one of the better bike courses in the world, it's got a good bit of variety to it, a few punchy little hills to break up the flats, and then the run course being based actually in the city of Cairns, I think it adds an awesome atmosphere to the run and being a lap course on the run, you get lots of crowd interaction and good idea of where you are within the race.”
Currie has his eyes on the win, having finished second at Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand in March and second at IRONMAN Cairns last year, with his last IRONMAN win coming at home in New Zealand in 2021.
“It feels like it's been a long time. I feel like last year I definitely came into the race probably a bit too relaxed and under prepared,” said Currie.
“Obviously, I'd had a great result at the IRONMAN World Champs the month before and I had to take a little bit of time off, but it also kind of enjoyed that time off. So, yeah, a lot of focus hadn't gone into that race, so while I was disappointed with second, I was still happy enough at the race. It'd be great to put a bit more into it this year and it'd be great to take the win again.”
Fellow Kiwi Mike Phillips will be out to stop Currie from getting back onto the top of the podium, with Phillips heading into the race following back-to-back wins at IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong and IRONMAN New Zealand in March this year, with him running down Currie late in the marathon to take the win in Taupō.
While Currie and Phillips are the top two seeded athletes for IRONMAN Cairns there are a host of others out to claim victory for themselves, with Adelaide’s Steve McKenna headlining the list. McKenna heads to Cairns off the back of his first ever IRONMAN victory at IRONMAN Australia in Port Macquarie last month, with the win an important one for the 31-year-old.
Tim Van Berkel brings plenty of experience racing in Tropical North Queensland into this year’s IRONMAN Cairns, having finished on the podium at the event on seven occasions, including a win in 2016.
Also set to line up on the beach at Palm Cove on Sunday morning is 2021 GWM IRONMAN Western Australia champion Matt Burton, 2022 IRONMAN Vitoria-Gasteiz winner Nick Kastelein and 2012 IRONMAN World Champion Pete Jacobs.
This Sunday’s race will be broadcast live through IRONMAN.com/LIVE, YouTube and Facebook, bringing the world to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef.
The live broadcast will follow the men’s and women’s professional race, with the region’s top athletes going head-to-head across 226km. For more information on the Cairns Airport IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns visit: https://www.ironman.com/im-cairns
The Cairns Airport IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns is supported by the Queensland Government through Tourism and Events Queensland and features on the It’s Live! in Queensland events calendar.