We preview some of the female elites lining up at Ironman New Zealand 2014

Ironman New Zealand 2014The 30th Ironman New Zealand race will be kicking off in less than 24 hours. On the Ironman website, the results and ratings table is already live. In advance of the anniversary race of the oldest Kona qualifier in the series, we take a look at some key contenders: the women who’ll be fighting to be first over the finish line. For the male elites, go here.

Meredith Kessler (USA)

Kessler took her first Taupo gold in 2012 in a race that was postponed for a day and then shortened at the last minute to a 70.3. In the same year she also won she won Ironman St. George, Ironman Coeur D’Alene, Eagleman 70.3 and Vineman 70.3 and she hasn’t slowed since. Her victory at Ironman New Zealand last year came as the result of a hard-won battle with Gina Crawford. Often strong in the swim and keeping that lead into the bike, she’ll certainly be one of the best going into the race.

Gina Crawford (NZL)

Crawford chased down Kessler with a 3:14:54 marathon in last year’s Ironman New Zealand to take silver within 3 minutes of Kessler’s gold. She’s a hard racer and has multiple Ironman, Challenge and 70.3 titles under her belt, as well as setting a new bike course record at Challenge Wanaka 2013 – where she also claimed gold. She took gold in 2009 and you can bet she’ll be gunning to take it again this year.

Candice Hammond (NZL)

Competition is likely to be high here as Hammond pipped Crawford to first place at this January’s Challenge Wanaka 2014 after putting in a powerful bike and run. She’s slower on the swim tbough and will likely need that speed to catch Kessler.

Kate Bevilaqua (AUS)

Kate had a good year in 2013, highlighted with gold at Ironman Louisville (a victory Bree Wee claimed in 2012). She’s raced Ironman New Zealand four times before, coming in second behind Kessler in 2012 but was absent last year.

Bree Wee (USA), Mareen Hufe (GER), Keiko Tanaka (JPN), Michelle Bremer (NZL), Anna Cleaver (NZL) and Melanie Burke (NZL) will all also be ones to watch.

Full Elite Women’s Start List

BREMER, Michelle (NZL)
BURKE, Melanie (NZL)
GRANT, Julia (NZL)
HAMMOND, Candice (NZL)
HUFE, Mareen (GER)
KESSLER, Meredith (USA)
KUCH, Celia (GER)
MARSH, Larisa (NZL)
SAX, Janine (NZL)
SCOTT, Jodie (AUS)
WEE, Bree (USA)