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Ironman competitors eager to race

Athletes coming from all over for July 24 competition



Subaru Ironman Canada will have a little Olympic flavour.

A 2004 Olympian and 2007 World Ironman 70.3 champion, Andy Potts will be challenging the race for the first time this Sunday, July 24.

Potts, who hails from Hershey, Pennsylvania but now calls Colorado Springs home, is eager to make the trip northwest and take on the Whistler gauntlet.

"We can choose to race anywhere and when I saw that Ironman Canada was an option for me, it being in Whistler, I thought 'That's an awesome place, I've always wanted to go there for a ski trip,'" he said. "But I think an underrated aspect of Whistler might be the summer... The summers in Whistler are probably more picturesque than the winters, especially if you enjoy the outdoors."

Potts noted his wife is Canadian, hailing from Regina, and she can't wait to take in one of the most beautiful parts of her homeland.

"We're going to spend a couple days after the race enjoying the area," he said. "I don't do a ton of taking in the area when I'm racing just because I'm super focused, but I'll definitely be enjoying the pre- and the post-race atmosphere for sure."

His fellow pros best watch out, as when Potts finds a groove in a venue, he's likely to maintain it. The 39-year-old has won six full-distance Ironman races at three different sites, capturing the victory in Coeur d'Alene thrice, in Lake Placid twice and in Cozumel once. As well, he has won 17 half-distance Ironman 70.3 races in 11 separate venues.

"Even if you go back to the same course, it's always a new experience. For anyone who raced last year, this year will be different. If you raced it two years ago, it's going to be different. When I race, I think back, I try to buoy myself up with positive experiences and I think of my positive race experiences," he said. "You've got to be ready for anything with Ironman races, for sure."

With hilly challenges on an undulating course and, given the summer thus far, cool temperatures ahead, Potts feels prepared to challenge for his seventh full-distance victory.

"I'm definitely mentally prepared for the demands of the day. Ironman presents its own obstacles so any given Ironman, you're battling yourself, you're battling the course and you're battling the competition," he said. "I think the Ironman and the Whistler course is suited to my strengths as an athlete."

As a veteran competitor, Potts has had time to experiment and figure out how best to get through any course quickly. But as time goes on, other challengers are finding their learning curve on the rise as well, leading to situations where there's less room for error.

"I learn from past successes, past failures as well as learning from my competition. How do I stay ahead of the curve? Probably the biggest challenge is trying to stay ahead of the curve, beating my competition," Potts explained.

There will certainly be obstacles to a victory.

Kelowna's Trevor Wurtele, 37, is back and looking to take his second victory in the race after claiming his first full-distance Ironman win in Whistler in 2013. With the event just a short drive away, it's practically a home race and one that has a little extra meaning for him.

"It's a big goal of the season to try to come back and win that one. I had the intention of racing Whistler earlier this year back in January and put it on my schedule and it's definitely been in the back of my mind all year," Wurtele said. "2013 was my first Ironman win and I'd love to back that up with another one."

Wurtele noted he especially enjoys the bike course here as it separates the true athletes from the tacticians and creates a "more fair" atmosphere.

As well, Paul Ambrose, a third-place finisher in 2014, is returning with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. The Australian was forced to drop out because of hypothermia after a frigid swim to begin last year's race, so he'll return with an eye on not only finishing, but replicating his results from two years ago.

"The weather conditions (were ones) I really couldn't predict, unfortunately," Ambrose said. "Hopefully this year, I can go back up there with a little more luck on my side.

"I trained almost perfectly for the race last year and put in all that hard work and to not be able to finish was a huge disappointment. I definitely feel like I have some unfinished business for that race."

This is the first year that the pro field has consisted exclusively of men, as a pro women's event will take place in Lake Placid the same day. Race director Evan Taylor said the plan is to bring the women back in 2017 with the men heading elsewhere to compete.

"The idea is we'll switch them around next year as well," Taylor said. "What we're trying to do, the theory behind that, is to have a bigger field, whether they're male or female, (to) really increase the competition. There's only so much prize money to go around, and by having more people battle it out, we're hoping to see some great excitement."

The number of competitors in this year's event is expected to surpass 2015 numbers, however, as the half-distance 70.3 is also on the menu.