SUBIC BAY - Two-time Ironman world champion Chris McCormack and women’s reigning champion Belinda Granger banner a strong cast of world-class triathletes vying for top honors in the second Century Tuna 5i50 Triathlon Series Philippines on Sunday.
The 40-year-old Australian triathlete nicknamed Macca is favored to rule the men’s Philippine series which features a tough and challenging course involving a 1.5-kilometer swim, a 40-kilometer bike and a 10-kilometer run that snakes around this former US military base.
Granger, on the other hand, will try to extend her reign in the distaff side which has attracted triathletes representing 23 countries including top contenders from United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, US, SIngapore, France and Japan.
The 43-year-old Granger, who topped the Cobra Energy Drink Ironman 70.3 in Camsur last year, said she is aiming to improve on her 2:22.35 winning time last year whether it rains hard or not.
“If it rains, it definitely changes the race. So when you include rain in the (race) corners, it makes it dangerous. So you just have to use your brain and be careful, of course because you want to make it to the finish line in one piece,” said Granger during the official press launching of the Century Tina 5i50 Philippine series at the SBEC.
Youthful Filipino national record-holder Nikko Huelgas will fly the Philippine flag alongside last year’s local champions John Chicano and Monica Torres.
Chicano emerged as the top finisher in the Filipino Elite category and also wound up fifth overall last year, followed by runner-up and 11th overall-placer Franklin Peñalosa.
On the other hand, Torres, a four-time Ironman 70.3 Philippines Elite champion, reigned supreme in the Filipina Elite category. She remains favored to defend her crown, although veteran Kim Mangrobang hopes to put up a challenge in the women’s side.
Other local favorites include former Ironman champion August Benedicto, Southeast Asian Games bronze medalist Dhill Anderson Lee, veteran Philip Dueñas and Ford Ironman World Championships qualifier Noy Jopson.
Also vying for podium finishes are Rochelle Tan, Banjo Norte, Jenny Rose Guerrero, Kevin Lyndon Eijansantos, Norman Resurreccion and Santino del Castillo.