Wheelchair racers tackle City2Surf

The gut-busting two kilometre ascent from Rose Bay to Vaucluse has separated contenders from pretenders throughout the race’s 40-year history, and for the first time in 2011, Australia’s premier wheelchair racers will get their chance to throw everything they have at the infamous incline.

Dual Paralympic wheelchair marathon champion and Carcoar native Kurt Fearnley will headline a stellar field of athletes this Sunday, all aiming to conquer Heartbreak Hill and become the first ever City2Surf winner in the elite wheelchair category.

“The City2Surf is such a huge race and has a special place in Australian sport, so to become the first winner in the wheelchair category would be a great feeling,” Fearnley said.

“To get there is going to be really hard work. It’s a tough course, no doubt about it.

“Heartbreak Hill will be a massive test, but it won’t be the only challenge. There are quite a few sections where we will need to keep our wits about us.

“I can’t wait. I wish it was Sunday already.”

While he is undoubtedly the hot favourite to clinch the inaugural men’s crown, Fearnley is anything but a certainty.

Teenage rising stars Nathan Arkley, Jake Lappin, Sam Carter and Rheed McCracken are among an exciting new breed of Australian wheelchair racing talent gunning to end the dominance of Fearnley, a winner of 28 marathons worldwide, and nine Paralympic medals including three gold.

“The guys are all pushing very strongly with the 2012 London Paralympics on the horizon,” Fearnley said.

“The young guys coming through are putting on the pressure on me and the other experienced guys for sure, which is awesome.

“But if they think I’m ready to slow down in my old age, they can think again,” Fearnley, 30, added with a laugh.

In the women’s elite wheelchair category, 2008 Paralympian Madison de Rozario is likely to fight it out with four-time Paralympian Christie Dawes for victory, just months into Dawes’ comeback after giving birth to her first child earlier this year.

More than 85,000 competitors will line up in the 14 kilometre race on Sunday morning beginning in Sydney’s CBD and finishing on Bondi Beach.