CEBU'S top triathlete Noy Jopson will lead the more than 20 Cebuanos who will test their skills against some of the best in the Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philippines on Aug. 22 in Camarines Sur.

"This will be a tough year for me because ang daming malalakas na triathletes ngayon," said Jopson, who will be defending the title in the Pinoy elite division.

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Another Cebuano winner, Lorhiz Echavez, will not be defending her title in the age group because she is training for the White Rock half Ironman and the Asian Beach Games, which will be in December.

"It is hard to race once you stop training and especially when you are there to defend your title. It is easy to finish but near impossible to win," said Echavez, who said she will still be there to cheer on her Cebuano teammates.

The Ironman is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation covering a route of 3.86K swim, a 180.25K bike and 42.195K run.

Jopson considers Neil Catiil of Cagayan De Oro, who has been making waves in the international triathlon scene, as one of the toughest rival for the title this year, along with Filipino-American Arland Macasieb, who placed fifth last year.

"Macasieb is doing full-time triathlon, he has all the advantage, kaya I will do my best," Jopson said.

To prepare for the race, Jopson follows a strict 12-week training program. He is already halfway into it and says he will be ready by race day.

As a part of his training, Jopson will be joining another event, the "Tri-King Triathlon 2010."

It is a 2K swim-60K bike- 15K run event organized by Bike King and officiated by the Triathlon Association of the Philippines this July 25 at Matabungkay Beach Resort and Hotel Calatagan, Batangas.

"This would be a perfect tune-up for the Ironman," Jopson said.

The other Cebuanos joining Jopson in CamSur are RJ Balbuena, Eugene Sanchez, Siegfried Zarex Tura, Tyrone Tan,Gerrie Calinawan, Ralph Arche, Trino Trasmonte,Carlo Bacalla, Ric Dizon, Frederick Pahanonot, Cleve Villanueva, ,Elmer Clarabal,Ralph Martin Sios-e, Christian Cabahug, Alvin Abarquez, Jose Mari Colmenares, Ann Neric, Raymund Reel Bontol and Irineo Cases Jr.

There will also be a relay team composed of Franz Baguio, Tyrone Tan and Jane Ong.