Preview - Lost Sheep National Middle Distance Champs 2017 While our elite athletes and dozens of Age Groupers battle it out against the rest of the world at Rotterdam this weekend, domestic attention will be focused on one of the toughest challenges of the triathlon calendar with the Lost Sheep Middle Distance event in Kenmare.This year sees the 15th staging of the race, which has an impressive back catalogue of winners and is hosting the National Middle Distance Championships for the second year in a row.The Course & CoverageThe Lost Sheep takes place on a famously tough course, that sees competitors cycle over two category one mountain passes on the Beara Peninsula on a gruelling 83km bike leg before an equally tough 21km run on a hilly course around Kenmare.Racing gets underway at 07:45am with one single wave. Triathlon Ireland will be covering the race live on Facebook with updates on twitter throughout the morning. Men’s PreviewWith former winner Bryan McCrystal unlikely to race this weekend and defending champion Aidan Callaghan not on the start list, the men’s field appears quite an open affair.There are three former winners on the start line tomorrow - Shane Scully, Charles Maltha and Owen Cummins.Having spent a number of years out of the sport through injury, Scully made a return to racing this summer and has shown good form, finishing second to Aichlinn O’Reilly at Sligo TC’s National Series race in July. Scully has an all round strong game but is especially adept at running off the bike so won’t necessarily need to come in to T2 in the lead to be in contention for victory.Charles Maltha won the Lost Sheep back in 2014 and knows every inch of the course. He finished 4th and 5th in the past two editions. Maltha always produces a strong bike - if he can match that with a comparable run on the day, he could be heading for the top again.Former winner Owen Cummins has been quiet in recent years but has the undoubted talent to repeat his 2011 victory.Aichlinn O’Reilly hasn’t ever raced the Lost Sheep before, but despite this heads in to the race as probably the strongest of the field. O’Reilly has done a lot of racing in 2017 - from fantastic Super Series performances to a podium result at the National Standard Distance Championships and a clutch of middle distance victories, such as the Lough Cutra event back in May. O’Reilly can swim and bike as quickly as anyone in the field but might need a head start over some of his rivals heading out on to the run.Other names to watch include the always solid Ruaidhri Geraghty, DCT national series winner James Hoare, Cork Tri’s Mark Nolan, strong runner Brendan Murphy and Brendan Buck.Women’s FieldDefending champion Heather Foley is the most notable name on the start list in the women’s field but her presence isn’t guaranteed due to family commitments.Even in her absence, there is real depth in the women’s race.2013 winner Joyce Wolfe has an all round ability across the three disciplines. She was the runner up last year and knows what it takes to win.Kim Hickey and Marie Triona Keane finished 2nd and 3rd respectively in the 2015 running of the race. Hickey finished second to Heather Foley at the Standard Distance Champs at the start of last month and looks to be in great form. Olympian Sinead Lynch finished on the podium at Hell of the West this year and performed exceptionally well at Dublin 70.3.Although she hasn’t raced domestically as much as some of her rivals, Aine Donegan has results that suggest she will be vying for the top position. Most notably, she came home 5th at Ironman Dublin 70.3 in August. Former Irish National Champion Derval Devaney last raced in the 2016 edition of the Lost Sheep where she finished 6th.Jennifer Duffy returned to triathlon after a number of years absence with a superb second placed finish at Sligo Hazelwood while Rachel Hawker makes her domestic debut with an event just a few kms from where she grew up. A fixture on the Super Series scene in 2015 and 2016, Hawker has confined her racing to the UK where she studies this year and where she won the AG event at the Leeds WTS triathlon.