Preview Lost Sheep Triathlon The country's best middle distance athletes are heading to the Kerry this weekend to battle it out for the title of Middle Distance National Champion at the spectacular Lost Sheep triathlon.The Lost Sheep has grown steadily in status over the past decade - a growth that has been reflected in the calibre of athletes taking part. This year's field looks to be the most competitive yet, with a host of number of past winners, former national champions and an Ironman 70.3 European champion on the start list.The 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.Men's RaceLast year's winner Bryan McCrystal returns to defend his title this year and heads in to the race with superb form. McCrystal won the Lost Sheep by more than 10mins in 2015 and judging from this season thus far, the former professional footballer is even stronger this time around.He has steadily improved his swim and run in recent years without loosing any of his incredible biking power. Just last month McCrystal finished a very close second at Ironman 70.3 Dublin - despite starting the race from back in the Age Group field. McCrystal has qualified for this year's Ironman World Championships at Kona and the Lost Sheep will most likely be his final race before he heads to Hawaii.While McCrystal is a familiar face at the Lost Sheep, 2016's wildcard is surely Ritchie Nicholls. The former ITU elite athlete has a long list of impressive results to his name, including victory at the ITU Stratclyde European Cup, silver at the junior Duathlon World Championships and two top ten finishes at the ETU Middle Distance European Championships.In recent years Nicholls has concentrated on middle and iron-distance racing and among his victories are the 2013 Ironman 70.3 UK (beating Tim Don in the process) and the 70.3 Wiesbaden European Championships in which he beat Olympic gold medalist and future Ironman world champion Jan Frodeno in to 2nd place.Also in the field are last year's 2nd and 3rd placed athletes Owen Martin and Mariusz Olejnicjak. Less than 30secs separated the two men at the finish line last year so both will no doubt be gunning to renew their rivalry in 2016. Former winner Charles Maltha and multiple podium athlete Trevor Woods are also on the start list and will both have a say in the final outcome, as should Mark Nolan who has also podiumed at the Lost Sheep. Women's Field Aileen Flynn starts this year's race as defending champion and knows the course inside out, having won the Lost Sheep in 2014 as well.She will have to contend with Katie Cooke - winner in 2012 and Joyce Wolfe who won the race the year before, making the women's race very hard to call.Also present is the current National Duathlon Champ and leading woman in this year's Super Series Heather Foley. Foley is coming back from a break after a busy early part of the season and should be well rested and primed to challenge for the overall win.And it doesn't stop there, with reigning Middle Distance National Champion Derval Devaney present to defend the title she won in Athlone last year.Add to this the presence of Caoimhe Ni Mhurchú, Aine Donegan and Annemarie Power and the women's field has real depth.Mintern Guest Hosts TI MediaReigning Middle Distance Champion Chris Mintern will be tweeting from the Triathlon Ireland twitter account and covering the race live via our facebook page. Racing starts at 7am with the first athletes expected to cross the line about four hours later.