LAUNCESTON triathlete Joe Gambles is being heavily tipped as a potential winner of this weekend's 70.3 world championship in Las Vegas.
Fresh from a hugely successful US season, and with three top-five finishes already at the event, the 31-year-old has headed to Nevada full of confidence.
And it is a sentiment shared by the sport's observers.
Ironman commentator and pro triathlete Matt Lieto was full of praise ahead of tomorrow's race, named after its total mileage from the 1.2-mile (1.9km) swim, 56-mile (90km) bike and 13.1-mile (21km) run.
Some 2000 elite athletes will contest the race but Lieto believes Boulder-based Gambles is well placed to take on the likes of defending champion Sebastian Kienle, of Germany, and make a step up from his fifth place finishes of 2009 and 2011 and fourth in 2010.
Writing on the event website, Lieto named Craig Alexander, Bevan Docherty and Brent McMahon as favourites but selected Gambles as his ``dark horse''.
``This one's only a dark horse because you wouldn't think a man that looks this good could be so fast,'' he said.
``Joe has raced below his potential on this course, but seems to have moved his season around in order to nail his best performance yet.
``He needs to swim well, but his dynamic riding style and great hill running could easily put him on the podium.''
The opinion was shared on other triathlon websites with Liz Hichens, writing for triathlete.com, among those also tipping Gambles to podium.
The former Kings Meadows High student, who will wear bib No. 7 when the event begins with a swim in Lake Las Vegas, has been in impressive form.
Gambles won several 70.3 events on the US circuit this year and said his thought on crossing the finish line to clinch his third straight victory in Boulder was ``Bring on Vegas.''
``All of my focus is on Vegas,'' he said.
``After three top-five finishes at these championship races I am driven to podium this year.''