Strongest Lineup of Kiwi Men in Years at Ironman
Strongest Lineup of Kiwi Men in Years at Ironman New Zealand
The men’s race at Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand shapes as one of the most competitive in years, and the majority of the big contenders fly the Kiwi flag as the locals start to flex their IRONMAN muscle like never before.
It is fitting that the men’s field is so deep and the Kiwis so strong, as IRONMAN New Zealand celebrates 20 years in Taupo, 35 years in total and IRONMAN celebrates its 40th anniversary at Kona, with Pro and amateur athletes alike keen on securing a start in October this year.
Heading that Kiwi list is defending champion Braden Currie (Wanaka). After finishing second at Challenge Wanaka a week and a half ago, the 30-year-old is feeling great in mind and body as he approaches one of his favourite events.
"The summer has been epic so far. I've really enjoyed all of the events on my calendar and it's been nice to be able to train at home in Wanaka.
"Racing last weekend in a half distance was a great chance for me to have a good hit out before IRONMAN New Zealand next weekend in Taupo. IRONMAN New Zealand is a very special event for me. Taupo turns it on, it's a beautiful place and I am looking forward to heading up there and having some downtime with my family, as much as I am also looking forward to racing."
Ironman New Zealand has been Currie's focus event for the summer. Moments after finishing the IRONMAN World Championships at Kona last October, Currie announced his commitment to return in 2018. Since then his focus has been on building on the endurance base he developed from Kona last year, staying healthy and building speed on the run.
"After a solid summer of consistent training I am feeling really good going into my biggest event of the New Zealand summer.
"After racing Kona last year and having a few setbacks but also a lot of learning, I am hoping to go back again this year and have the chance to race the race. Last year was brutal, but I don't mind the suffer fest that comes with this event."
BROWN LINES UP FOR 20TH YEAR IN
TAUPO LOOKING FOR WIN NUMBER 13
Leading the challengers to Currie’s crown is a man who has won it 12 times already. Now 45, Cameron Brown is the King of Taupo, and has no plans to let father time or anyone else tell him he can’t contend again.
“I still have the mindset of wanting to win and achieve my goals just like I did when I first started doing Ironman. My motivation comes from different things now as well, doing well for my family, putting food on the table! Trying to beat the younger guys.
“Training has gone very well and there have been no hiccups at all! I enjoyed a solid race at the Port of Tauranga in January with a 3rd place. My normal IRONMAN buildup is always good when there are no injuries or illnesses so that's a big help.”
Brown is better placed than most to comment on the 20-year anniversary in Taupo, he has won here 12 times and started every one of the previous 19 races.
“The event has grown from 700-800 athletes in the first year and a small crowd of supporters to close to 2000 athletes, fantastic crowd support and a huge volunteer base, so the Taupo community has really got behind the event. Those last few kilometres along the Taupo lake front are amazing on race day and really one of the best finishes in the world.
“It's a super strong Kiwi field this year though with Braden, Terenzo, Mike, Dougal, Dylan, Callum, Simon and Guy, and then the overseas pros with Cyril, Jan and Joe. Some great swimmers, bikers and runners so it will be one tough race to win!”
Terenzo Bozzone (Auckland) will likely be a huge factor on race day, while the still only 32-year-old is yet to win Taupo, he has stood on the podium five times since his 2008 debut and is respected worldwide as a competitor. After enduring an interrupted first half to 2017, Bozzone came good in the latter part of the year, with a sixth-place finish at Kona suggesting the best is yet to come from the likeable long striding Aucklander.
Dylan McNeice might be the ‘sleeper’ in the field, after missing 2017 due to hip surgery, the fiercely determined Christchurch athlete can’t wait to get back to Taupo.
“I have been looking forward to racing back at Taupo for two years now. I am more motivated than ever and feel as though I am stronger and fitter than ever and have been super happy with my form leading in to this weekend. However, I will need every bit of fitness, strength, and form come race day with every Kiwi under the sun racing it seems!”
All of the internationals must be respected, but the one to watch is last year’s third place finisher Cyril Veinnot (FRA). The Frenchman posted a 2:43marathon in 2017, beaten only by the indefatigable Brown, a repeat on the back of an improved swim and bike will have him in the chase. The race has a proud history of overseas athletes on the podium, and despite the strength of the Kiwis, it wouldn’t surprise to see one or two of the foreign legion in the top three come Saturday afternoon