Star Aussies set to challenge defending champ at Ironman
IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo has attracted a strong contingent of Australians keen to come and see what all the fuss is about on the course that recently was named to host the 2020 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships, with 2016 World Champion Tim Reed and multiple 2018 winner Sam Appleton leading a green and gold challenge to defending champion Mike Phillips (Christchurch).
News of the 2020 World Championship hosting has certainly been a boost to the already popular event, with overall entries exceeding the 1,000 mark. And the leading professionals are not immune to that attraction, with a high-quality field assembled in Taupo for the race on Saturday morning.
33-year-old Reed is one of the sports more consistent athletes, with 11 70.3 career victories, including that 2016 World Championship title, the popular Australian returns after some years to a familiar race venue. While he has not raced in the 70.3 event, he has twice been to Taupo for IRONMAN New Zealand in 2004 and 2012.
“I have very fond memories of racing in Taupo. My first Ironman and second triathlon was Ironman New Zealand many years ago and remains one of my all-time best racing experiences. The beauty of Taupo and enthusiasm of the locals makes it a very attractive race destination.
“My training coming in has been very good and I hope to be at or near the front of the race in the closing stages of the event.”
Kiwi Mike Phillips is not going to give up his title without a fight though, and despite a year beset by injury, the strong Christchurch athlete is ready to go on Saturday.
“I have had a few injuries this
year, which has resulted in a bit of a rollercoaster season.
My big goal was to get to Kona and experience the IRONMAN
World Champs. That was just over a month ago and I have had
a bit of time off, but I have got in a few good weeks of
training and will be giving it everything in Taupo.
“I love to race at home and having friends/family/supporters racing and on the sidelines is a huge boost. Taupo is also a great part of New Zealand, so it’s a good excuse to get back there! I also feel an obligation to go back try and defend any titles I have won, it’s easy to win something once but to produce year after year great performances is challenging.”
Aussie Sam Appleton will wear the number 3 bib on Saturday, but might carry race favourite form into the event, with victories already this year in Geelong, Santa Rosa and Los Cabos, and a runner up finish at Western Sydney a fortnight ago.
“I have had a really successful year so far with three 70.3 wins and multiple podiums. I was also really proud of my 6th place finish at 70.3 World Championships in South Africa in September. My training has been going quite well, and I am hoping to show that form in Taupo and perhaps add a 4th win for the year! I have had some recent confidence boosters with a win at Los Cabos 70.3 earlier this month and 2nd at Western Sydney and I am hoping to continue that run of good form into Taupo.”
Appleton is one of many athletes lured by the thought of seeing the 2020 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship course for the first time.
“I've heard many great things about the 70.3 in Taupo over the last few years and I have always wanted to race, but it has never really fit in with my scheduling. This year I made it work and put it on my radar a few months ago.
“The 70.3 World Championships are also going to be held in Taupo in 2020 and I am interested in coming to race at the venue and make myself familiar with the course and town of Taupo.”
In all there are nine Australians in the men’s pro field on Saturday, with Phillips and Mark Bowstead leading the Kiwi hopes, along with local Taupo pro Cameron Paul. Canadian athletes Loren Nelson and Elliot Bach also line up looking for a place on the podium. The men’s pro race gets underway with a deep water start in the Lake near the Yacht Club at 6.15am on Saturday.
The women’s pro preview will follow later today.
IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo
Bib #1. Mike Phillips, 27 years old, NZL, (Christchurch)
• Current IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo champion
• 2018: 2 70.3 Bintan, 4 IM Switzerland, 5 IMNZ, 16 World Champs
2. Sam Appleton, 27, AUS
• 2018: 1 70.3 Geelong, 1 70.3 Santa Rosa, 1 70.3 Los Cabos, 2 70.3 Western Sydney, 6 70.3 World Champs
3. Tim Reed, 33, AUS
• 2016 IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion
• 2018: 1 70.3 Vietnam, 2 70.3 Davao, 3 70.3 Oceanside, 1 70.3 Sunshine Coast, 18 World Champs
6. Mark Bowstead 28, NZL, (Waiuku)
• 3 2018 IRONMAN Australia (fastest swim and bike)
• 8 2018 IRONMAN 70.3 Switzerland
• 8 IRONMAN European Championships, Frankfurt
7 David Mainwaring, 28, AUS
• 2018: 4 70.3 Western Sydney
8 Casey Munro, 33, AUS
• 2018: 3 70.3 Western Sydney
Steven McKenna, AUS
10 Carl Read, AUS
11 Elliot Bach, CAN
12 Matt Lewis, AUS
14 Nathan Miller, AUS
15 Loren Nelson, CAN
16 Cameron Paul, 28, NZL (Taupo)
17 Fraser Walsh, AUS
IRONMAN Taupo 70.3 - event
Saturday 8 December
• 5:00am Transition open (Northern Domain)
• 6:15am Male Professional start (adjacent to Taupo Yacht Club)
• 6:18am Female Professional start
• 6:24am Age group start (in waves)
• 3:30pm Awards presentation
IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo - by the
• Total participants 1,005
• Male: 629 (62.59%)
• Female: 376 (37.41%)
• Average age 40
• Median age 40
• Oldest 79 – Brian Boyle
• Youngest 18 – Chris Johnson
Top participant locations by country
• New Zealand 824
• Australia 89
• United States 23
• United Kingdom 10
• Canada 7
Representation by region from New
• Auckland 295
• Waikato 137
• Wellington 125
• Bay of Plenty 75
• Manawatu 53
• Canterbury 38
• Taranaki 37
• Hawkes Bay 20
Representation by Tri Club
• Sweat 7 Coaching 26
• Wellington Triathlon Club 25
• Boost Coaching 21