Brown sets new world’s best, four for Kessler at Ironman New Zealand
The incomparable ‘King of Taupo’ Cameron Brown rolled back the years to clinch a record-breaking 11th Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand victory today and also improve upon his own world record to become the oldest ever winner of an IRONMAN race.
Meanwhile, in the elite women’s race American Meredith Kessler created her own slice of history by racking up her fourth race win and smash her own course record in the process to become the most successful overseas women at IRONMAN New Zealand.
Brown, who celebrates his 43rd birthday in June, executed a typically patient display, refusing to panic despite coming out of the swim in eighth 5m35s down on the leaders and at one point early in the bike ride he trailed by more than six minutes to eventually stop the clock in 8:22:12 to register his first Taupo success since 2011.
Perennial runner-up Terenzo Bozzone claimed his fourth second place finish in the race, but despite the former world champion’s success in IRONMAN 70.3 events, he has frustratingly failed so far to quite to crack the code over the full IRONMAN distance.
A dramatic finale in the race for third spot saw Christchurch’s Dylan McNeice recover a near two minute deficit at 38.4km to overhaul Aussie Alex Reithmeier to secure an all Kiwi podium in 8:38:04.
The race started at a rip-roaring pace as the top three out of the water all lowered the previous course record with McNeice leading the field in 44:25, three seconds clear of countryman Graham O’Grady with Australian Todd Skipworth third (44:31).
Bozzone enjoyed a rock-solid swim in fourth 2m27s down on McNiece with Brown back in eighth knowing he needed to put in his very best work on dry land.
On the bike, Bozzone successfully tracked down the leaders by 75km and opened up a significant lead before Brown powered home over the last 30km to plug a three-minute gap between the pair as both hit the second transition locked together out front. O’Grady trailed the pair by 1:31 in third ahead of Reithmeier in fourth.
Yet from the outset of the run Brown meant business and by 4km he opened up a 20-second lead. By halfway his advantage was in excess of three minutes from Bozzone and the victory margin in the end was an emphatic 6:40.
It was a sensational triumph for Brown who all but quit IRONMAN two years ago after a dark period in which he became disillusioned with the demands of the sport only to once again rediscover his old magic last year.
It was a special victory.
”Yes, I think it is right up there (with one my biggest wins),” admits Brown. “My first victory in 2001 was pretty cool, but when you win when you are nearly 43 it is right up there. I never thought I’d be winning this race at 42. I still love the sport. It is a tough sport and we are all in a world of pain at the moment.”
Brown admitted he was concerned after he trailed the leaders by more than five minutes after the swim. Yet he relentlessly stuck to the challenge and he was delighted to have covered the gap on Bozzone by second transition.
“I felt strong throughout the bike and managed to slowly catch up,” adds the 11-time champion. ”The wind was getting pretty strong and I rode pretty solidly. I felt bloody good coming into town with the wind behind me and managed to catch Terenzo in the last 10km. I think I needed to as he would have felt much better with a lead going into the run.”
For Bozzone it was a case of what might have been as he finished a frustrating runner-up to Brown for the fourth time at IRONMAN New Zealand.
“I wish the race could have been divided over two days and then I would have been a different feeling,” adds Bozzone. “I felt really good during the first half until about 110-120km on the bike and then the race bit me on the bum.
“You think I would have learned my lesson. It is my seventh year and I probably should have backed off a few percent going out into the wind, which would have allowed me to use that tailwind a bit more. We started the run together for the second year in a row. Then we ran 3:50 per kilometre but this I saw him knocking off 3:30-3:36 kilometres so I just backed off and got into my own groove. I felt held the run together reasonably well.”
In the women’s race Kessler led from gun to tape stopping the clock in 9::05:45 to draw level on overall victories in the women’s elite event with Kiwi icon Erin Baker and one clear of Australian Jan Wanklyn.
Wanganui-based Gina Crawford, the 2009 champion, claimed a third successive runner-up spot in this event some 20m25s adrift, after struggling with a mechanical issue with her bike.
Meanwhile, former international rower and cyclist Melanie Burke of New Zealand held off a strong challenge from American Stephanie Jones to claim the final podium spot in 9:41:50.
Kessler an outstanding swimmer held a solid 1:48 lead after leg one but effectively secured her fourth title with a blistering cycle leg – where she has opened up a massive 14:59 advantage on Crawford.
It was then all about the 36-year-old Californian chasing her own course record, which she successfully achieved despite coming into the race a little under the weather from a cold.
“Honestly the body is so crazy and so resilient,” she says of her victory despite struggling with a pre-race sickness. “During the week when I was talking like a chipmunk I was a bit nervous about how I would perform, but sometimes we need to go down a little bit to rise. I just wanted to do as well as I could and thankfully today the stars aligned and I’m very appreciative of that.
“With the conditions I certainly didn’t expect the record. The bike was so hard because of the wind and even the run on the back half of each loop the wind was brutal. I was elated to break the record. I worked out the math and for that last kilometre I sprinted as fast as I could to try to snag it.”
Elite men: Cameron Brown (NZL) 8:22.12, 1; Terenzo Bozzone (NZL) 8:28.52, 2; Dylan McNeice (NZL) 8:38.04, 3; Alex Reithmeier (AUS) 8:38.46, 4; Mike Schifferle (SUI) 8:46.32, 5; Carl Read (NZL) 8:47.40, 6; Simon Cochrane (NZL) 8:51.10, 7; Todd Skipworth (AUS) 8:55:30, 8; Chris Sanson (NZL) 8:56.05, 9; Johan Borg (AUS) 9:06.05, 10.
Elite women: Meredith Kessler (USA) Gina Crawford (NZL) 9:05.45, 1; Gina Crawford (NZL) 9:26.10, 2; Melanie Burke (NZL) 9:42.50, 3; Stephanie Jones (USA) 9:47.31, 4; Jocelyn McCauley (USA) 9:50.00, 5.