New Zealand’s top IRONMAN athlete is preparing to return to Taupō next week for New Zealand’s 37th IRONMAN Nutri-Grain, with the race taking place on Saturday 6 March.
Previous winners, rising stars and IRONMAN debut spotlight on the professional field, with athletes facing each other in a 3.8 km swimming race, a 180 km race and a 42 km run.
The constant closure of international borders means that Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand 2021 will have a distinct Kiwi feel with 13 professional IRONMAN athletes lining up for the event.
The men’s field includes previous winners Mike Phillips, Braden Currie and Cameron Brown, with former Champions lining up together and up-and-coming stars including Kyle Smith and Jack Moody.
Phillips has been on the IRONMAN New Zealand podium for the past two years, with a second finish in 2020 and a win the previous year.
“I was lucky to be at the starting line last year, I had a little injury so actually pushed him to start racing,” said Phillips. “I was lucky enough that I did because there was nothing after that for a while. We have some virtual races over the first few months which are pretty cool, a good way to stay motivated and race with other professionals, after which no one knows when the next event will be held, or what you are training for it. that’s difficult.
“It’s been a long day and a tough course, I know what I’ve been doing in the last two years there and I think I should be able to go a little faster so I’ll try and set myself up for that and if those guys beat me, they’re having a good day, “he said. “You can’t race too many of the others with a long day on the cards, it will be interesting. Cameron has done some crazy training and Kyle is doing well but hasn’t done the IRONMAN yet, it’s going to be a fun race. “
Currie finished just behind Phillips last year, and claimed victory at the event in 2017, and hopes to be at the starting line of the IRONMAN race for the first time in a year.
“IRONMAN New Zealand has always been a very special race for me,” said Currie. “I may have thought in recent years not to compete in IRONMAN New Zealand because it’s been a very long racing year, but this is a race that I can never say no. To be able to race in New Zealand with a crowd of New Zealanders is something special.
“The pitch is beautiful, tough and unforgiving and even without the international pitch you know that all the key athletes who are on the starting line are very solid athletes and are totally conditioned for this event,” he said. “It’s always a great opportunity to test myself earlier in the year and set benchmarks. I won this race on my IRONMAN debut, but I haven’t been able to get a good race since I was at IRONMAN New Zealand. It would mean a lot for me to get back out there and put what I see as a very solid race and a great performance. “
Cameron Brown knows what it takes to win at Taupō, with the 48-year-old standing on the top podium at IRONMAN New Zealand 12 times, and he is looking to return to action next weekend.
“I wouldn’t know what to do during the Kiwi summer if I didn’t train for New Zealand’s IRONMAN,” said Brown. “Part of the last 24 years has been preparing for it, the love for sports, the joy that this trip brings to March every year, it’s just an ordinary summer. If I didn’t do the New Zealand IRONMAN, I’d be messing with my thumbs and I feel pretty bored, the motivation is still pretty high right now.
“There’s a lot of talent here, Braden Currie and Mike Phillips are past champions, and we have some great young talent coming along with Kyle Smith and Jack Moody, it will be really interesting to see how they go too, it will go on to be a very field. competitive, “he said.
The women’s professional race will see multiple IRONMAN 70.3 winners Hannah Wells line up for her first IRONMAN, competing against Rebecca Clarke, Melanie Burke and Emily McNaughtan.
Wells claims victory in his last four IRONMAN 70.3 events, including the IRONMAN 70.3 Taupō in 2019, and he hopes to step up to the IRONMAN distance.
“I didn’t know to be my first IRONMAN, new training for me and long distance quite new, I’m usually not a large volume athlete, we have to manage the load quite carefully,” said Wells. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job, I’ve had some great sessions now, hopefully all the hard work is over and I’m ready to go.
“I think IRONMAN New Zealand has a really cool atmosphere, I’ve been there a few times, it’s a really cool show and the community supports it, has a huge history and with Maori welcome, there’s a lot of feeling,” he said. part of it as my first IRONMAN will be very special. I will know a lot of people out there who are going to race in New Zealand, it will be a very special day and I feel very lucky to be a part of it. “
Emily McNaughtan will also enter her first IRONMAN contest next weekend, with the Wellington-based athlete tasting the course at IRONMAN 70.3 Taupō.
“I’m really excited, I’m getting excited now that it’s getting closer,” said McNaughtan. “I like the atmosphere at Taupō, it’s my favorite race, I’m really happy to be out there. There are so many supporters on the track and they give you a real boost when you are tired and I thought I would need them while running. “
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