By Kent Gray/Triathlon.kiwi
Beyond being the older brother of reigning Ironman New Zealand champion Mike, online intel on the other Phillips’ boy lining up in Sunday’s US$375,000 VinFast IRONMAN World Championship is scarce.
It’s hardly a surprise when you discover Cantabrian Ben Phillips juggles his love of long distance triathlon alongside the pressures of managing his own structural engineering business and the relatively new duties of fatherhood.
Not that a schedule of just one or two big races a year has proven a hindrance.
Ben qualified for his maiden 226km world championship by finishing 6th at June’s Ironman Cairns, a place behind bro Mike. The winner in Cairns, record-smashing Braden Currie, will ensure three Kiwis on Sunday’s start line in Nice (from 4.50pm NZT).
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“I’m proud to be representing New Zealand at the World Champs in the professional category,” Ben said.
“New Zealand has a great history in Ironman racing and it’s becoming a popular event that a lot of New Zealanders enjoy competing in and supporting, so to be here is a proud achievement.”
While Currie has prepped for the Côte d’Azur test in Noosa and St Moritz and Mike has ticked off seven races and a stint of training out of Girona, Ben’s build-up has been more akin to your average weekend warrior. Indeed you have to dig deep to find info and results (he was fourth, just behind Jack Moody at last year’s Ironman Australia, for example) beyond his Instagram page.
“Since qualifying in Cairns in June I have been based at home in Christchurch. I have focused on have a consistent block of training week to week and the cold winter months haven’t been too bad. I am in good shape and ready to race,” he said.
“Performing well would be satisfying, to justify the commitment and sacrifices my family made to make this happen. I have a young family and a business so juggling everything is a team effort and I’d really like to perform well for them back home.”
Ben expects his brother and Currie to be right in the mix but will be ready if either slip.
“My main goal for the race is to get my pacing and nutrition right to put out the best performance I can for my potential. I’m looking forward to racing in a large elite field and mixing it with the best endurance athletes in the world.
“Both Braden and Mike are top athletes who on their day could have a really good chance of a top performance in Nice. I think the course could suit them both but if they get it wrong on the day, I’ll be aiming to take them down.”
Mike Phillips, meanwhile, likes what he sees from the hilly bike course in Nice.
The 32-year-old is in a good space having finished second at the Ironman 70.3 European Championship in Tallinn, Estonia on August 6 to go with this Ironman NZ Ironman and 70.3 Geelong victories this season.
A mechanical enforced WD at the PTO Asian Open on August 20 was a frustrating final hit-out but Phillips’ Jnr is confident of eclipsing his two previous world championship results: 39th in 2019 and 16th the previous year.
“Nice is quite a different course to what we have raced on previously. The bike course is very hilly… [it could] be approx. 45 minutes longer than normal with the hills so that should suit me well,” Mike said.
“Championship races always tend to be very fast initially, so it will be a fine line between staying in touch and pacing yourself for later in the race. If I execute a race to the numbers I am capable of, I will be happy and think I can be a fair way up the field.”
It’s not just the bike course, with its 2400m of elevation, where Mike expects fireworks with the marathon along the fabled Promenade des Anglais expected to be fast.
“It doesn’t have the heat factor that Kona has, so we may see some very fast run times. It is a unique race.”