Photo: Ironman

By Kent Gray/
Mike Phillips is relishing the chance to quickly forget his tough Ironman New Zealand in Taupo with another title defence in Geelong on Sunday.

The 33-year-old is the titleholder and top seed for Sunday’s Ironman 70.3 Geelong. Sam Osborne and fellow Cantabrian Tom Somerville are other Kiwis set to start the1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run test.

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Phillips won the race in 3:40:00 last year, less than a minute clear of South Australian Steve McKenna who again shapes as the Kiwi’s fiercest rival.

McKenna won ANZCO Foods Ironman NZ on a day when Phillips struggled in choppy Lake Taupo, recovered to lead off the bike before fading on the run. The reason became apparent in Phillips’ preview interview for Geelong.

“I was feeling great leading into IRONMAN New Zealand, but unfortunately I was a bit under the weather on race day,” he said.

“It didn’t take too long for the muscles to recover but I have had a few easy weeks to make sure I am 100 percent for Geelong.”

Phillips’ strategy will be fascinating on Sunday. Silver medals at the Tauranga Half and Challenge Wanaka show he’s on the cusp if his body co-operates.

“Geelong was a bit of a bonus race for me last year after a big summer of racing.I knew I was biking well and was happy to take some risks, the strategy paid off with a five-minute lead starting the run, it was more than I hoped for and meant I could run a bit more conservatively.   

“It’s great to see a lot of the familiar faces on the start list [this year] but also some new ones. I think some of the new faces will bring a different dynamic to the race and it will make it a much more exciting race.”

Steve McKenna won Geelong in 2021 and has been the runner-up the past two editions.

McKenna’s Ironman NZ win is a massive boost heading into Geelong.

“I take a lot of confidence in my improvements each year at the IRONMAN distance, with New Zealand being my best performance yet,” said McKenna.

The Adelaide endurance star knows what it takes to be successful in Geelong, finishing second at the last two editions and winning back in 2021.

“I love a sea water swim, an exposed bike course at times and cooler weather for fast running,” he said. “Hoping for wind, cool conditions with a chance of a robot [his race winning dance].

“I’m expecting blows in the swim, bike and run racing athletes with different strengths that cover each discipline. I think a well-rounded athlete wins a race like this, and I’m confident I’ll come in tapered enough to bring my A game and be that athlete.”

IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong – Professional Men’s Start List
31. Mike Phillips (New Zealand)
32. Steve McKenna (Australia)
33. Nicholas Free (Australia)
34. Nick Thompson (Australia)
35. Mitch Kibby (Australia)
36. Caleb Noble (Australia)
37. Tim Van Berkel (Australia)
38. Henrik Goesch (Finland)
39. Charlie Quin (Australia)
40. Kurt McDonald (Australia)
41. Calvin Amos (Australia)
42. Joe Begbie (Australia)
43. Thomas Bishop (Great Britain)
44. Nathan Dortmann (Australia)
45. David Fawkes (Australia)
46. Levi Hauwert (Australia)
47. Matthias Hohlrieder (Austria)
48. Hamish Longmuir (Australia)
49. Jarrod Osborne (Australia)
50. Sam Osborne (New Zealand)
51. Harry Sinclair (Australia)
52. Tom Somerville (New Zealand)
53. Benjamin Stern (USA)
54. Martin Ulloa (Chile)
55. Benjamin Zorgnotti (French Polynesia)

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