Images: Korupt Vision

By Kent Gray/
Sometimes you simply have to doff your cap to a better athlete on the day.

That was the case for brave Braden Currie on Sunday after the Kiwi was denied an historic 4th Ironman Cairns title by Aussie Matt Burton – despite eclipsing his own course record from last year at the duel Cairns Airport-sponsored Asia Pacific Championships.

Burton had a day of days, smashing more than 10 minutes off pro cyclist Cam Wurf’s long-standing Cairns bike record en route to winning in 7:45:24. Currie finished 3min 34secs adrift with fast-finishing Cantabrian Mike Phillips third a further 22secs down.

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The Perth 36-year-old’s time – including his incredible 4:05:54 split for the 180km ride – beat Currie’s winning 2023 mark of 7:50:11 by nearly five minutes. It was even more remarkable given the Western Australian spent a combined four weeks in hospital earlier this year to save a foot after a scary bone infection.

“Matt had a phenomenal day and really cool to see, he works incredibly hard and he put it out there, rolled the dice, took the gamble [on the bike] and yeah kept on waiting for the moment he’d walk [on the run] but he didn’t so I just did what I could today,” Currie said.

Currie ran a 2:41:53 marathon compared to Burton’s 2:44:08 but had too much to make up off the bike. Confusion in T2, when Currie couldn’t locate his bag as he was looking in the female section, slowed him momentarily. But truth was, his bike split was 11 minutes slower than Burton and the Aussie clearly hadn’t used up all his energy.

“I was hanging out for it to be honest [notification that Burton was walking on the run] the way I was feeling. I knew sort of after 25k that I probably wasn’t going to run him down unless he detonated so yeah, I didn’t have a lot more left in the tank and he held it together.

“Most of the day was really good actually but the run didn’t flow for me. It definitely felt like I was pushing hard to run that pace.”

Burton collected the maximum 5000 points on offer with Currie scooping a provisional 4786. That gets in back into the new Ironman Pro Series after his DNF at Ironman Texas and a year of struggle. A slot at October’s Vinfast Ironman World Championships in Kona was a nice consolation too.

“To be honest, I’m just happy to get one under the belt and get a marathon under the belt and in some ways,” he said.

“Matt deserved the win today. He took charge of the race and rode away from all of us half way through the bike and then polished it off with a solid run. I’ll take a happy 2nd here today. Good to see Mike Phillips round out the podium and looks like we are all going to Kona. It’s good to have a good race under the belt and the monkey off the back.”

Next up for Currie? The Wanaka resident has squeezed July’s Ironman Lake Placid into his year after failing to gain any points in Texas. If nothing else, it will be a good hit out before his quest to finally conquer Kona on October 26.

“Five weeks and I’m strangely looking forward to it,” Currie said of Lake Placid on July 21.

A timing clip malfunction meant Phillips got little coverage on the Ironman Pro Series live stream on Sunday and caught the commentators unaware as he crossed the line in 7:49:21 to also eclipse Currie’s the 2023 record.

A 2:42:32 marathon enabled him to run down Frenchman Arnaud Guilloux but the Cantabrian didn’t quite have enough runway to catch Currie.

The bronze was still an impressive high point in Phillips’ consisent year which has included podiums the Tauranga Half (2nd) and Challenge Wanaka (3rd) and 4th at Ironman New Zealand.

Lessons learned in Cairns last year, where Phillips faded with a 3:04:45 marathon en-route to 5th, certainly helped.

“Last year I found it really hot here. It’s sort of getting pretty cold at home, we’ve had a few chilly mornings, so coming across to here is sort of a shock to the system,” Phillips said.

“Last year I really slowed up on the run, so I took a more conservative approach and thought it might pay off on the run which…yeah, I mean, disappointed to be only 20 seconds behind 2nd but to get past [Guilloux] and on to the podium was pretty cool.”

So too was seeing pal Burton take the top step of the podium.

“I’ve raced a lot with Matt and Braden and Matt’s one of my best mates, we’ve trained together for many years now and he’s had quite a lot of good races in Busselton [Ironman Western Australia] but never away from there so it’s so awesome to see him win a top-tier race like this.”

IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns – Men’s Results

  1. Matt Burton – 7:45:24
  2. Braden Currie – 7:48:59
  3. Mike Phillips – 7:49:21
  4. Arnoud Guilloux – 7:50:59
  5. Tristan Olij – 7:54:32
  6. Joe Skipper – 7:56:51
  7. Mitch Kibby – 7:57:59
  8. Greg Barnaby – 7:58:30
  9. Nick Thompson – 8:07:15
  10. Josh Amberger – 8:08:24

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