Taupo turned on a stunner of a day and winners Mike Phillips (New Zealand) and Radka Kahlefeldt (Czech Republic) turned on the style with commanding post to post victories at IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo today, the venue set to host the 2020 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships.
Phillips backed up his victory 12 months ago, but this was all the sweeter after the 2017 race was effectively a duathlon, with the waters of Lake Taupo ruled out through an algal bloom. There were no such worries on a beautiful day in the central North Island, with Taupo at her finest for all three disciplines.
Phillips (Canterbury) was delighted to have beaten such a quality field in a time of 3:52:56, with Casey Munro (Australia) second and former IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion Tim Reed coming home third.
“Last year was a duathlon and wasn’t quite the same, but to come back and do it over the swim bike run format is pretty cool. This year has been tough with a few injuries and a bike crash and having the pressure to race to get points for Kona. I haven’t really had a block of training like I have in the past so to come here and perform like this is cool.”
It was a four strong train on the bike, with Mark Bowstead (New Zealand) joining Munro, Reed and Phillips to set a torrid pace.
“We got away early in the swim and we were all similar ability. On the bike Mark was strong but not quite strong enough to shake us off. I knew I had to have a quick transition and run out hard to keep Tim in check because I know he starts fast and is a strong runner, I just tried to keep as close as I could for as long as I could.”
The Cantabrian did more than that, resisting the early surges of Reed to eventually crack the Aussie with 7km to go. Even his race suit struggled to survive, a broken zipper leaving the 27-year old’s upper body open to the elements.
“To do it on the run is special, that has been a weakness of mine for a few years, so it is pleasing to see it is still improving.”
Munro ran into second past a tiring Reed.
“I felt good the first few k of the run, but struggle din the middle patch until about five or six k to go and got another wind, that was probably the best I felt the whole race in that period. I knew I had third sewn up so if I blew up I wouldn’t lose third, but could gain a second place so there was nothing to lose.
“I went super, super deep to get to Tim and then had to try and get rid of him, but yeah, that hurt a lot.”
Reed held on for third, saying he just didn’t have the legs to go with Phillips today.
“That was a great race from Mike, he was strong and that was impressive. It is always great to race in front of your home crowd, so I am happy for him, sometimes it is just the way the game goes.
“I just felt super dizzy and really blew up out there, I am a bit surprised as I don’t think that has happened to me before in a 70.3. But it was a lovely day and good competition. I am a little disappointed at absolutely exploding out on the run, but it is late season and you cling on to what fitness you have, I am just glad now I can have a break.”
In the women’s race it was the most dominant 70.3 athlete on the planet over the past six months who simply smashed the field, with Radka Kahlefeldt (nee Vodickova) emerging from the water to ride the 90km in close attendance with eventual third place finisher Rebecca Clarke (New Zealand), before running away to the title on her first visit to New Zealand.
To make it even more impressive for the now five-time winner in 2018, she wasn’t necessarily at her best.
“Normally I love the bike, but I couldn’t find power. I pushed hard but couldn’t find it as my legs were frozen and it took me some time to warm up. I think I wasted a lot of energy for the first 30k riding just to warm up and after that I couldn’t push any more watts.
“I knew that Jocelyn was chasing hard, I had a lead of three minutes after the swim and someone updated me at the end of the bike to just 45 seconds. I have never raced Jocelyn but knew she was a good runner, so I wasn’t happy with such a small lead and didn’t know what to expect going on the run. I was lucky I had the running legs today though, so that was good.”
Kahlefeldt had already committed to coming to Taupo before IRONMAN announced the venue would host the 2020 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship, but that news has made her visit all the sweeter.
“I had decided to race here before the World Championship news but congratulations to Taupo on winning the 2020 World Championship, I think it is going to be amazing. I am happy I checked out the place for sure.
“2018 has been the best year in my life. Starting in January having baby Ruby, that is the best thing, then an amazing season which I didn’t expect, everything has been amazing.”
McCauley was full of praise for the flying Czech but admitted to a rookie error that left her too much work to do out of the water today.
“Radka had an amazing race today and literally ran away with it, but I made a rookie error today.
“I never swim with my tri-suit up, but I was talking with my husband prior to the start and did everything up without thinking and got into my wetsuit. I got in the water and thought ‘why can’t I reach forward’ and was trying to readjust my wetsuit and it wasn’t until coming out of the water and I unzipped my wetsuit that I realized what I had done.”
The American continues her love affair with Taupo though, singing its praises for the way the community welcomes the athletes and the event into town.
“Today was just gorgeous, a little chilly in the morning but nothing to worry about. I just love this community, it is amazing, I love, love, love Taupo. Even out on the ride out on Broadlands they are out on their driveways cheering us on, I love the way they embrace us here.”
After swimming and riding alongside Kahlefeldt, Clarke knew she would face a challenge to hold off the fast charging McCauley but was over the moon with her podium.
“The power plan with the coach kind of went out the window, I was just like this is a chance to get ahead of the other girls. I wish I could have worked a bit more at the front, but I was just saying to myself maybe stay here for 30k, then 40k. Radka is such a world class athlete, I can’t believe I stayed with her on the bike, it was amazing really.”
In all today saw over 1,000 competitors of all ages and all backgrounds compete and achieve to their own goals and objectives
IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo
1 Mike Phillips, New Zealand, 3:52:56
2 Casey Munro, Australia, 3:55:32
3 Tim Reed, Australia, 3:56:12
4 Mark Bowstead, New Zealand, 3:59:35
5 Jack Moody, New Zealand, 4:01:31
1 Radka Kahlefeldt (nee Vodickova), Czech Republic, 4:20:47
2 Jocelyn McCauley, USA, 4:26:51
3 Rebecca Clarke, New Zealand, 4:30:35
4 Amanda Wilson, Australia, 4:42:06
5 Karen Toulmin, New Zealand, 5:01:00
Photo Credit : Tim Bardsley-Smith