Currie dominates IRONMAN NZ on debut
In his debut IRONMAN, Subaru Brand Ambassador Braden Currie notched up the biggest win of his career, to became only the third Kiwi to ever win the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand in Taupo today.
After a dominant run to the finish tape, nearly four minutes ahead of some of the biggest players in the game, finishing in 8hours:20mins:57secs, Currie (30) surprised not only the stellar pro field, which included runner-up and 12-time champion Cameron Brown (8:24:31) and third-placed Cyril Viennot, of France (8:25:42), but also himself.
“It was amazing. I never expected it. I came here just to figure it out in order to race it really well next year and I don’t know if I could come back and race it as well as I did today,” an ecstatic Currie says.
Currie joins the illustrious company of only two other New Zealanders to have won IRONMAN New Zealand, 44-year-old Brown, and double Olympic medal winner Bevan Docherty. This momentous achievement was even more exceptional considering Wanaka-based Currie has had a full, off-road race schedule over the past two months - winning Red Bull Defiance in January and finishing runner-up in the Coast to Coast just three weeks ago.
Transitioning back to on-road racing to achieve this emphatic win, Currie began his 226km IRONMAN New Zealand campaign in commanding fashion. He refused to let the choppy lake conditions slow him down and swam the 3.8km lake course in 48mins:10secs, exiting the water only 10secs behind the early leader Estonian pro athlete Marko Albert, who won this event in 2014.
A westerly wind buffeted the two-loop 180km bike course and although Kiwi pro and 2016 IRONMAN Western Australia champion, Terenzo Bozzone initially opened up a lead on the field, Currie hunted him down.
At the 138km mark, IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion Bozzone’s advantage over Currie was 5mins:48secs but by the transition to the 42.2km three-loop run course through the forests, the Subaru of New Zealand-backed dynamo had whittled that down to a mere 2mins:17secs.
It set the scene for an exciting marathon and once on his trademark fleet feet, Currie struck out at lightening pace. At 9.3km he was officially 11 seconds clear of Bozzone and at not even a quarter distance on the run, suddenly the race was looking very promising for the multi-sport star.
At the 14.2km mark Currie's lead had extended to 37 seconds from Bozzone and he continued to stretch out a comfortable margin over the chasing pack.
“I knew I could run fast but I didn’t know how consistent I would be on the last half of the marathon and I was definitely running scared knowing this guy [Brown] will just keep the same pace, the same turn-over the whole time,” Currie says.
While the other podium places were fought out far behind him, Currie charged on for the win, spurred on by the “incredible atmosphere” generated by the crowd, he says.
“I had to dig real deep for the last 4km and keep turning it over and I got there.”
Currie’s coach Bevan McKinnon labelled the win as “one for the ages” and “probably the most impressive victory with the field that was here.”
“For him to do essentially a solo ride and put himself in striking distance to a guy [Bozzone] who has gone sub-eight hours is just incredible. Braden then attacked Terenzo and broke him then did what he needed to to,” McKinnon says.
“What he has done today, is something he needs to be incredibly proud of.”
Currie has never raced this event before but is a two-time consecutive IRONMAN Taupo 70.3 champion.
The IRONMAN New Zealand race win gives Currie an automatic qualifying slot for the 2017 IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.