Taupo 70.3 – Last race of the IRONMAN Oceania region is drenched in talent
The strength of long distance triathlon in New Zealand will be reflected on Saturday at the IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo race
Great lake Taupo is home to both IRONMAN New Zealand and IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo
IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo has a lasting presence in New Zealand triathlon, previously the Taupo Half it came into IRONMAN’s possession after they dropped their 70.3 event in Auckland City. The Taupo Half was first run in 1999, the premise of the event was to give athletes a prequel to the new IRONMAN New Zealand which itself had shifted venue to Taupo after 14 years in Auckland that same year. The race has been mostly unchanged with the odd course tweak here and there, locals still refer to it as the half and it remains a much loved event on the local calendar. The race has now operated under IRONMAN’s flag since 2015.
The rest is history, IRONMAN triathlon has deep roots in New Zealand and with IRONMAN New Zealand now in it’s 34th year the race will celebrate 20 years in Taupo in 2018, and, with this in mind Taupo 70.3 is the perfect curtain raiser. This years event boasts an incredibly strong field of both local and international athletes. While IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo is the last event of the global IRONMAN calendar year before a break over the Christmas/New Year period, it is the first of the home season and local athletes look to stamp their mark before the traditional Kiwi summer Christmas festivities.
Strong line up promises some close racing
IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo boasts strong Mens and Womens pro field
This years edition of the IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo sees a very strong line up of athletes in the the mens and womens field, the front runners all have history in Taupo and have either won or been on the podium at IRONMAN New Zealand or at the 70.3 event.
The woman’s field is the strongest we’ve ever seen at IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo, even with the absence of Taupo crowd favourite and two time IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo champion Meredith Kessler (USA) The talent has come from all corners with New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain and The United States represented. Saturday seems set to deliver a highly competitive race with the winner anyone’s guess.
Laura Siddall (GBR) returning to IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo for the third consecutive year and with a 2nd and 3rd to her name Laura will been gunning to add a 1st to her collection. Laura is the top seed for this years event and has had her strongest season in long distance triathlon to date since turning pro in 2014. With 1st place at IRONMAN Australia and wins at both Challenge Walchsee (Austria) and Challenge Roma (Italy) in the bank, Laura will be looking to end 2017 on a high with victory in Taupo.
Jocelyn McCauley (USA) raised eyebrows when she won IRONMAN New Zealand in March of this year, taking the prize from clear favourite Meredith Kessler. With her maiden 140.6 victory coming in Taupo Jocelyn will be eager to snatch the 70.3 crown also. Plagued by Mechanicals and flat tyres in 2017 McCauley also came away with a win at IRONMAN 70.3 Vichy (France) and will be hoping the volcanic chip seal roads in Taupo are kind on race day.
Gina Crawford (NZL) makes her return to elite level racing at IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo from a break after having her second child. The 6 time Challenge Wanaka Champion and 2009 IRONMAN New Zealand Champion has a CV stacked with wins and course records. This isn’t the first time Gina has returned to elite level triathlon after pregnancy, her competitors will be keeping a close eye on how she performs during her come back race.
Amelia Watkinson (NZL) has a 2nd and 3rd in previous outings at IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo and will be eager to climb onto the top step in 2017. Amelia has built strong momentum since turning pro in 2014 with 11 70.3 distance wins and 21 occasions on the podium. Amelia placed 3rd at the Asia Pacific Championships in Western Sydney two weeks ago and will be hoping for an early Christmas present here in Taupo.
Rebecca Clarke (NZL) is a former ITU athlete and placed 4th here in Taupo in 2016, Known for her swim/bike ability Rebecca could well be in the mix on Saturday. With plenty of other Kiwi women racing on home soil Clarke will be keen to make the podium an all New Zealand affair.
The womens field for IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo is bursting with talent, Hawkes Bay athlete Karen Toulmin rounds out her first year racing as a pro here in Taupo and lines up with fellow Kiwis Laura Wood, Indy Kral, Rebecca Elliot and Julia Grant.
The Mens field is headed up by defending champ Braden Currie (NZL). Currie has won every rendition of IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo and will be eager to continue the trend. Braden has had two weeks to freshen up from a strong and hard fought battle with Tim Reed (AUS) at the Asia Pacific regional Championship in Western Sydney for 3rd spot, missing out on 2nd (to Tim Reed) by only 3 seconds. With Tim Reed making the trip to Taupo Braden will be hugely motivated to settle the score and defend his Taupo 70.3 crown, look for a solid battle from these two men.
Michael Raelert (DEU) of Germany is flying the flag for the Europeans and brings with him a formidable CV the former 70.3 World Champion (2009,2010) will be looking to improve on his 8th place in Western Sydney and upset the local boys.
Mike Phillips (NZL) was runner up at this event last year and has since gone on to claim his 1st IRONMAN 70.3 victory on the Indonesian Island of Bintan in August this year. Mike is also the worlds fastest ever IRONMAN debutant, clocking a time of 7:52:50 to come 2nd at IRONMAN Barcelona this year. This feat makes Mike a member of an exclusive club and only the second Kiwi to break the magic 8 hour mark. A genuine dark horse Mike will be eager to stamp his authority on the sport and will be hungry for another taste of victory.
Terenzo Bozzone (NZL) is New Zealand’s first sub 8 hour athlete and it seems he can’t get enough. Bozzone is backing up from a strong victory at IRONMAN Western Australia just last weekend. With a strong season including two 70.3 victories, numerous podiums and plenty of miles in the tank the former IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion (2008) will be gunning to close out 2017 on a high.
Dylan McNeice (NZL) regarded as the finest swimmer in the sport, the three time Challenge Wanaka Champion has had a strong season in 2017 after coming back from extensive hip surgery. 1st place at Challenge Turku (Finland) in August, Dylan can also claim to be the first man out of the Water at the 2015 IRONMAN World Championships at Kona, a situation he’s bound to want to replicate in Taupo this weekend.
Callum Milward (NZL) Callum is backing up from IRONMAN Western Australia where a bike crash cut his day short, fortunately he came away with only minor scrapes. Callum has a few 70.3 titles to his name and will looking to add Taupo to his collection.
The field is stacked with talent, Local Taupo athlete Cameron Paul is racing in his debut season as a professional and he is joined by fellow Kiwis Simon Cochrane, Matt Franklin, Olly Shaw and Samuel Clark.
Taupo is a special place and when it comes to IRONMAN triathlon and not many places I’ve raced at put on a show as good. I first competed at IRONMAN New Zealand in 2008 and when out on the course committed to make Taupo my home. While I was entered myself in Saturday’s event, a broken ankle 4 weeks ago has put pay to my 2017 edition of IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo. I will however, be out on course cheering everyone home. Good luck to all, I hope this early summer weather stays for Saturday’s race.