The 2019 winner Mike Phillips came out on top after a see-saw battle of the Kiwis with defending champion Braden Currie in the men’s race at IRONMAN New Zealand, eventually prevailing in the latter stages of the run as German triathlon legend Sebastian Kienle finished fourth on his debut in the race.
And in contrasting style, Dutch athlete Els Visser came from off the pace after the swim to run out a clear-cut winner of the women’s title.
PRO Men – Phillips has final say
Currie and Phillips were locked together from the start, the former coming out of the water just five seconds ahead, with two and a half minutes back to their compatriot Matt Kerr in third.
Phillips looked to have asserted on the bike, establishing a near three-minute advantage over Currie going into T2, with Australian Matt Burton now up to third, a further four minutes behind.
The two Kiwis had swapped the lead on a number of occasions, with Phillips pushing ahead in the final 30km stretch to open up a gap ahead of the 42.2km run along the Taupō waterfront.
But Currie chipped away at that from the start of the run and at the half marathon point – as they ended the second of four loops – he was just 11 seconds back and within clear sight of his rival.
The pair then ran together for much of the third lap before Currie nudged into the lead but the decisive thrust was still to come as Phillips moved back in front and started to steadily pull clear.
This time Currie, who by now was suffering with cramping, had no answer and by the time the line came Phillips was more than three minutes ahead as they both went under eight hours and booked their spots for the IRONMAN World Championship in Nice.
Jan Van Berkel (SUI), already qualified for the IMWC, was another who kept on strongly in the closing stages to overhaul Kienle for the final podium spot on what was the latest stop on the German’s farewell tour before retirement.
And 12-time champion Cameron Brown finished his final IRONMAN New Zealand in seventh place in 8:42:15.
PRO Women – Visser proves strongest
Rebecca Clarke (NZL) pushed ahead early in the women’s race, opening up a solid lead within the first few minutes of the swim.
Heading to T1 she was over a minute clear of defending women’s champion Hannah Berry (NZL), with American Meredith Kessler a further three minutes behind in third and Visser only sixth at this point, over six minutes back.
But Visser, taking part in one of triathlon’s iconic races for the first time, would turn things around on the bike, moving her way through the field before taking the lead on the final climb back into town.
Leaving T2 she was a minute to the good over Berry and Clarke, with a huge gap back to the rest.
And she looked in control throughout much of the run, gradually increasing her advantage. At halfway she was more than three minutes up on Berry and that was over four minutes with 5k to go.
Visser did struggle slightly in the closing stages but she had enough in hand as she stopped the clock in 9:05:44, visibly shattered from her efforts, with Berry at +2:49.
Visser has already qualified for the IRONMAN World Championship at Kona following her second place at IRONMAN Western Australia in December, meaning third spot was especially relevant and it was Clarke who claimed it to give herself the option of a second visit to Hawaii after her 17th place there in 2022.
In fourth was five time winner Meredith Kessler (USA), five-months post-partum after giving birth to her second son, Crew, last year.
IRONMAN New Zealand 2023 Results
Taupō, North Island, New Zealand: Saturday March 4, 2023 – 3.8km / 180.2km / 42.2km
- 1. Mike Phillips (NZL) – 7:56:05
- 2. Braden Currie (NZL) – 7:59:17
- 3. Jan Van Berkel (SUI) – 8:10:22
- 4. Sebastian Kienle (GER) – 8:14:04
- 5. Matt Kerr (NZL) – 8:27:58
- 1. Els Visser (NED) – 9:05:44
- 2. Hannah Berry (NZL) – 9:08:33
- 3. Rebecca Clarke (NZL) – 9:10:11
- 4. Meredith Kessler (USA) – 9:30:51
- 5. Ai Ueda (JPN) – 9:42:51