Former IRONMAN New Zealand champion Mike Phillips is warming up for the 2022 season in this week’s NZ Cycle Classic.
Phillips, who memorably closed a gap of more than 17 minutes to overhaul Andrew Starykowicz on the run when triumphing in Taupo in 2019, is part of the New Zealand National team in what is the highest-ranked bike race in the country.
With global triathlon opportunities currently limited by Covid-19, he’s taking the chance to prepare for the upcoming campaign within the pro peloton.
Christchurch-based Phillips will then remain in his home country, with February’s Tauranga Half next on the agenda, before a return to IRONMAN New Zealand, in which he was also runner-up in 2020 and 2021.
The focus will then shift to the IRONMAN World Championship in St George in May.
Phillips’ chief role in the Cycle Classic is supporting teammate and New Zealand national champion George Bennett, who rides for UAE Team Emirates on the UCI World Tour.
Speaking to the race’s official website, Phillips highlighted the challenges of cycling in a pro bike race compared to a long-distance triathlon: “The racing is very different, there is a lot more surging, and it is also very tactical.
Putting pace into the race
“Ironman racing is a lot more individual and a steady-state effort. I find the changes in pace the most difficult parts of the cycle racing.
“I have adjusted my training slightly to try and better prepare myself for this, but Ironman is still my main focus, so I have to bear that in mind.”
The five-day race concludes on Sunday with a final stage street circuit around capital Wellington.