Auckland’s Callum Millward comes to Mount Maunganui next week as the defending champion in the Port of Tauranga Half. However the 28 year old is still looking for acceptance into the club containing the athletes at the highest echelon of the sport after knocking on the door over the last few years.
Millward, a solid if unspectacular triathlete in the cut-throat game of the Olympic-distance professional world, turned to the longer form of the sport two years ago. He will be the man to beat in the 23rd running of the Port of Tauranga Half at Mount Maunganui on Saturday 6 January, an event that doubles as the official Triathlon New Zealand long distance championships.
Millward inherited the champion’s tag when first man over the line, Hamilton’s Graham O’Grady relinquished the title following a failed drugs test, later identified from eating poppy seed bread. He comes to his favourite race in a rich vein of form after successfully defending his title at the Tinman Triathlon at Mount Maunganui recently and beating 10-time Ironman New Zealand champion Cameron Brown at the Taupo Half. â€œThis is the race of the year for me. And sure I want to be first across the line this time,â€ Millward said. â€œI’ve prepared as best I can.â€
Millward used his excellent form of last summer to head to the US for a tilt at the lucrative 70.3 (Half distance) circuit for the first time but niggling injuries thwarted his season. He injured his iliotibial band â€“ a common source of injury for endurance athletes. â€œI had a break and thought it was okay but I really had niggles all year. We based ourselves in Boulder for the first time which is a real Mecca for athletes. I managed to get the injured fixed there and prepared well at the end of the season.â€ Millward finished third in a Half in South Carolina which proved his only major start in the campaign, although he did return home fit and healthy of body if not his wallet. â€œIt was great for training with the plains and the Rockies for training. There are great swim squads with the likes of Dave Scott and his sister and top athletes galore.â€
He returned to win the Tinman again and was especially pleased with the follow-up victory over Brown at the Taupo Half. â€œCameron really mixed it up on the bike especially but I managed to hang in there and my speed brought me home on the run. I was happy with my run and that I could back up after the Tinman win.â€
Millward loves the Mount but knows while he has managed to hunt under the radar in recent times, he will be a marked man at the Port of Tauranga Half, despite a field including the eight-time winner Brown, outstanding Australian Tim Berkel and 2010 winner Michael Poole. â€œThe Mount suits me. I think it is still a runner’s course and if I am there or thereabouts on the run, my speed should carry me through â€œI know you have to save a bit for the run especially that second time around the Mount track. I’m hoping for another good race and fingers crossed that he can lay the platform for a better year ahead.â€
Photo credit: Darryl Carey