Ageless Brown pipped by European, Kessler grabs hat-trick at IRONMAN New Zealand
Kiwi hearts were broken by Marko Albert as the Estonian laid waste to the powerful New Zealand contingent to clinch a decisive victory in today’s Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand in Taupo.
A devastating bike ride â€“ in which Albert took almost six minutes out of the field in the second half of the 180km leg â€“ set the foundation for a comprehensive victory. He crossed the line in an impressive 8:17:32 â€“ the second fastest time in the history of the IRONMAN New Zealand to go one better than last year when he finished runner-up to course record holder, Bevan Docherty.
In second was the indefatigable Kiwi legend and ten-time former winner Cameron Brown, who despite clawing back two minutes on the run had to settle for second in 8:21:54 in his attempt to become the oldest IRONMAN winner in the history of the sport – nearly a fitting reward on the 30th anniversary of the race.
Brown’s fellow New Zealander Terenzo Bozzone, took third spot in a time of 8:28:55, to secure his fourth podium finish in IRONMAN New Zealand.
However, there was to be disappointment for Docherty, the defending champion and local favourite. The two-time Olympic medallist was in contention for a podium spot in the early stages of the run but was later to quit the race.
Albert, who became the first Estonian to win the IRONMAN New Zealand over the full distance (note, his countryman Ain-Alar Juhanson’s won the 2006 race but that was reduced to a duathlon because of the weather) said of his victory: â€œThis is my first IRONMAN win, so this is a special victory. To beat a guy like Cameron, who is a total legend and to beat a guy also really respect like Terenzo is a very special.
â€œI felt a lot more confident on the third lap of the run this year. I was hearing the splits every 2km and Cameron was closing, but I thought if I continue on my way, I should make it. It didn’t want to take any chances and over the last two kilometres, I basically sprinted just to make sure.â€
Albert became the first European winner over the full distance since German Thomas Hellriegel 14 year ago.
Brown, who extended his staggering streak of IRONMAN podium finishes to 16 in a row, was delighted with his performance after suffering a troubled 2013.
â€œIt’s pretty awesome,â€ he said of his performance today. â€œI’m 42 in June and I never thought I’d still be competing with these guys. I struggled last year and the whole year was pretty much a write-off. The rest has done me the world of good. I feel like I did five years ago and I’m glad to be back racing again.â€
Bozzone, who completed his first full IRONMAN race since finishing third in this event in 2011, said: â€œI’m really excited with how I performed, although how it hurt over the last 20km of the run.
â€œYes, for me I’m happy and it was a great way to celebrate my birthday (Bozzone celebrates his 28th birthday today).â€
Meredith Kessler produced a stunning performance to shatter the women’s course record by a massive 5min 50sec to secure her third straight IRONMAN New Zealand title with a superlative display.
The American seized control from the outset and a brilliant swim â€“ in which she recorded the ninth fastest time of the day including the men â€“ set her up for the rest of the race. She built on her position during the bike â€“ despite losing a couple of minutes after a brief mishap with her chain – and further cemented her dominance on the run to record a dazzling 9:08:45.
Behind, New Zealander Gina Crawford also enjoyed an outstanding performance completing the gruelling challenge in 9:15:52 â€“ the third fastest time in the history of the event.
Completing the same one-two-three from 12 months ago was Crawford’s countrywoman, Candice Hammond (Cambridge) who crossed the line in 9:30:03.
An elated Kessler said of her performance: â€œIt started with a very good swim and I came out of the water faster than year. The bike was tough but the main goal of the day was not to come home in the run feeling like I was in a coffin. It was my best marathon for two years and I can use this as a stepping stone for Kona. To put together this performance on the 30th anniversary of the race, I’m really grateful.â€
Crawford, who was more than five minutes quicker today than when placing runner-up last year, said: â€œI’m pretty pleased with how it went. The last 45km of the bike into the wind was hard and from 25km on the run was tough. Sometimes you do well and it is only good enough for second and today was one of those days.â€
Men: Marko Albert (EST) 8:17:32, 1; Cameron Brown (NZL) 8:21:54, 2; Terenzo Bozzone (NZL) 8:28:55, 3; Tim Van Berkel (AUS) 8:29:52, 4, Tom Lowe (GBR), 8:31:55, 5.
Women: Meredith Kessler (USA) 9:08:45, 1; Gina Crawford (NZL) 9:15:52, 2; Candice Hammond (NZL) 9:30:03, 3; Bree Wee (USA) 9:39:14 4; Michelle Bremer (USA) 9:45:33, 5.