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Race Preview: 2017 Ironman New Zealand

With its exceptional views, gruelling hills and 40 spots up for grabs at Kona 2017, IRONMAN New Zealand is just a week away. Here’s all the info you need about this exciting race.

Course Review

Ironman New Zealand Swim

The swim in one of the world’s largest fresh water lakes is super straightforward, with a one lap course starting at the Taupo Yacht Club. The swim kicks off with a deep water start so there’s no beach running required as you’ll start at the Yacht Club as well. After swimming parallel to the foreshore for 1.77km, you’ll then turn around at the IRONMAN buoys, and return 1.77km back toward the yacht club.
To get to T1, it’s a 400m run along the boat harbour to the steps leading into transition.

“The water is crystal clear. You can see the bottom of the lake the entire swim. You don’t see fish like in Kona and Cozumel but its fresh water and as clear as anything I have ever swam in. It is drinkable so don’t worry if you swallow,” – Paul of the Atlanta Tri Club

Ironman New Zealand Bike

The two-lap bike course features 180km of challenging terrain, and has been described as ‘undulating,’ so like any other course in New Zealand, it includes plenty of hills. Additionally, road conditions have been described as rough as well, which adds a huge level of difficulty for international athletes not accustomed to the New Zealand roads.

“The bike course is no joke. The roads are extremely rough the entire ride – think that section between about miles 50-60 in IMFL – but it’s the whole ride. All the roads in New Zealand are like that, they are not smooth,” said Paul of the Atlanta Tri Club. Also be prepared for windy conditions, particularly coming into T2. “We were warned about the winds on lap 2 and they were severe,” Paul adds. “It starts with some decent climbs and then mostly small rollers, false flats and with some normal climbing. It is pretty tough and the conditions made it much tougher on Lap 2.”

Despite the conditions, the course is known for being fast. “If you’re looking for a faster bike split, New Zealand, Arizona and Florida are the places to race. But there are some challenges to consider. In New Zealand, your cycling challenges are more likely to be weather related,” says Run

Strava KOM: Callum Millward 2:10:11 (lap 1), Joe Skipper 2:15:21 (lap 2)
Strava QOM: Mary Sage 2:22:06 (lap 1) Mary Sage 2:28:02 (lap 2)


Ironman New Zealand Run

This gruelling 3-lap run course is almost all hills, but is incredibly beautiful. Look out for wind though. Last year, the wind was howling, creating a huge headwind on the return. The course has some of the world’s best views of breathtaking Kiwi scenery. Be careful, though, as after the last turnaround point, before the chute, there’s another hill! It’s a 100 metre climb, so prepare yourself to muster all the energy you have left to make it over this hill.
“They stuck with all the racers when they needed it the most through the pouring rain and when the last finisher crossed the line at midnight,” said New Zealand champion Meredith Kessler on her blog.

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IRONMAN New Zealand Course Rating: 05:55
2016 Overall: 09:28
Swim: 01:56
Bike 09:17
Run 03:28
Number of Finishers: 37 of 49
Rating: 05:55
Swim rating: 01:00
Bike rating: 03:03
Run rating: 03:16

Who’s tipped to win?

This year the statistics predict Belgium’s Marino Vanhoenacker, who won in 2012, to take out the win. However, with his incredible performances late in 2016, Terenzo Bozzone has a very strong change. Fellow Kiwi Cameron Brown, who won the event no less than eight times in ten years, is also in with a very strong chance, particularly on the back of his 2015 and 2016 wins. On this challenging course, the Kiwis have an advantage thanks to their experience on this course.

  • Marino Vanhoenacker: 35% (2-1)
  • Cameron Brown: 24% (3-1)
  • Terenzo Bozzone: 24% (3-1)
  • Marko Albert: 10% (9-1)
  • Cyril Viennot: 7% (14-1)

American Meredith Kessler is tipped to win again, and has won the the event the last five years in a row, with her fastest time being last year in just 8:58:08. Kessler loves New Zealand and has trained in the country a number of times. She even said last year “it was a relief to dive into clear, blue Lake Taupo and begin the swim feeling a little more like my normal self. The bike and the run were also somewhat calming experiences, having done this course many times before.”

  • Meredith Kessler: 51% (1-1)
  • Carrie Lester: 26% (3-1)
  • Yvonne Van Vlerken: 10% (9-1)
  • Laura Siddall: 7% (14-1)
  • Jocelyn McCauley: 5% (18-1))

Who won last year?

Cameron Brown won last year in 8:07:58. The Kiwi had won seven times previously and knows the course like the back of his hand. Only two minutes behind him last year was Great Britain’s Joe Skipper (8:09:37) and another Kiwi Callum Millward who finished in 08:10:57.

The women’s race was dominated by Kessler last year with a time of 08:56:08, with Lucy Gossage of the UK was a distant second, finishing in 9:05:08. Australia’s Carrie Lester was close behind, finishing in 9:07:19.
Who holds the records?

Kiwi Cameron Brown holds the fastest overall time from 2016, finishing in 8:07:58. Meredith Kessler also holds the fastest overall time from last year’s race of 8:56:08. Lucy Gossage had the fastest bike time, finishing the 180km in just 4:51:39, making her a key contender in this year’s race.

Event Info

Taupo Weather

Lake Taupo remains fairly chilly all year round. The temperature of the lake usually hovers around 19 degrees, so choose the right wetsuit for the conditions. IRONMAN recommends wearing arm warmers for the first part of the bike as it can be chilly until the sun is high in the sky.

NZ Ultra Distance Championships

This race also functions as the official New Zealand Ultra Distance Championships, which is open to all New Zealand citizens and/or have permanent resident status.


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