In a result befitting the 25th Anniversary celebrations for the Port of Tauranga Half triathlon, New Zealand’s greatest ever endurance athlete made it an incredible ten victories with 41 year old Cameron Brown turning back the clock to yet again stand atop the podium at the iconic event at the base of The Mount.
While Brown was wowing the huge crowds yet again, it was a new face but familiar name on the triathlon circuit winning the women’s race as well performed Scottish athlete Catriona Morrison went close to race record time in adding her name to the 25 year honour roll.
Graham O’Grady (Kinloch) put aside the (welcome) distraction of becoming a dad for the first time overnight to lead out of the water, closely followed by Mark Bowstead (Auckland), Hamish Hammond (Greytown) and Callum Millward (Auckland), with Brown 41 seconds back in amongst a chase group that included Coast to Coast champion Braden Currie (Wanaka).
The ride away from Pilot Bay to Papamoa was into a light headwind and saw the field close a little, with Bowstead riding to the lead with O’Grady and Millward in close attendance and Brown riding on his own some two minutes back at the bike turnaround.
Bowstead then put the hammer down on the second lap, establishing a two minute lead off the bike, with Brown riding into second ahead of a tiring Millward and O’Grady. Currie meanwhile had struggled after a winter on the mountain bike to adjust to the road and had lost 7 minutes to the leaders.
The 21 kilometre run at the Port of Tauranga however is as close as you can get to Cameron Brown’s office and the wily veteran was soon in his comfort zone, reeling in Bowstead before taking the lead at the 14 kilometre mark to enjoy his run home.
“That was great today, I love racing at this event, I have so many good memories here over the years. I just raced my own race today and resisted the urge to go too quick, especially on the bike. The first win was great but to win at 41 (years old) is something special, I don’t think there are many 41 year olds in the world who can do that. I am very, very happy with that performance and I’m looking forward to Taupo now.”
Brown stayed within his race plan and did not count his chickens on a course that has a reputation for a tough few closing kilometres.
“You never know when you have the win in the bag, I had a solid swim but I found myself down two minutes on the bike, Mark (Bowstead) had a great ride and had me by two minutes twenty off the bike but I back my run and just felt in control and felt great when I took the lead at the 14 k mark and eased back to win my tenth title.”
Bowstead held on for second ahead of a fast charging Braden Currie who ran through half a dozen athletes to claim third place, just ahead of Millward.
In the women’s race it was four-time winner Jo Lawn amongst the leaders out of the water, from Amelia Rose Watkinson and Scottish star Morrison. Lawn was out of sorts on the bike though, with Morrison and Watkinson entering transition side by side, comfortably clear of Lawn and Candice Hammond.
In similar fashion to Brown, Morrison churned out the kilometres at a consistent and quick pace, finishing over 5 minutes clear of Watkinson, an agonising 34 seconds outside Sam Warriner’s 2009 race record. Warriner had earlier withdrawn to protect her injured hamstring, having led out of the swim and for most of the bike.
The pint sized Morrison was delighted with her win.
“It was good, it is always a big unknown to race the first race of the season, it doesn’t matter who you are, it gave me a few pointers and I think I can be very happy with the performance. The course was as I expected, the bike is so flat, I yearn for hills and mountains so I found that quite challenging. You have to try to be draft legal but provided everyone plays their part and plays fair it makes for a good race.”
Morrison explained taking her time through the second transition as she put on socks for the run that takes the athletes twice around the base of The Mount.
“My feet are very comfortable “I definitely don’t have blisters! I just wanted to take the run as comfortable as possible and build on it, the second time around The Mount I tried to push quite hard, I knew I was close to the course record because someone yelled it at me but I had no idea as to how close so I just pushed to the line.
“Any race with such a history behind it is a pleasure to come and race because you know it is well respected by the athletes and the community.”
It was with mixed emotions that defending champion and new Dad O’Grady crossed the line in 14th place, admitting that after his partner Natasha presented the couple with baby Pepper in the early evening on Friday that he wasn’t sure he would make the start line.
“The brain is a bit scrambled; I guess it was a big ask coming here after going through yesterday. I was over the moon though and in a good frame of mind but it takes a toll and I felt a little flat on the course today and ended up pushing hard to not go very fast. I am glad I finished though, the support is awesome, that is what got me through today, it kept a smile on my face during the run, I will be back next year for sure.”
The event carries NZ Long Distance Championship status, with age group spots on the line at the ITU Long Distance Championships in Weihai, China.
Port of Tauranga Half
1 Cameron Brown Auckland 3:54:10
2 Mark Bowstead Auckland 3:56:15
3 Braden Currie Wanaka 4:00:52
4 Callum Millward Auckland 4:01:38
5 Rob Creasy Cambridge 4:05:20
1 Catriona Morrison Scotland 4:11:21
2 Amelia Rose Watkinson Auckland 4:16:45
3 Candice Hammond Cambridge 4:20:41
4 Joanna Lawn Auckland 4:24:30
5 Michelle Bremer Mt Maunganui 4:28:03