Kiwi Cameron Brown won his 12th Ironman New Zealand title in a course record 8:07:57 time and Meredith Kessler of the U.S. won her 5th straight Taupo crown in a record-smashing 8:56:08.
Brown combined a 7th-best 48:37 swim, a 4th-best 4:29:13 bike split and a 2nd-fastest 2:44:54 run to finish in 8:07:58. This gave him a 1:39 margin of victory over runner-up Joe Skipper of Great Britain and 2:59 over 3rd-place finisher Callum Millward of New Zealand. Brown’s winning time bested the previous race record time set by Beven Doherty in 2013 by 7:24.
U.S. star Kessler combined a women’s 2nd-best 47:49 swim, women's 4th-best 4:56:40 bike split and women's-best 3:06:03 run to finish in 8:56:08, which gave her a 9 minutes margin of victory over runner-up Lucy Gossage of Great Britain and 11:11 over 3rd-place Carrie Lester of Australia.
Kessler broke her own 2015 women’s course record by 8:37.
Dylan McNeice led the swim, followed by Aussie Paul Matthews, Kiwis Terenzo Bozzone and Mark Bowstead, Antony Costes of France, Kiwi Guy Crawford, Aussies Clayton Fettell and Callum Millward, and eventual winner Cam Brown.
At the first turnaround at the 45k mark of the bike leg at Reporoa, Bozzone, McNeice and Matthews led Costes by 43 seconds, with Cyril Viennot, Brown, Millward, Fettell and Simon Cochrane in a pack of six at 1:55 arrears. At the 90k mark, the lead pack grew to 12 men and included 8 Kiwis (Millward, Bowstead, Bozzone, Brown, McNeice, Crawford, and Poole) two Australians (Fettell and Matthews) and two Frenchmen (Viennot and Costes).
By 120k, Viennot seized a 1:40 lead over 8 riders including Bozzone, Millward, Fettell, Brown, Brown, Costes, McNeice, Bozzone and Crawford. By 138k, Viennot, who finished 5th and 6th in the last two Kona World Championships, led by 2:08 over a group of seven headed by Brown and including Millward, Bozzone, Crawford, Bowstead, Costes and Fettell. Super runner Matt Hanson of the U.S. was digging a hole on the bike, lagging by 8:12 in 14th place.
After a 3rd-best 4:26:50 bike split, Viennot led the field into T2 by a 2:25 margin on Brown, 2:26 on Bozzone, 2:28 on Millward, 2:30 on Crawford and 3:07 on Joe Skipper of Great Britain. Dougal Allan of New Zealand set a new bike course record of 4:22:12, breaking the late Steve Larsen’s 2003 mark by 4:32.
Suffering from cramps, Viennot quickly fell to 6th at the 4k mark. Callum Millward surged to a 7-seconds lead over Brown at the 7.4k mark, with Bowstead and Bozzone 59 seconds back. At 11k, Millward and Brown were elbow to elbow with Bozzone 1:08 back in 3rd, Bowstead 3 seconds further back in 4th and Skipper 5th, 2:44 back. Hanson, who exited the bike in 13th, zoomed up to 5th at 21k, 6:50 behind the leaders.
By 31k, Brown opened up a 36 seconds lead on Millward. At the same point, Hanson kept charging ahead at 3:48/k pace and arrived in 4th, while Bozzone fell to 5th. By 38k, Brown wrapped up the race, taking a 2:11 lead over Skipper, who replaced Millward in 2nd. Skipper, who closed fast with a 4th-best 2:45:51 marathon, edged Millward, whose 2:48:01 marathon left him 2:10 behind. Hanson’s race-best 2:41:20 run could only make up so much ground for his 4:34:42 bike split and he finished 4th, 1:33 behind Millward.
Seeking her fifth straight Ironman New Zealand title and thus creeping closer toward Joanna Lawn’s record 6 Taupo wins, Meredith Kessler moved to the Land of the Long White Cloud for the North American winter and was perfectly tuned and acclimatized.
Kessler finished the swim in 47:49, 2:14 behind Lauren Brandon’s women's-best mark and 2:55 ahead of fellow American Amanda Stevens’ 3rd-best 50:44 mark, and 8:06 ahead of Lucy Gossage and her dangerously fast bike.
By 45k on the bike leg, Kessler took the lead and by the end of the 180k leg her 4th-best 4:56:40 bike split gave her a 2:20 lead on Gossage (women's-best 4:51:39 split), 4:08 on Laura Siddall, and 8:46 on Carrie Lester. By the 31k mark of the run on her way to a women's best 3:06:03 run, Kessler carved out a 5:54 lead on Gossage and far more on the rest of the field.
At the end, Kessler’s perfectly balanced day brought her home as the first woman to crack the 9 hour mark at Taupo and gave her a 9-minute advantage on Gossage (3:12:10 run), 11:11 on Lester (3:08:13 run) and 13 minutes on 4th-place finisher Laura Siddall of Great Britain.
Ironman New Zealand
Taupo, New Zealand
March 5. 2016
S 2.4 mi. / B 112 mi. / R 26.2 mi.
1. Cameron Brown (NZL) 8:07:57
2. Joe Skipper (GBR) 8:09:36
3. Callum Millward (NZL) 8:10:56
4. Matt Hanson (USA) 8:12:29
5. Matt Russell (USA) 8:15:24
6. Terenzo Bozzone (NZL) 8:19:52
7. Dougal Allan (NZL) 8:24:26
8. Cyril Viennot (FRA) 8:27:35
9. Simon Cochrane (NZL) 8:28:12
10. Mark Bowstead (NZL) 8:29:37
1. Meredith Kessler (USA) 8:56:08
2. Lucy Gossage (GBR) 9:05:08
3. Carrie Lester (AUS) 9:07:19
4. Laura Siddall (GBR) 9:09:08
5. Amanda Stevens (USA) 9:12:50
6. Michelle Bremer (NZL) 9:15:43
7. Mareen Hufe (GER) 9:16:53
8. Gina Crawford (NZL) 9:32:51
9. Candice Hammond (NZL) 9:35:36
10. Vanessa Murray (NZL) 9:39:16