New Zealanders Braden Currie and Hannah Wells won it on the run to take the elite titles at the Challenge Wanaka half distance.
For many years, Challenge Wanaka was a full Iron distance race but in 2018 organizers cut it to a half.
Currie overcame a 2 and one half minute deficit after the bike leg with a 2nd-best 1:16:27 half marathon to overtake cycling powerhouse Andrew Starykowicz of the U.S. Currie, 5th place finisher at the Ironman World Championship last October, finished in 4:00:00 with a 2:45 margin of victory over Starykowicz and 4:22 over 3rd place finisher Matt Burton of Australia.
Wells overcame a 1:27 deficit to Australian Kerry Morris after the bike leg with a women’s-best 1:24:41 run split to finish in 4:31:11 with a 1:08 margin of victory over Meredith Kessler of the U.S. and 5:26 over 3rd place finisher Laura Siddall of Great Britain.
Dylan McNeice led the pro men’s swim with a 23:47 split that gave him 1:03 lead on Currie, 1:57 on Starykowicz, 2:01 on Jack Moody and 2:09 on Burton.
By 25 km of the bike leg, Starykowicz blasted into a 21 seconds lead on Currie and 25 seconds on McNeice. After a race-best 2:11:51 bike split, Starykowicz opened a 2:33 lead on Burton (2:13:52 bike split), 3:10 on Currie (2:15:53 split) and McNeice more than 8 minutes arrears.
Fleet footed Currie quickly took charge on the run. By 8km, he trimmed Starky’s lead to 21 seconds and after a second-best 1:16:27 run split he finished in 4:00:00 with a 2:45 margin on Starykowicz and 4:22 over Burton. By virtue of a race-best 1:15:40 run, Jack Moody of New Zealand made up for a tardy 2:21:17 bike split to finish 4th.
Currie favored a new drafting rule that put the legal distance between riders at 20 meters – and gave Starykowicz an initial advantage.
"It makes it really fair, especially today where I could have probably hung onto Starky with the old 12-metre draft rule for quite a long time,” Currie told Fuseworks Media. “With that 20 meter gap, it just split us up straight away and it was each to his own… I was happy with my swim and then on the ride I was expecting Starky to go past at about 100 miles an hour and he did. That happened quite early on, which definitely worried me a little bit. But then in the second half of the bike, where I thought he would make some big gains, he didn’t make any. That’s a good sign and positive for my bike leg going forward."
Meredith Kessler led the pro women’s swim wave with a 25:47 mark that gave her a 1:22 lead on New Zealand’s Kerry Morris, 1:27 on Wells and 4:07 on Laura Siddall of Great Britain.
Morrison made up the gap and rode for a while with Kessler. After a women’s-best 2:35:36 bike split, Morris led into T2 with a 24 seconds on Kessler and 52 seconds on Wells.
After 2 kilometers, Morris, Kessler and Wells shared the lead, whereupon Morris fell back. After 16 km, Wells gapped Kessler and, after a women’s-best 1:24:41 run, Wells finished in 4:31:11 with a 1:08 margin of victory on Kessler (1:25:56 run split) and 5:26 on 3rd-place Siddall (1:27:22 run), pushing Morris (1:33:01 run) to 4th.
Challenge Wanaka Half
Wanaka, Otego, New Zealand
February 16, 2018
S 1.2 mi. / B 56 mi. / R 13.1 mi.
1. Braden Currie (NZL) 4:00:00 S 24:50 T1 1:26 B 2:15:53 T2 1:22 R 1:16:27
2. Andrew Starykowicz (USA) 4:02:45 S 25:44 T1 1:24 B 2:11:51 T2 1:57 R 1:21:47
3. Matt Burton (AUS) 4:04:22 S 25:56 T1 1:44 B 2:13:52 T2 1:50 R 1:20:57
4. Jack Moody (NZL) 4:05:41 S 25:48 T1 1:27 B 2:21:17 T2 1:27 R 1:15:40
5. Dylan McNeice (NZL) 4:13:19 S 23:47 T1 1:20 B 2:21:53 T2 1:28 R 1:24:49
1. Hannah Wells (NZL) 4:31:11 S 27:15 T1 1:31 B 2:36:12 T2 1:30 R 1:24:41
2. Meredith Kessler (USA) 4:32:19 S 25:47 T1 2:15 B 2:36:27 T2 1:51 R 1:25:56
3. Laura Siddall (GBR) 4:36:37 S 29:54 T1 1:35 B 2:36:07 T2 1:37 R 1:27:22
4. Kerry Morris (AUS) 4:38:49 S 27:10 T1 1:20 B 2:35:36 T2 1:40 R 1:33:01
5. Julia Grant (NZL) 5:02:11 S 30:01 T1 1:35 B 2:50:24 T2 1:55 R 1:38:14