Terenzo Bozzone (NZL) and Laura Siddall (GBR) were crowned champions at Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand on a day that saw race records smashed as the event celebrated 20 years in Taupo and 34 years in total, second only to the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona, which celebrates 40 years this October.
Bozzone broke through at the 10th time of trying to win his first Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand title, executing a perfect race plan in not only breaking the course record, but going under the magical eight-hour mark in the process, clocking 7:59:56. So quick was the race in fact, that the first three all ducked under Cameron Brown’s 2016 race record, with Joe Skipper (GBR) second and Brown in third at the ripe old age of 45.
It was an emotional Bozzone after the win, moving through the field on the bike after Dylan McNeice built a three-minute lead during the 3.8km swim.
“That is pretty unreal, 10 years of trying, maybe I am a slow learner! I tried to go out with patience on the day and was more conservative on the first lap (on the bike). Usually I go out Gangnam style and get a big lead and try to hold it. There was a good group out of the swim, then the pace slowed down early on the bike which was nice, and a few guys look to make a go of it at the end of lap one. I thought ‘let’s give it a crack’ and tried to go, I gave myself 15 minutes to chase and bridge the gap and at the end of that 15 minutes, I had caught up.”
Bozzone reversed those tactics on the run, emerging out of transition side by side with Skipper, but immediately putting the foot down in what was essentially the winning of the race.
“On the run I went out harder than I usually do, but I had different goals and wanted to go hard early and see how long I could hold on for. My brother was out there on the course, and I wanted to catch him by the time he finished his first lap, I managed to do that and will head out now and cheer him home too.
“The biggest thing keeping my spirits up was the support out there, from the competitors but also the volunteers and marshals, they are all amazing. And the spectators, who kept saying ‘this is your year, this is your time’ – I have heard that before I guess, but I thought okay, maybe this time they are right.”
Bozzone paid tribute to Skipper for his amazing strength on the bike and was also delighted that a hero of his was with him on the podium.
“I am so happy Cameron was on the podium, he is a great ambassador, a mentor and what a role model, but yeah, I can’t believe I have won one!”
Brown was philosophical at the end of a day that saw him go quicker than he ever has before in 20 IRONMAN races in Taupo (he has raced every edition in the lakeside town).
“I made a tactical error on the bike and the gap opened up between me and Terenzo and Joe, a bit of a silly move on my part but you can’t complain, 45 years old and still going quicker than my record and I get third, so it is still a good day.
“My hat is off to Terenzo, he had a fantastic day, I knew he would win it one day so what an amazing day to go under the eight-hour barrier.”
In the women’s race Siddall broke through after a runner up finish last year, emerging from a titanic battle with 2017 champion Jocelyn McCauley, who was overtaken late in the run by a surging Teresa Adam (NZL) who finished second in a hugely impressive debut.
Siddall took inspiration from the on-course commentators and spectators who willed her to victory.
“Right on the turn with me and Jocelyn together I heard the commentators on the PA say it would come down to who believes, I took that with me. Earlier going up the hill on the bike I heard people shout the same thing, believe! I felt awful on the first lap of the bike and was praying I had some run legs, with someone like Jocelyn running behind you, you are never really sure. And Teresa had a great day, what an amazing athlete, she has such a future.”
Siddall didn’t bank the win until she saw the red carpet and enjoyed an emotionally charged final 50 metres to the finish tape.
“I thought I was taking some time out of Jocelyn on the first lap on the bike but struggled on the way out to Reporoa and managed to get back on top coming into town. I couldn’t get rid of her though and knew with the wind it was going to be hard. It was only when I overtook her on the run going out on the second lap, even then you know she is a tough cookie and I didn’t know if I was going to collapse on that third lap.
“This means so much to me, I love the people here, the support is always incredible, and it meant so much to me to hear everyone cheering my name, this is amazing and such a wonderful feeling.”
Adam reflected on an amazing debut performance over the distance that saw her lead out of the water and finish second, all achieved on her 28th birthday.
“Happy birthday to me, that is really awesome! I am not sure where I pulled that out of, but I am stoked and had a fun day, this is such an awesome race, the volunteers, the crowds, the organisers, it is just brilliant.
“Coming in training for an IRONMAN you have to drop something a little, so I hadn’t done as much swimming, but it is my strength and I went out there and swam tempo and got through it.”
2018 Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand
Pro Men (overall time, swim, bike, run)
1 Terenzo Bozzone NZL 7:59:56; 49:10, 4:22:05, 2:44:16
2 Joe Skipper GBR 8:05:32; 51:47, 4:19:13, 2:49:46
3 Cameron Brown NZL 8:07:09; 51:34, 4:28:57, 2:41:55
4 Jan van Berkel SUI 8:10:27; 49:05, 4:31:27, 2:45:29
5 Mike Phillips NZL 8:13:47; 49:02, 4:27:40, 2:52:42
Pro Women (overall time, swim, bike, run)
1 Laura Siddall GBR 9:00:44; 55:31, 4:54:18, 3:06:11
2 Teresa Adam NZL 9:05:35; 49:32, 5:01:13, 3:09:34
3 Jocelyn McCauley USA 9:12:51; 52:59, 4:57:02; 3:17:43
4 Alise Selsmark AUS 9:42:58; 53:01, 5:21:29, 3:22:14
5 Indy Kraal NZL 9:44:26; 55:25, 5:12:08, 3:41:42