The race went to plan early on, sticking Australian Chris McCormack in the swim and for the first 130km on the bike. Meanwhile race leader Dylan McNiece was enjoying plenty of time off the front after a stellar swim that gave him a 7 minute lead and maintained this time gap through the first 130km. I wasn't too concerned with Dylan at that stage and felt the race was being played out in our group containing McCormack (aka Macca, 2 x Ironman Hawaii Champion), Bryan Rhodes(NZ) and Leon Griffin (former duathlon world-champion from Australia). It is a tough cycle course at Challenge Wanaka and I wanted to make sure the Aussie boys had tired legs for the run. So I hit the gas with 50km to go and went after McNiece. By T2 I had chopped his lead down to 1:30 and had left the other contenders scrambling back to town in ones and twos. Perfect, so I thought at the time.
I meet Dylan in the T2 change tent and we soon found ourselves going toe to toe through the early stages on the run. With news that Macca struggled in the later stages on the ride, my spirits were high. I had a healthy lead over my major threat, Dylan was racing his first Ironman and had just rode 180km in strong winds on his own - surely we will blow-up soon?
Around 13km into the run, Dylan went to the front for the first time and turned the pace up a little. I went with him momentarily, but thought again, trusted my pacing and believed that his inexperience would eventually catch up with him later in the run. But this wasn't to be. He countinued to extend his lead and with 10km to go he had a healthy 4:30 minute lead. This was the time I believed the cracks may begin to appear with the youngster, but instead I was the one fading along with all the other pro men. Dylan stayed strong and took a very well earned win. I managed to hold off Macca who came at us hard during the run. Infact I found out later he was only 30 seconds behind me at one point. But he too was finding the conditions tough going, and I entered the last few kilometers with a comfortable 3 minute advantage to hold to the finishline for second.
Obvisously I would of loved to get the title back, but I was happy with the way I raced and do not believe I could of done too much more on the day. Dylan was phenominal for a guy racing his first Iron distance race and had an absolute blinder. I think we were all so focused on racing Macca and we left Dylan off the front without much thought that he would run as well as he did. Lesson learnt!
With my big race for summer now ticked off I can concentrate on the major event for summer - my wedding this Saturday. I finally get to marry my beautiful finacee Fiona.
Very, very excited.
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