A CLOSE FIN­ISH AT IRON­MAN 70.3 TAUPO

Brit Laura Sid­dall is just a ‘haunt­ing’ eight sec­onds from vic­tory

Triathlon Plus - - Race Reports -

WHAT IRON­MAN 70.3 TAUPO WHEN 10 DE­CEM­BER 2016 WHERE TAUPO, NEW ZEALAND WIN­NERS MERED­ITH KESSLER (USA) 4:22:36 BRADEN CUR­RIE (NZL) 3:52:45

Talk about end­ing the sea­son on a high! Laura Sid­dall (On a Roll, p16) came within a whisker of steal­ing vic­tory from sea­soned cham­pion Mered­ith Kessler in a nail-bit­ing fin­ish.

The Brit who had sailed un­der the radar dur­ing the swim, ex­it­ing four min­utes be­hind the lead­ers, seemed to pose lit­tle threat to Kessler.

Af­ter shak­ing off Kiwi Amelia Watkinson, vic­tory seemed cer­tain for the de­fend­ing cham­pion who cruised along with a clear three-minute lead.

But at the half-way point of the run, and with blis­ter­ing speed, Sid­dall sud­denly be­came a se­ri­ous threat. Af­ter breez­ing past Watkinson, she be­gan to bear down on the Amer­i­can.

With ev­ery step, the plucky Brit closed the gap un­til she was lit­er­ally breath­ing down her ri­val’s neck.

For Kessler, the fin­ish line came just in time. She crossed, clearly re­lieved, with the Brit just eight sec­onds be­hind. Af­ter­wards, the USA triath­lete com­mented: “Of my seven wins here in Taupo, that was by far the hard­est. Laura was so close, another 100m and I think she could have beaten me.”

It was a one-place im­prove­ment for Sid­dall, who placed third in the in­au­gu­ral edi­tion of this race last year and just missed out on the podium at Iron­man New Zealand ear­lier this year.

She told us: “It wasn’t my best race. I was a long way off where I should have been on the swim and bike, and I knew there was a big door that was open to me.

“But if you’d have asked me a year ago ‘would you take sec­ond place – eight sec­onds be­hind the leader?’ I’d have said ‘hell, yeah!’ Those eight sec­onds will haunt me but will also mo­ti­vate me a lot.”

Amelia Watkinson had to set­tle for third place on the podium.

In the men’s race, de­fend­ing cham­pion Braden Cur­rie was also made to work for his sec­ond vic­tory.

Al­though he ex­ited the wa­ter at the front of the pack, by the end of the bike he had slipped back to fifth place. Dur­ing the run, he clawed his way back to the lead, only to lose it again to fel­low Kiwi Mike Phillips.

With just 5km to go, Cur­rie made a fi­nal surge and crossed the line with a nar­row 33 sec­ond mar­gin. Former Aus­tralian Olympic rower Todd Skip­worth com­pleted the podium.

For more in­for­ma­tion see iron­man­taupo.com

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