Marko Albert wins Ironman New Zealand

BEN STRANG
Last updated 17:24 01/03/2014

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Marko Albert and Meredith Kessler are the 2014 Ironman New Zealand champions.

Estonian 34-year-old Albert held off a late charge from Ironman legend Cameron Brown to win the race in Taupo, while Terenzo Bozzone finished third.

US athlete Kessler dominated the women's race, leading from start to finish and setting a new course record in nine hours, eight minutes and 45 seconds, nearly six minutes faster than the old record.

Albert led the way during the 3.8km swim leg in the men's race, finishing in 46 minutes and 10 seconds, six seconds ahead of defending champion Docherty, Brit Harry Wiltshire, and Kiwi Terenzo Bozzone.

Cameron Brown finished the swim more than two minutes behind, just behind Australian fifth seed Tim Van Berkel.

Hungarian sixth seed Balazc Czoke was a notable casualty early in the cycle leg, and was seen in distress little more than 40km into the ride on the side of the road.

A lead group of seven riders came together early in the 180km bike leg, and by the 80km mark Brown and Van Gerkel had caught up to form a 10-man lead group of riders.

That's when Albert decided to make a push for the lead, and made his break from the group.

It paid off, with Albert out to a 1m 25s lead 40km later, and by the end of the course he had made more than five minutes on the chasing field.

He managed to stretch out to a 6m 15s lead 12km into the marathon run leg, as the Kiwi trio of Docherty, Brown and Bozzone started reeling the Estonian in.

Docherty couldn't sustain his challenge much longer, dropping away about 20km into the run, and eventually pulling out.

Brown kept the pressure on Albert, reducing the gap to 4m 30s with about 10km remaining, as Bozzone struggled to keep up with the pace and three minutes further back.

In the space of 2km Brown took a full minute off Albert's lead late in the race, but Albert held off the Ironman NZ legend to win his first Ironman event.

That sparked the Estonian back into life, and he sprinted the final two kilometres for his maiden Ironman victory.

In the women's race, Meredith Kessler set an unrelenting pace throughout, and even mechanical problems on the bike leg couldn't stop her.

Kessler came close to a course record in the swim, finishing in 46m 47s, but was only 10 seconds ahead of Kiwi pro Anna Cleaver.

Gina Crawford was next out of the water nearly five minutes later, while third seed Candice Hammond came out of the water 12 minutes after Kessler finished.

Kessler then began to stretch her lead on the bike, extending it to six minutes when she had mechanical problems after the 120km mark.

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It didn't slow her down for long, as she fixed the problem and got back on the bike, and was soon extending her lead further.

Cleaver was unable to continue her challenge, falling well out of contention in the bike leg, while Crawford and Hammond moved into second and third respectively.

Crawford put the pressure on during the run, shrinking the lead from 6m 40s at the start to 4m 14s midway through the race.

Then Kessler stepped it up a gear, extending her lead out past six minutes by the finish.

The old Ironman NZ record in Taupo was nine hours, 14 minutes and 35 seconds set by Joanna Lawn in 2010, but Kessler came in nearly six minutes under that time.

It was the American's third win in a row in Taupo.

- Fairfax Media

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