Race favourite Bevan Docherty was pipped at the Ironman 70.3 in Auckland yesterday by unknown Australian Christian Kemp.
Annabel Luxton completed the Aussie double by winning the women's event.
Kemp ran away from Docherty 5km out from the finish to win the biggest race of his career in a time of 3 hours 56 minutes 2 seconds. The USA-based Docherty, a double Olympic medallist, hung on to finish second ahead of compatriot, Taranaki's Clark Ellice, who was more than pleased with his effort.
"I felt really strong in the swim and the bike," Ellice said. "I had a calf strain in the middle of November so I knew I probably wasn't going to be able to stay with them the whole way on the run. I just did what I could because Bevan set a pretty furious pace."
The extra work Ellice has been doing in the pool with experienced coach Sue Southgate had paid immediate dividends, he said.
"It felt really easy on the swim and it's a huge advantage when you come out of the water feeling good and I had a really strong bike leg, as well. I've done a lot of work in the off-season at the velodrome and the mix of training has sort of freshened up my approach."
Kemp said the victory was the "biggest win of my life" and the 32- year-old was delighted to be able to pip Docherty.
"I've gone under the radar in most races I go into at the moment and you have a good day here and there and obviously I had one of them today. I'm not sure that I'll be right up with the top guys yet but I certainly won't be flying under the radar anymore.
"I surprised myself today to be honest. When I was running with Clark and Bevan I was just pinching myself.
"I don't know how I was there and the legs were feeling good."
Despite getting a tyre puncture 4km from the end of the bike leg, Kemp heaped praise on Auckland's road surface and crowd support.
"The course was awesome. The road surface was beautiful; probably one of the best surfaces you'll ride on all year so it was great," he said. "There was so much support for Bevan and Clark out there it actually inspired me a little bit, and fortunately for me my legs held out just a little bit longer than those guys."
In the women's pro race, Brisbane-based Luxford, the former world No 1 Olympic distance athlete, led almost start to finish to win in a time of 4hr 19min 18sec, six minutes clear of double world champion Caroline Steffen (Switzerland) and Ironman New Zealand champion Meredith Kessler (USA).
Anna Ross was the best of the Kiwi starters finishing fifth.
Triathletes Dylan McNeice and Gina Crawford scored a Canterbury double at the 2013 Challenge Wanaka championship with commanding wins on Saturday.
Crawford set a new women's course record of 9hr 24min 31sec, while McNeice had a breakthrough victory in his first long-distance triathlon.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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