US win puts Currie on track for Ironman worlds
After battling side-by-side for 21km, Braden Currie snatched victory in a finish chute sprint at the Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz, winning by a second over accomplished United States athlete Ben Hoffman.
The effort of fending off the seven-time 70.3 champion Hoffman, who was fourth at the Kona Ironman World Championships last year and second in 2014, meant Currie grabbed the finish tape, lay down and virtually blacked out. Once he stopped seeing stars, the Red Bull endurance athlete was able to savour the reward of winning against many of the world's best triathletes in the California, United States, race that represented a crucial build-up to his debut in the Ironman World Championships next month.
The 2017 Ironman New Zealand Champion, Currie who hails from Methven, clocked in at 3.33.57 hours and although he knows he has to "go double" for the October 14 race in Hawaii, the half-distance Santa Cruz race was proof that his punishing training regime in Noosa, Australia, over the past nine weeks has paid off.
"In training, I've been working a lot on my run and it has been coming along really well. I wanted to test it and see what I could do. The whole run was pretty brutal, side by side with an awesome athlete like Ben, but it was great to have that level of competition to find out how hard I can push myself," the 31-year-old said.
His victory came down to tactics and sheer grit as he executed a move past Hoffman as they descended a hill and took a hard right turn onto the beach. Currie shot in front of his rival on the corner, forcing him to slow briefly, as the Wanaka-based Kiwi sprinted away from him down the sand to cross the finish line.
"When I finished, I was so destroyed I just lay down and blacked out really," Currie said.
He and Hoffman had run the half marathon together after exiting the 90-kilometre bike in a group of seven athletes, who were more than four minutes behind German biking phenomenon Andi Boecherer. Quickly making ground on their fellow runners, Currie and Hoffman caught Boecherer, who finished fifth at the Ironman World Championships last year, about 5km from the finish. They then watched him pull out of the Santa Cruz race due to an injury
Boecherer's exit left the New Zealander and the American trying their best to break each other as they sped through the final kilometres.
Currie had initially been discouraged on the bike ride as he was unable to match the pace of Boecherer, who broke away. Opting to settle into a rhythm, he finished the ride in eighth, 4.46 minutes down on Boecherer. At that stage Currie was put in a position where he had to fight to pull back every second in order to come out on top at the 21.1km run's end.
"I took off after Andi and although I was hurting, I felt comfortable and I knew Ben [Hoffman] would be hurting too."
Currie credited his successful multisport and adventure racing background for allowing him to mentally adapt quickly to the race start being delayed by 30 minutes as thick fog made it unsafe for the ocean swim off Santa Cruz Main Beach. The 1.9km swim course was subsequently cut to only 700m.
"It was a super short swim and it definitely changed the way the race unfolded. There were a few athletes that it didn't play into their field of expertise. I was just disappointed I didn't get to test my swim over the full distance but I didn't let it rattle me," Currie said.
"I came here to have a good race and race some strong athletes. A lot of them have been top five at Kona so to know I can race well with these guys is awesome. Now I just have to double the distance."
To prepare for the 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42.2km run in the humid heat of Hawaii, Currie now heads to Boulder, Colorado, to train at altitude.