The 30th Anniversary of the Tauranga Half produced two new champions, with Mike Phillips and Hannah Wells taking out the men’s and women’s elite races in hot conditions in Mt Maunganui.
In was the third trip north from his Christchurch base for the iconic race, and third time lucky for Mike Phillips, winning the event with a winning margin of 1 minute 53 seconds over fast finishing Aucklander – Jack Moody.
Phillips came into the Tauranga Half, which was also the NZ Mid-Distance National Champs, determined for victory, after an early puncture on the bike leg spoiled his chances in 2014, and being out run by training partner Dylan McNeice in last year’s event.
Phillips has been working hard on his swimming and biking over the past year, and this showed this morning, when he emerged from the water on Pilot Bay in the lead with Auckland’s Mark Bowstead.
Bowstead copped a drafting penalty on the first lap of the 90k bike leg, allowing to Phillips to ride out front alone.
Mike Phillips produced the fastest bike leg of the race, giving him a large buffer heading into the 21k run leg. As it transpired, he needed this healthy margin on the final leg, with half marathon specialist Jack Moody producing an outstanding 1:14:34 run leg, and storm home to second place.
The victory comes after a stellar 2018 season for Mike Phillips which included a 5th in the NZ Ironman champs, 16th at the World Ironman Champs at Kona, Hawaii, and victory in the Taupo 70.3 in December.
“I have been trying to win this prestigious event for a few years, so was really happy to achieve this. After building a good lead on the bike, I was able to settle into my own pace on the run and build a good lead. I needed that lead as Jack Moody is running extremely well,” says Phillips.
He says he felt good through today’s 2km swim, 90km bike and 21km run, although he did notice the heat on the second lap of the run.
Jack Moody was delighted with his runner-up performance today. He only got into long distance triathlon a couple of years ago, and has shown great improvement since his 6th placing at this event last year.
The women’s elite race also produced a break-through performance from Tauranga triathlete – Hannah Wells. Wells upset the pre-race form guide, producing a withering half marathon on the run leg to cross the tape first, to the delight of local fans who packed the final stretch of road down Pilot Bay.
Before her second attempt at the Tauranga Half, Well’s goals were a podium finish, and to complete the event in a time of 4 hour 20 minutes, if possible.
Hannah Wells smashed both pre-race goals, to win the Tauranga Half in a time of 4:13:19. In the process, she beat two-time champion Amelia Rose Watkinson, and highly accomplished long distance triathletes Rebecca Clark and Teresa Adam.
With biking and running being her strengths, Wells needed a strong swim this morning to keep in contact with the pre-race favourites.
Rebecca Clark and Teresa Adam were first out of the water, completing the 2km swim in a time of 24 minutes 23 seconds, with Amelia Watkinson and Hannah Wells coming out of the harbour together, trailing by 1 minute 43 seconds.
Wells was able to ride the bike leg with Watkinson, maintaining a 2 minute deficit to Clark & Adam throughout the 90k bike.
Heading into the final 21k run leg, Wells had a fantastic transition to put a break on Watkinson, and then set about hauling in Clark and Adam. She hit the lead on the first of the two lap run course, and maintained this lead, to the delight of her home crowd.
“It’s so good to win on my home course,” says Wells. “I was pleased to stick with Amelia during the swim which meant that I was able to ride the bike leg with her.
“I had a quick final transition, which gave me a kick into the run. I focused on form and consistency during the run leg, and was able to stay strong.”
She says the hardest part was being in the lead, and not knowing how fast the other girls were running.
Amelia Watkinson also produced an outstanding 21k run leg to finish second, ahead of Rebecca Clark in third and Theresa Adam in fourth place.
Another popular winner today was leading NZ triathlete – Andrea Hewitt who made her first appearance at the Tauranga Half, winning the female team’s race, with Anneke Gomez.
Saturday’s Tauranga Half was the headline event for the Mount Festival of Multisport which included a range of athletic and community events.
Sam Clark who took out the Enduro which was completed over a 3m swim, 120km bike and 25km run distance. Multiple Coast to Coast winner, Clark showed his class on the bike and run to win the event by 32 minutes.