Ironman NZ: Kiwi Mike Phillips runs down rival for Taupo victory

Cantabrian Mike Phillips has claimed a dramatic victory at 2019 Ironman NZ, running down American Andrew Starykowicz over the closing stages at Taupo.

For Phillips, who finished fifth last year, this was an 'unlikely' victory that came after the run of his life, setting a course record on the final 42km run and passing the man who had just set a record on the bike.

"You know, I thought 'I can win it here'," he said afterwards. "Then he sort of run behind me and I thought 'Ah no, still a couple of kilometres to go'.

"But it was nice to be able to cruise the last few k's."

The day began with the swim, where athletes were greeted with perfect conditions.

Those conditions seemed to suit 'Kiwi' men, with the top six out of the water all New Zealanders.

Christchurch’s Dylan McNeice led the pack by more than a minute, while for the women, Rebecca Clarke emerged first.

But the race took a bad turn for the Kiwis, with world recordholder Starykowicz taking control and sailing ahead.

Locals Braden Currie and Terenzo Bozzone stayed close, knowing they had serious work ahead to catch the American. At this stage, Phillips was doing well to hold on at all.

On two occasions, he was forced to hop off and repair his his bike and by transition, Starykowicz was well ahead by a monster 15 minutes, after clocking 4h 12m 8s for the 180km ride.

By the run, he seemed hard to catch, but Currie went to work, shaving down the minutes, while Phillips kept plugging on.

At one stage, Currie seemed about to take the lead, but Phillips picked up the pace, en route to a 2h 40m 05s marathon time.

Currie fell to third, as the Cantabrian and American battled it out for the win. Phillips made up 20 minutes on the run to record 8h 5m 09s.

The women’s race was less successful for the New Zealand, with American Jocelyn McCauley winning in 8h 53m 11s - a course record.

But Kiwi Teresa Adam did come second (9h 05m 33s), repeating her 2018 finish.