Ironman: Athletes full of praise for Ironman NZ after Taupō event voted best on tour

A day after the most gruelling multi-sport race on the planet, most Ironman competitors are probably putting their feet up.

But in Taupō, plans are already in place for the 2021 event and it's that commitment to the race that's seen it rated the best in the world by athletes.

From the cannon in the early hours of the morning to the iconic words at the end of the race, "you are an Ironman!", there's something about Taupo that sets it apart from the rest of the Ironman circuit.

"It's like coming home for me," American athlete Jocelyn McCauley told Newshub. 

"New Zealand and especially Taupō is a very healing place for me, it's just the love and community here is just so embracing," she added. 

She isn't alone, the Taupō leg of the Ironman circuit was voted most popular by athletes, with 98 percent saying the New Zealand stop was their favourite.

Yesterday's men's champion Joe Skipper can attest to that.

"I had so much support on the course it really felt like it was a home race for me, everyone was cheering for me the whole way," Skipper told Newshub. 

That Kiwi spirit gets Taupō the vote from the athletes in the field. 

Each year athletes brave enough to take on the gruelling race are met by thousands of volunteers, whether they need a helping hand or just a hug.

The Ironman circuit transcends some of the most scenic locations in the world, from Hawaii to Cairns, British Columbia to Puerto Rico

But Taupō holds a special place for these endurance athletes.

"It's a special race for me," 2020 women's winner Teresa Adam told Newshub.  

"Coming across the line to get welcomed with a special New Zealand welcome and a Māori welcome is just amazing." 

Yesterday was the 36th running of Ironman New Zealand in Taupō, and outside of the world championships it's the longest-running of any Ironman event in the world.

With all the support and the Kiwi encouragement, it's easy to see why.