Australia’s Tim Reed and the United States’ Meredith Kessler kicked off their seasons with victories at a championship-level race at Sunday’s Ironman 70.3 Auckland. The race served as the Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championships, handing out a high number of KPR points (P-1500 level) and a larger prize purse ($75,000) than is typical at 70.3s.
New Zealand’s Dylan McNeice led the men out of the water at 23:14, with Australia’s James Seear, Matt Franklin (NZL) and Ellice Clark (NZL) rounding out the first group into T1. Veterans Craig Alexander (AUS) and Cameron Brown (NZL) started the bike ride about one minute down. Reed also kicked off the bike race at about a minute back.
Three-time Ironman world champion Alexander took the lead early on in the bike and was eventually overtaken by New Zealand’s Mark Bowstead. As Bowstead broke away, 10 men behind him rode comfortably in a legal pack.
When bike turned to run, Bowstead’s lead stood at one minute over that group. Reed and Alexander showed the strong early run legs and looked to be chasing down the lead New Zealander. After one of two laps on the run, Reed held the lead with Leon Griffin (AUS) chasing at nine seconds back, Alexander at 36 seconds back and Brown at 52 seconds back.
Reed held onto his lead, finishing his day with a field-best 1:11:47 half-marathon to claim the 3:49:54 victory. Griffin had a strong day to finish second in 3:50:24, with Brown rounding out the top three in 3:51:19. Alexander finished fourth at 3:52:38 and McNeice earned fifth at 3:53:59, putting the entire top five at the finish line within about four minutes of each other.
Kessler started her day with a dominant swim, exiting the water in 25:22. New Zealand’s Gina Crawford (26:40) and Amelia Watkinson (27:19) were next into transition, but Kessler was already well on her way to a substantial lead.
Kessler turned in a field-best 2:26:52 bike split to earn a two-minute lead over Crawford starting the run. Watkinson was third onto the half-marathon course at 4:27 back.
The American continued her dominance once on the run, posting a 1:25:21 split—giving her the fastest swim, bike and run of the women. She claimed the victory at 4:20:12. Crawford followed at 4:23:33 for second, with Watkinson grabbing third at 4:26:18. New Zealand’s Anna Russell and Julia Grant finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
It’s worth noting Kessler’s success at racing in New Zealand. The American also won Ironman New Zealand in Taupo in 2012, 2013 (on a shortened course) and 2014.
Ironman 70.3 Auckland – Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championships
Auckland, New Zealand – Jan. 18, 2015
1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run
1. Tim Reed (AUS) 3:49:54
2. Leon Griffin (AUS) 3:50:24
3. Cameron Brown (NZL) 3:51:19
4. Craig Alexander (AUS) 3:52:38
5. Dylan McNeice (NZL) 3:53:59
1. Meredith Kessler (USA) 4:20:12
2. Gina Crawford (NZL) 4:23:33
3. Amelia Watkinson (NZL) 4:26:18
4. Anna Russell (NZL) 4:33:28
5. Julia Grant (NZL) 4:40:49