Braden Currie is one step away from World XTERRA Championship domination, finishing second today in Hawaii, in only his third attempt at this hot, humid race, which attracts one of the most stellar fields of athletes on the planet.
The Wanaka-based Red Bull endurance athlete has put everything into racing these intense off-road triathlon XTERRA events this year and his focus, committment and dedication saw him topple pre-race favourite Spainard Ruben Ruzafa on the 10km trail run. Currie finished in 2hours:38mins:30secs – under three minutes behind American athlete Josiah Middaugh (2:35:32) and over two minutes ahead of Ruzafa (2:40:40).
”This result was defintiely a big step forward for me. I’m stoked to have finally beaten Ruben [Currie was regularly runner-up to him in European XTERRA events in 2013] and to finish so close to Josiah,” Currie says.
The calibre of Currie’s fellow podium placegetters illustrates how incredible the Kiwi’s achievement is on the world stage. Ruzafa is a three-time World XTERRA winner, defending event champion and was racing today off the back of victories in 15 straight XTERRA majors since winning the 2013 Worlds. Middaugh’s first Worlds victory today was the culmination of 15 attempts. He has won the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series for three straight seasons – just beating Currie to the title this year – and he has been the top American at the Worlds seven times.
“To be racing at the level of these two legends is awesome but next year I’ll be coming back to win. While second is an indication of the progress I’ve made, it just gives me more drive to come back in 2016 and claim that top step of the podium,” Currie says.
His 1.5km open water swim went as planned and he exited the sea just behind the leading bunch of five. Currie made up some time running up to the transition and within a short time on the bike had them in his sights.
“I was just feeling really good, so when I saw them I dropped the hammer and rode around a group of four. I definitely couldn’t have done that a couple of years ago,” Currie says.
Only Australian Olympian triathlete Courtney Atkinson remained in front and Currie upped the ante to catch and pass him.
Ruzafa appeared not long after and the pair tussled back and forth for the lead before the Spanish athlete made a break on Currie. He was in front by about 50m as they began the second climb of the gruellingly steep 32km mountain bike.
Middaugh had been gaining on the front two athletes, then made a move past when Currie stopped to check his tyre was not running flat.
“The big thing for me is my biking. I’d always lost about five to six minutes to the leaders on the bike and had been way out the back when I got onto the run. Working with World Under 23 cross country champ Anton Cooper’s mountain bike coach David Plew has really given my performance an added boost,” Currie says.
Heading into the final discipline – a near vertical trail run, Currie was only about 2mins;20secs down on Ruzafa and 45secs off Middaugh. He called on all his energy reserves to bridge the gap to what he believed was going to be a third place result.
“At about the 5km mark all of a sudden I saw Ruben and he was just crawling. I kind of felt sorry for him but then I just turned on the gas all the way to the finish,” Currie says.
In only his third year of XTERRA racing Currie has shot up from placing 17th in his first XTERRA Worlds attempt in 2012, to fifth the following year and is now a serious title prospect.
At 29-years-old he is just entering his prime years as an athlete and has proven he has what it takes to beat Middaugh, after claiming the USA Off Road Championship from him in May.
Currie will turn his attention back to adventure racing next weekend, returning to the Augusta Adventure Fest in South West Australia to defend his three consecutive titles. The event doubles as the Australasian Multisport Championships and features swimming, kayaking, technical trail running and a mountain bike section.
December sees Currie switch to on-road pursuits to race the Taupo 70.3 – a category that he has the potential to excel in.
“I want to be a world champion and am lucky enough to be able to try my hand at half ironman, adventure racing and XTERRA. I will be assessing my competing options over the next few months and whatever I decide to pursue it will be with a gold medal in mind,” Currie says.
CAPTION Red Bull Endurance athlete Braden Currie, of Wanaka, stormed from third into second place on the run section of the World XTERRA Championships in Hawaii today. PHOTO CREDIT: JESSE PETERS
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