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It was a hard day out for Braden Currie at the 2018 ISUZU IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in South Africa and the Red Bull athlete will head away with some important learnings from today’s race.

Racing amongst a phenomenally talented field, Currie managed a credible eighth pace at the Port Elizabeth event and will use this tough experience to fuel his fire for the World IRONMAN Championships in Kona, in six weeks’ time.

The 13th edition of the Ironman 70.3 World Championship is a prestigious, key triathlon event and the quality of the field reflected this. The crème de la crème of the world’s athletes lined up at the 1.9km swim start.

Germany’s Jan Frodeno, who won the Ironman 70.3 Worlds in 2015 and is the only man to win the World IRONMAN Championship (2015, 2016) and Olympic gold (2008); 2012 and 2016 Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee, and five-time ITU Olympic distance World Champion and 2012 Olympic silver medallist, the defending champion Javier Gomez were among the star-studded men’s contenders.

Braden Currie blueseventy blueseventynz wetsuit Ironman 70.3 World Championships
Race ready © Korupt Vision

Competing in half the distance he will race over in Hawaii, Currie admits his top-end speed was not where it needed to be today.

“I hate to make excuses but looking back, I haven’t had the ideal build-up with a week being sick, then racing in Cebu [where he placed third in the Asia Pacific IRONMAN 70.3 championships] took a week out of training. I was not able to put a lot of focus into my top-end speed and power. I think that really showed today,” Wanaka’s Currie says.

The day, which dawned misty and humid, started extremely positively for Currie, who dealt admirably with the painfully fast pace on the swim. He stayed at the front of the pack and spurred himself on to set a personal best swim time of 21mins:57secs – exiting the water only 4secs behind the leaders.

“I had an awesome swim start and felt really comfortable. I sat in behind Jan [Frodeno] and [Javier] Gomez and caught a really good wave into the beach,” Currie says.

While some of the top-notch athletes had lightning fast transitions –  with United States athlete  Ben Kanute’s time in T1 only 1:40, which means it took him a mere 100 seconds to get out of his swim suit and onto the bike course – Currie had an uncharacteristically tricky changeover to the 90km bike.

Braden Currie transition Ironman 70.3 World Championships
Braden heading off to T1  © Korupt Vision

“I had a few mishaps in transition and when I got out on my bike I should have gone up the road and got on the front but I ended up in the wrong place to be honest. I got towards the back of the front bunch. By the time you are dealing with the bungee effect, when someone like Jan is putting out so much power up the road, you have to absorb it after its been stretched through about seven or eight people. It just became way too much,” Currie says.

He started the bike in 8th position only 14 seconds behind the lead, where he remained for the first 20km. Then a hammering Brownlee and Kanute made their break up the front at around the 35km mark and Currie had to work hard on the wet roads to stay in contact with the lead group. Battling with legs that felt “heavy and sore” he felt like he was forever trying to bridge up to the riders in front and keep up the tempo.

“It just dealt to me.”  © Korupt Vision

He was off the bike in 2hours:09mins:15secs, which was +4mins:58secs behind the leaders, who had set off like they were running an Olympic distance race and were maintaining an insane pace. One of the top three, Gomez had the fastest first split clocking an average of 3:03/km over the first 5.2kms, while Frodeno ran the first 15.6km in 48mins:15secs, which is just unbelievably swift.

“I did what I could early on in the run and I felt really good. I wasn’t running as fast as I hoped but I had really good endurance, so that’s positive for Kona,” Currie says.

Braden Currie on the running course at Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Port Elizabeth
Flying over the course © Korupt Vision

Frodeno took the win in a phenomenal 3hours:36mins:30secs, with Currie crossing the line in 3:49:16.

“This is my first world 70.3 champs experience and I believe you live and you learn. I know if I want to be at the front of that race I need to work on my top-end power and not worry so much about my endurance. That way I can get to the front on the bike and be amongst those bursts rather than dealing with them on seventh wheel.”

Currie will return to his Noosa training base, where he is looking forward to getting a few solid weeks of training in before his second tilt at the world’s toughest IRONMAN on October 14.

“I know my swim is there and my running tempo felt comfortable at IRONMAN pace, so I believe I could hold it right through. The next few weeks will be about finding that bit more on the bike to be more consistent. I think the beauty of Kona is that we are not dealing with such high-end power, we are dealing with more consistent endurance. I’ll go do some hard work and hopefully there will be a bit more in the tank for Kona.”

Braden Currie finishes his first Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Port Elizabeth © Korupt Vision