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Braden Currie takes his first win of the season, in what he hopes will be the first 1st win of 5.  This is a strategic year for Currie, as he takes all his learnings from the last 24months of racing.  Executing game plan 1 to perfection by securing a convincing victory today at Challenge Wanaka.

Completing the 1.9km swim, 90km road bike and 21.1km run in exactly 4 hours flat, Currie (32) headed off super cyclist Andrew Starykowicz, of the United States, by 2mins.45secs, as he ran through the finish chute cheered on by his hometown crowd.

With Ironman New Zealand only a fortnight away, it was the perfect hit-out for Currie in what was his first race after a three-month break – following his impressive fifth place in the World Ironman Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

Braden exiting the water in 2nd place after Dylan McNeice © Jemma Wells Photography

“I was thinking ahead to my next race, so once I had it in the bag, it meant that over the last 8km of the run, I got to turn it down a little bit. It was a bit nicer compared to last year when [Challenge Wanaka 2018 winner Javier] Gomez had me bleeding out my nostrils! The recovery should be smoother over this next week. I’ll be going into the Taupo race, which is key for my Kona qualification, with a good base fitness and a good taper should put me in a great space,” Currie says.

This year Currie has changed coaches and is now working with Wanaka’s Val Burke. She and Currie have implemented a new training plan with the long-term vision focused on success at Kona 2019. A solid training block leading into today’s race meant he initially found it tough-going but soon settled in.

“It ended up really good but I didn’t feel that great getting up this morning or coming into the bike ride because there was not a huge taper heading into this one. Once I got into the run I felt super comfortable. I held my pace and conserved what I could.”

Currie was only one minute behind swim specialist Dylan McNeice coming out of Lake Wanaka early this morning and finished the stunning ride out past Glendhu Bay, through Lake Hawea and back to Wanaka only 2.5mins down on cycling machine Starykowicz.

Heading out to Lake Hawea © Jemma Wells Photography

“I was happy with my swim and then on the ride I was expecting Starky to go past at about 100 miles an hour and he did. That happened quite early on, which definitely worried me a little bit. But then in the second half of the bike, where I thought he would make some big gains, he didn’t make any. That’s a good sign and positive for my bike leg going forward.”

The new drafting rule, which meant athletes needed to leave a 20-metre gap between their bikes was “awesome” as far as Currie was concerned.

Holding 2nd place behind Andrew Starykowicz on the 90km hilly bike course @Jemma Wells Photography

“It makes it really fair, especially today where I could have probably hung onto Starky with the old 12-metre draft rule for quite a long time. With that 20 metre gap, it just split us up straight away and it was each to his own.

Starykowicz feels he has some unfinished business in regards to Currie and called for a rematch with him at Ironman NZ. “I know how much this must mean for Braden winning on home soil. And I am proud for him but I will kick his butt in two weeks,” said a conciliatory Starykowicz.

1st win of the 2019 season in 4:00:00 @Jemma Wells Photography

The 2017 Ironman NZ winner, Currie will also have defending champion Terenzo Bozzone (Auckland) breathing down his neck, along with an all-star men’s lineup that features 12-time champion Cameron Brown, Australian Matt Burton, who finished third today, and 70.3 legend Tim Reed.

“Ironman is a whole different beast to racing this half-distance event. The bonus is that I held a good pace on the run and felt really comfortable doing it. I could have turned over another 20km.”

For now, Currie, who spends a lot of the year racing internationally, could enjoy having only a five-minute drive to get back to his house today to recover.

“You can’t beat winning in front of a home crowd. It’s amazing and so special to see so many friends and family out there on course. The whole course was lined with people yelling my name.”