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written by Catherine Pattison

A strong performance in the humid Philippines has seen Red Bull athlete Braden Currie prove he is on track for Kona, with a podium result at the 2018 IRONMAN 70.3 Asia Pacific Championship in Cebu.

The Wanaka-based athlete went out hard against a stellar field and held his own up front until the latter stages of the run. He finished third 1min:27secs behind Mexico’s Mauricio Mendez, who claimed his sixth IRONMAN 70.3 win, while Bermuda’s Tyler Butterfield claimed second.

Currie placed fourth here in 2016 and although he moved up one place today after challenging for the title, he says he had a “solid race.”

“All in all, I was pretty happy with where I was at. It was a big race and I knew it was going to be tough from the start,” Currie says.

The swim leg was at the Shangri—La’s Mactan Beach, with conditions more choppy than usual after a few windy days on the island. Although, today was calmer with advantageous cloud cover to help keep the athletes cooler in the tropical heat.

United States athlete Kevin Collington led the pro males out of the 1.9km swim, followed closely by Currie in 0:25mins:17secs – only 5secs behind and clocking the same blistering time as Mendez.

The 90km bike traversed four cities forming an M –Loop, around urban Cebu. A group of 13 riders chased each other through first two of three loops, with both Australian athlete Luke McKenzie and Currie trying several times to get away and eventually managing to break the group up.

Braden Currie races at Ironman 70.3 in Philippines
Currie refuelling to stay in the pack of the bike

At the 73km mark on the bike, he rode away in a break of seven athletes, which included Australians Luke McKenzie, Casey Munro and Tim Reed, plus Butterfield, Mendez and fellow Kiwi Mike Phillips. They stretched out a 20-sec gap on the chasing pack.

“I did what I could on the bike but there was not enough fire power to split up the groups and we ended up in one big bunch,” Currie says.

By the end of the 90km ride Currie led the pack of seven into T2 with a bike time of 2hours:31mins:14secs.

They headed out onto the run, which is along the roads of Punta Enngano, lined by up to 100,000 townsfolk cheering them on as they took off two minutes ahead of the next bunch of cyclists. With some seriously world-class runners in this lead group, the next 21.2km were shaping up to be a next-level running race.

Butterfield initially maintained a small 50m gap on a hard-chasing Currie but the charging Kiwi pulled up alongside after about 5km and the pair began an epic duel for the lead.

Braden Currie races at Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific Championships in Cebu Philippines
Second place on the second lap of the run behind Tyler Butterfield

At the half-way mark Butterfield held a 16 sec advantage, then three minutes later Mendez passed Currie to take over second place.

“I knew that run was going to be tough. To be honest I didn’t have the best run legs, I had consistency but I didn’t really have the speed,” Currie says.

He finished in 3hours:48mins:12secs with Butterfield 33ecs ahead and Mendez clocking 3:46:45. Currie was the first to credit his worthy opponents.

“Mendez is a fantastic runner and Butterfield had an amazing race.”

I came here to learn where I was at and give myself a bit of slap in the face. Now I’ll put some more work in for the next three weeks in the build-up to 70.3 Worlds in South Africa on September 2.

After his amazing showdown against Javier Gomez to win IRONMAN Cairns, Currie has been training in Noosa, Queensland for the past month.

Racing in Cebu was good preparation for the World IRONMAN Championships in Kona in October with the tropical heat, potential for strong headwinds and huge crowd atmosphere closely mirroring the Hawaiian conditions.

Braden Currie finishes 3rd at Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific Championships in Cebu, Philippines
A third place at the Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific Championship