Braden Currie Takes Second At Challenge Wanaka Triathlon After Epic Chase
[Editor's note—Pro triathlete Braden Currie continued his 2021 racing season at one of his favorite events, Challenge Wanaka. After testing out which bike would be fastest for the event’s new bike course, Braden proceeded to put in a stellar performance on race day. We're proud to present his race report below, courtesy of his team. Photos: Sean Beale.]
Picture perfect conditions were enjoyed today at Challenge Wanaka’s new hub, Glendhu Bay, after speculation that the race may not have gone ahead due to COVID-19 Level 2 restrictions.
"It was looking like the race would be cancelled early in the week, but it all came together in the end, and we have had the best weather this race has ever seen over the last few days,” said Braden. “I think we all just feel lucky to be racing this weekend."
The 1.9km swim commenced at 7:15am with Kyle Smith and Braden Currie starting together. Smith made an explosive attempt to gain an early advantage, and succeeded. The two favorites were ‘toe to toe’ in terms of pace from that point on.
"The swim course was beautiful this morning,” continued Braden. “You couldn’t have asked for a better morning for it. Kyle and I started the swim together, which was where I knew I needed to be early on in the race today. After about 400m and after rounding the first buoy, Kyle broke away."
Coming out of the swim, Smith had a 47-second lead on Currie before transitioning into the five-lap, undulating 90km bike course. Lap one allowed the pros a clear course before the age-groupers began to merge. Kyle Smith steadily put time into Currie, creating a 4min 30sec gap until lap 4, where Currie began to hold Smith’s pace.
“The legs were pretty slammed the first 40-50km of the bike, and it took a lot to get going before I found some rhythm,” said Braden.
The tables began to turn about 10km into the run, with Currie having clawed back significant time, closing the gap to 2 minutes and chasing hard with officials noting from the sidelines, “If anyone’s going to pull this back, it’s going to be Braden Currie.”
“The run felt really good,” said Braden. “I didn’t fade, I just felt better and better. There was about two and a half minutes in the first half of the course that was the best place to make gains as it's undulating and steep. I assumed the second half would feel harder after that but I managed to find a good rhythm. And the course is relatively flowy so I kept chewing back time. At the 15km mark, I knew I needed to run 15 seconds per kilometer faster than Kyle. It was all downhill, so I thought, ‘No matter how much he blows up, it’s still pretty hard to run that much faster than him.’ I gave it everything.”
An impressive sprint finish after an exceptional chase had Smith finish in first place—just 13 seconds ahead of Currie.
“On the top turnaround I thought there was a good chance I could pull him back in, so I dug as deep as I could on the last climb. But it wasn’t quite enough. Results aside, I’m stoked and feeling lucky to have been able to race today given the recent COVID-19 outbreak in New Zealand.”