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4 Reasons we noticed a small race in New Zealand yesterday

The Tauranga Half could go down in history as a game changer

Photo by: Hamish Collie/ Tauranga Half/ Braden Currie Instagram

It’s probably safe to say that most triathletes in North America are unfamiliar with the Tauranga Half triathlon in New Zealand, but yesterday’s race, won Kiwis Braden Currie and Rebecca Clarke, turned out to be an historic occasion. Here’s why:

RaceRanger test

Not to take anything away from Currie and Clarke’s performances (see below), but for international triathlon fans all eyes were on some new draft-busting technology that was tested for the first time in competition at the Tauranga Half. The RaceRanger system is designed to take the guesswork out of drafting calls by making accurate measurements between bikes during a race. According to Currie, “the¬†technology worked seamlessly.”

“If you move into the draft zone, it goes blue instantly, so you either have to soft-pedal or make the pass,” Currie said in an interview.

 

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A post shared by Braden Currie (@bradencurrie)

Braden Currie on track once again

After Currie’s brilliant third-place finish at the Ironman World Championship St. George (when he was outsprinted to the line by Lionel Sanders), we pointed out that no one should have been surprised by the Kiwi’s spectacular performance in Utah. Currie turned his sights to pro triathlon in 2013 after a hugely successful career as a multisport athlete – he was a four-time winner of New Zealand’s prestigious Coast to Coast race (240 km of kayaking, biking and running across New Zealand’s South Island) and was fifth and second at the Xterra World Championship in 2013 and 2015.

Currie’s 2022 season ended with a DNF in Kona, but he’s got 2023 off to a brilliant start with an impressive and record-setting win in Tauranga. He had the day’s fastest swim and runs (runner-up Mike Phillips posted the days fastest bike) and his 3:37:47 time was enough to set a new course record (Kyle Smith’s previous mark of 3:39:43 was set in 2021). Look for Currie to continue to be a factor as he gears up for Ironman New Zealand in March, the Ironman Asia Pacific Championships (Cairns) in June and then the Ironman World Championships in France in September.

Rebecca Clarke could be one to watch this year

 

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A post shared by Rebecca Clarke (@becclarke_tri)

The Kiwi successfully defended her title, running from third to the top spot ahead of countrywoman Amelia Watkinson. What was interesting to see was the impressive drop in her finish time – her 4:07:48 was over eight minutes faster than her 2022 finish time. (She was still well off Teresa Adam’s blazing course record of 3:57:01 set in 2021.) Last year Clarke followed her win in Tauranga up with a runner-up finish at Ironman Australia and a fifth at Challenge Roth. Her win on the weekend bodes well for more podium finishes this year.

Classics are hanging on

This was the 34th running of the Tauranga Half – it is one of New Zealand’s oldest races. Ironman 70.3 Taupo, which takes place in December, has been going since 2015 and attracted just under 800 athletes last year. The Tauranga event had 437 competitors this year. It was part of a weekend festival that included an Aquabike, a half marathon and an open water swim. It is great to see events like the Tauranga one continue to succeed.