22-year-old wins Ironman on debut
Long-distance triathlon’s next generation put the old guard on notice at Ironman 70.3 Taupo, with 22-year old Kyle Smith taking out the men’s pro race in a time of 3:49:23.
He was closely followed by 24-year-old Max Neumann from Australia just 20 seconds later, while 22-year-old Hayden Wilde from Whakatane rounded out the ‘millennials’ podium in a time of 3:52:39.
Kyle and Max played a tactical game of cat and mouse right from the swim exit, with Hayden putting in a solid effort on the bike to try and catch the flying leaders.
Kyle hit the run with a small lead of 26 seconds over Max, eventually winning the battle of wills to cross the finish line in first place.
An emotional Kyle credited his hometown support – and the inspiration of Hayden – for the win at his debut 70.3 distance.
“I was really suffering for the last three kilometres and I was seeing stars. I don’t think I would have made it home without the crowd support – everyone shouting my name got me there,” says Kyle.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it was going to be a hard day and I went into it with full respect for the distance, and for the other competitors.
“It’s been a hard year with lots of ups and downs, sickness and injury which has been eating away at me. I’ve worked so hard…to have that recognised by lifting the tape…is just amazing.”
Kyle says he’s looking forward to tackling the course again at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Taupa in 2020.
“The course is amazing. I’ve been riding those roads since I first started in triathlon and you can’t beat the run by the lake.”
A visibly exhausted Max Neumann acknowledged he’d given everything to the race.
“Kyle and I got a gap on the rest of the field from the beginning of the bike and we managed to hold that gap the whole way.
“I thought I’d be able to come back at the end, but I think we were both completely in the hurt box. I simply closed my eyes and ran down the home straight,” says Max.