Kylie Simpson and Braden Currie have claimed victory at the Cairns Airport IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns, with both athletes setting new course best times on their way to their wins.
Simpson crossed the line in 8:40:53 to take out the women’s title, with New Zealand’s Currie standing on the top step of the podium in 7:50:11 to win the men’s race.
Simpson’s win was her second in Cairns in the last three years, with the victory all the more impressive as it came off the back of a first place finish at IRONMAN Australia last month.
She finished almost 18 minutes clear of Radka Kahlefeldt, with Canberra’s Penny Slater rounding out the podium.
Simpson came out of the water in Palm Cove after the 3.8km swim in seventh position, more than 12 minutes behind the leaders.
As soon as Simpson was on the bike, she began chipping away at those in front of her, eventually coming off the bike just over 30 seconds behind Sarah Crowley.
Simpson hit the run course she powered ahead, pushing hard to open up a gap and didn’t look back on her way to the IRONMAN Cairns title.
“I think that was a PB swim for me, conditions were the best I’ve ever had in Cairns,” said Simpson.
“It’s always choppy but better than the last three years so yeah, I swam better than I ever have here.
“I just got on the bike and just put my head down and got into a rhythm and just took as much time out of the girls as I could,” she said.
“I knew I was chipping into them, I didn’t know that I was on course for the record so that’s a little bonus.”
Simpson enjoyed the battle with Crowley and Kahlefeldt in the early stages of the run.
“Coming into T2 and all of us in that change tent together, that was a good moment to realise how close we were and I knew that they can both run well, they’re both champions and I knew what I was up against” she said.
“Sarah’s won here multiple times, she’s been on the podium at Kona, Radka’s been to the Olympics so I knew that I couldn’t let them get away so I had to put as much time into them as I could.”
New Zealander Currie was at the front of the field all day, crossing the line more than 10 minutes ahead of Steve McKenna, with Tim Van Berkel finishing third.
“I’m pretty overwhelmed. It was just good to pull off a good race and a solid race, you don’t get too many of them in your career to be honest, I’ve learnt from racing IRONMAN they’re few and far between when things all go that well,” said Currie.
“So yeah, stoked to do it and stoked to pull off a third win here in Cairns and stoked that my family could enjoy it too.” '
Currie, McKenna and Christchurch’s Mike Phillips led the way across the 180km bike course, hitting the run course at the same time. Currie pushed hard early and never looked back, building on his lead throughout the 42.2km run to take the win.
“I don’t think anything ever goes to plan when it comes to racing so it’s best not to have any plans really,” said Currie.
“It went as smooth as it probably could, a good solid swim, lead out of the water which just meant I could do a little bit and set myself up a little bit more on the bike. We worked well together and didn’t let Mike get away and rip the legs to pieces so managed to keep him in control which meant I came onto the run feeling pretty fresh. The run probably went better than planned, a 2:40 here I’d be pretty happy with so to go like 2:38 was pretty great.”
Currie’s win took more than two minutes off the previous best time in Cairns, set by Max Neumann in 2022.
“Absolutely stoked, it was really tough, the wind was really strong on the way home, probably stronger than I’ve ever had it before so I actually thought our pace was going to be off record pace by quite some way but no, I think I was just consistent all day, so it came together.
“I’ve got a great connection with Cairns these days, huge crowd support out there, must be thousands of people on that course so it’s an incredible atmosphere and it’s always good to do it for the Kiwis, to race over here in Australia and race well, it’s great.” he said.