On Saturday March 1, 2014 in Taupo, New Zealand a sold-out field of international pro and age-group athletes took to the waters of one of the largest fresh water lakes in the world to kick off the start of the 30th anniversary of Ironman New Zealand.
Olympian Bevan Docherty and Meredith Kessler were the winners of the 2013 event and were both on hand to attempt to defend their reign as male and female pro champions of Ironman New Zealand.
Bevan Docherty was expected to be up against some stiff competition with Cameron Brown, Guy Crawford, Basazs Csoke, Marko Albert, and Romain Guillaume just a few of the male pros capable of landing a spot in the podium on their best effort.
On the female side Gina Crawford would be trying to chase down Merdith Kessler and claim top spot as she was less than three minutes behind Kessler in 2013.
Kessler entered the race as a two-time champion and would be going for her third New Zealand title in a row.
As the race got underway in near perfect conditions the top pro men and women in the swim posted incredibly fast swim times.
Marko Albert of Estonia led a pack of eight swimmer out of the water with his swim time of 46:10, but the eight swimmers behind him were all out of the water under 46:30.
Albert was all business on the bike and surged into the lead. At the 130k mark of the Ironman New Zealand 180k bike course he had a lead of 2:02 over Romain Guillaume of France who was second and 2:20 over Peter Graves of Great Britain who was holding down the third spot.
Albert extended his lead to over five minutes as he began the 42k marathon.
By the halfway mark of the run it was Cameron Brown and Terenzo Bozzone taking over the second and third spots, but they still had six minutes to make up on Albert who was showing no signs of weakening.
Cameron Brown took a solid hold on second place but was unable to run down the leader.
Marko Albert is the 2014 Ironman New Zealand champion and is the first European to win the race in 14 years. He took the victory with a winning time of 8:17:33
For the pro women it was reigning Ironman New Zealand Champion Meridith Kessler of the USA dominating the race once again as she had a lead of over six minutes on 2013 runner-up Gina Crawford by the 120k point of the bike course.
In a replay of 2013 it was becoming a two-women race as the rest of the field was far back.
Kessler maintained her lead as the marathon began and despite losing two minutes to a flat tire remained almost seven minutes ahead of Crawford.
As the run progressed Gina Crawford began to get back some time and at the halfway point of the run closed the gap to under five minutes.
The race was still in progress at press time.
There was $75,000 in prize money to be won for the top pro finishers as well as 50 entries into the 2014 Ironman World Championship in Kona for the top age-group athletes in the various categories.
For a look at how the race turned out for the pro women and all the top pro and age-group results visit IronStruck.com