Braden Currie is an athlete that is known for his ability to push beyond the limits of endurance and enjoy the suffering that inevitably comes with this style of racing. This weekend’s Challenge Wanaka half was no exception to the rule.

“Having the chance to race against someone like Javier, who you know will push you to your limits, is why I love racing.”

One of the best fields ever seen in New Zealand in long distance triathlon lined up on Saturday morning to race the Challenge Wanaka Half.

For Braden Currie, this was the first time he had had the opportunity to compete against Javier and he was excited about the prospect of racing Gomez for the first time.

“I’m stoked to race Gomez, he is at the pinnacle of the sport. He races how I like to race, and I of course would love to beat him, but if I get the opportunity to challenge him in swim, bike or run, then you can expect to see a pretty massive grin from me regardless of the result.”

The race started at 8.15am in what the race organisers considered the calm before the storm. On the exit from the swim, the rain set in and the pro field set off on the first section of the ride into the mountains with high winds and persistent rain. Currie true to form exited the swim in 6th place and after a trademark quick transition headed the field out on the bike course in 1st.

Riding as a group of 4, the lead group extended their lead on the swim to 6 minutes on the rest of the pro field over the first 26km section of the bike.

“I was just trying to do everything I could and push myself as hard as I could. With someone like Javier racing, you have to put it all on the line.”

Braden Currie at Challenge WanakaBraden Currie at Challenge Wanaka
(Photo: Jason Beacham; click to enlarge)

Arriving back to Wanaka, Currie dropped his chain heading into a steep hill climb. The ultimate act of sportsmanship and respect was granted by Gomez as he slowed down and attempted to give Currie some momentum by pushing him up the hill with his hand.

“Javier is just such an honest guy. I dropped my chain going up the hill and he put his hand on my back and gave me a push, but I still couldn’t get it back on. I was forced to stop to try and fix it and the next thing I knew Javier was sitting up to give me a chance to get back in the race. I think everyone respected each other out there on the course and it was great to have a race like that.”

Challenge Wanaka is renowned for its bike course, with 497 metres of altitude gain over 90km. “I like a hilly course, it makes for a tough bike that is unforgiving and it suits the way I ride.”

The rain in Wanaka did not let up for the pro athletes and resulted in slick conditions on course, but Currie continued to push at the front of the race with Dylan McNeice and Gomez pushing hard from behind.

“In hindsight, I did a lot of work on the front, and who knows maybe that was my 20 seconds in the run that hurt me, but I love being there and I knew the other boys behind us were going to come thick and fast if we didn’t work hard. I didn’t want to just sit there and wait for them to come”

Braden Currie at Challenge WanakaBraden Currie at Challenge Wanaka
(Photo: Jason Beacham; click to enlarge)

Arriving into transition, Currie was sitting in 2nd place behind Dougal Allan but Currie continued to try and push the rest of the field by moving into the lead at the 1.5km mark on the run.

“I took off out of transition and went out in front. I don’t wear a watch so I had no idea what pace I was going at, but I just wanted to push as deep as I could.“

For the first 13km Currie held off Gomez on the 21.1km course around Lake Wanaka.

“Unfortunately, he caught me on Gunn road, and that guy is just built to run up that type of hill. We were running up there side by side and then he took me just before the top.”

Gunn road is a notorious section of the Challenge Wanaka run course, with a steep incline that is traditionally lined with supporters and volunteers cheering from both sides.

“Once we hit the top I thought he would just drop the hammer but we kept pretty close after that. For a moment, I thought I was pulling him back in, but then he extended out again and for the rest of the race we just played it out that way.

The race continued to hold its intensity keeping the crowds of supporters on the edge of their seats, with Currie refusing to relent on the final 8km of the run course.

“Every now and then Gomez would look back behind him and then pick up the pace, and I just held in there. I had no choice today but to absolutely bury myself and in the end it was a super close race and I have to be stoked with that.”

Braden Currie at Challenge WanakaBraden Currie at Challenge Wanaka
(Photo: Jason Beacham; click to enlarge)

Currie finished 17 seconds behind Gomez in a time of 3:57:44, breaking his previous 2013 course record by more than 20 minutes and retaining his title of NZ Long Distance Triathlon Champion. In two weeks’ time Currie will line up at the NZ Ironman championships in Taupo.

“Racing against Javier this weekend and being out in front and pushing the pace on the bike and the run was everything I enjoy about racing. I’m not very good at thinking about what could happen. It’s the race I enjoy. It’s racing guys like Javier and battling it out with them from beginning to end. For me, this is the fuel I rely on to get me from one race to the next. I always race to win, but it’s the moments in between that I take with me”.

The mens podium: Jesse Thomas (3rd), Javier Gomez (1st), Braden Currie (2nd)The mens podium: Jesse Thomas (3rd), Javier Gomez (1st), Braden Currie (2nd)
(Photo: Jason Beacham; click to enlarge)