Mike Phillips looking for NZ Title at Tauranga Half this Saturday
This Saturday’s Tauranga Half elite men’s race, which doubles as the NZ Mid-Distance Triathlon Champs, has drawn an outstanding field, including the new star of long distance triathlon in this country – Mike Phillips
Phillips returns to Mount Maunganui this Saturday, after an outstanding 2018 season, aiming to go one place better than his runner-up position in last year’s event.
Following his second placing at the Tauranga Half in January last year, Mike Phillips finished 5th in a world class field at Ironman NZ, and then a highly credible 16th at the Ironman World Championship, in his first crack at Hawaii’s iconic Kona course. He also won the Challenge event in Melbourne, and the Taupo 70.3 in December, so comes into this Saturday’s event in a rich vein of form.
He won’t have things all his own way, with the Tauranga Half defending champ Dylan McNeice also on the start line at Pilot Bay, as is two-time runner up Mark Bowstead, plus well-performed NZ long distance triathletes Simon Cochrane, Carl Read and Jack Moody.
In assessing the Tauranga Half elite men’s field, Phillips said – “Dylan McNeice is highly experienced and a crafty competitor. Mark Bowstead was pretty strong at the Taupo 70.3, and always performs well in Tauranga. There are also some good young guys such as Jack Moody who are getting better with every event.”
In assessing his preparation going into Saturday’s event, Phillips said – “it is still early season for me, but I have had a good training block since the Taupo 70.3 in December. My fitness is definitely better than it was there, so hopefully I can improve on that performance.”
Phillips was very impressive in that event, winning in a time of 3h 52min 56 secs over top Australians Casey Munro & Tim Reed, who is also a former half-Ironman world champ. After a setting a torrid pace on the bike leg, alongside Munro, Reed & Mark Bowstead, Phillips did the 21k run leg in 1:13:59 to blitz the opposition over the final 7k.
He may need a similar run in this Saturday’s Tauranga Half to shake off the competition. Last year, Phillips and McNeice were level at the start of the 21k run leg, and with McNeice aware of Phillips prowess if it came down to a sprint finish, took his opportunity at an aid station, on the return leg towards the Mount, to put a break on Phillips and ultimately win the 2018 event.
Mike Phillips comes from a background in short course ITU racing, transitioning to long distance triathlon in 2015. He made the triathlon community take notice in September 2017 when he came a close second at IRONMAN Barcelona, with the world’s quickest IRONMAN debut time of 7:52:50. This was also the second fastest Kiwi Ironman time ever recorded.
He spends his summers in Christchurch, where he is coached by the highly regarded John Hellemans. During New Zealand winters Mike heads overseas to Europe for 3 months of intensive training & racing.
Phillips starts as favourite in the men’s division of this year’s Tauranga Half in what is shaping to be an intriguing battle against defending champ – Dylan McNeice, and two-time runner up, Mark Bowstead. The men’s event starts at 6:35am this Saturday at Pilot Bay, Mt Maunganui.
It is the 30th Anniversary of the iconic Tauranga Half, which is the headline event for the Mount Festival of Multisport which includes a range of athletic and community events in Mount Maunganui from 11-13 January.