Christchurch triathlete Mike Phillips has stunned a star-studded field to win his first Ironman New Zealand overcoming a mechanical problem and a crash on the bike leg in the process.
Trailing by 17 minutes going into the run leg, even Phillips expressed surprise at his win, finishing 2m 24s ahead of American Andrew Starykowicz with New Zealand's Braden Currie a further 1.32 back in third.
The win was thanks largely to a course record marathon leg of 2:40.04, a personable best by 10 minutes for the 30-year-old Cantabrian.
In the women's race Jocelyn McCauley from the United States won an emotional victory dedicating her race record victory to a close friend who tragically passed away just weeks ago.
"I had a good friend who passed away on his bike about three weeks ago, I dedicate this race today to Frank and his wife Mercedes and their three little girls.
"They have a little girl my daughter's age, so it really hit me hard. I know he was watching and cheering me on the whole time, this was for Frank, I feel like I had an angel on my side," she said.
In the men's race, Phillips took the overall lead only in the final 5km of the marathon from Starykowicz, who carved up the Ventum 180km bike course in a record time of 4:12.07 to establish a massive lead over the chasers.
Second off the bike was Matt Burton (AUS), followed quickly by Currie and Terenzo Bozzone.
While Bozzone would succumb to a hamstring injury, joining 12-time winner Cameron Brown as he too had a rare DNF, the chasers set about trying to catch the American.
Currie quickly claimed second place and was consistently clawing back time from Starykowicz, with Australian Matt Burton also staying in the conversation, but it was Phillips who made the critical move, surging past Currie and setting his sights on the American.
Phillips couldn't quite believe he had for the first time won the right to stand on top of the podium, and clearly didn't rate his chances after the mishaps on the bike.
"Definitely not, I had some problems on the bike early, I had a mechanical and had to wait a few minutes to get my arm pads fixed and then coming into town trying to catch the guys I rode straight into the barrier.
"I was thinking not much else can go wrong today and then slowly but surely on the run I was able to take some time back, but a 17-minute lead off the bike I never thought I would catch him," he said.
"Even the last lap it was out at six minutes, but it just kept coming down and coming down and I was running harder and harder. Eventually I was able to catch him and enjoy the last few kilometres.
"But I never thought I could do that, I thought it was all over after the incidents on the bike, but somehow I was able to churn away on the run and haul them all in."
Starykowicz was spent at the finish and content that he had given his all.
"I am a little heart-broken, but I laid down the hammer all day, that is how I race. When I caught the group, I sat up at the back for a minute, ate some food and let my heart rate come down.
"But I left it all out there on the course, I had some bad mental self-talk in the swim when I got trapped, but to pull it out the way I did today, it was good."
Currie, the 2017 champion, had thought everything was coming together perfectly, until struggling for rhythm on the run leg.
"That was an interesting day to be honest. I felt fantastic, had a great swim and was right where I wanted to be. On the ride I rode really well for me, nice and consistent.
"Terenzo put the pressure on about half way through and I thought I could let him go and see what happens and sure enough I pulled him back in on the climb back up in the last 15km and managed to get away," he said.
The 2019 Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Ironman promised to be one of the greatest races in the event's decorated 35-year history and it proved that way right from the gun, on a picture perfect day at Lake Taupō.
Twelve-time champion Cameron Brown emerged just under five minutes down on McNeice but faced a 30 second penalty when his helmet became unclasped – the result of cold fingers not working as they should after the swim leg.
Off the bike it became a clock-watching exercise as first Currie and Burton and then Phillips made inroads into Starykowicz on the Hoka One One run leg, before Phillips proved strongest on the day for his maiden Ironman victory.
"This feels amazing, especially at home and especially with the bad luck,"Phillips said.
"I never thought first was possible until that last lap on the run and all the guys on the sidelines cheering me on and pushing me that little bit further to 'get that American dude'."
Kellogg's Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand
Results (total time including transitions, 3.8km swim, 180km bike, 42.2km run,)
1 Mike Phillips, NZL, 8:05:08, 47:57, 4:32:57, 2:40:04
2 Andrew Starykowicz, USA, 8:07:32, 49:48, 4:12:07 (CR), 3:00:16
3 Braden Currie, NZL, 8:09:04, 47:57, 4:31:02, 2:45:51
4 Matt Burton, AUS, 8:12:35, 52:53, 4:25:23, 2:49:34
5 Tim Reed, AUS, 8:22:12, 48:06, 4:37:55, 2:51:08