Preview: men to battle it out at IM 70.3 Geelong

Title defender Mike Phillips (Picture: press release IM)

Male professional triathletes from across the region are ready to battle for the 2024 Ironman 70.3 Geelong title this Sunday. The 2024 edition of the race will feature 25 male professionals, the largest men’s field since 2017, who will be on course alongside more than 1,600 age group athletes.

Included in the lineup is the top-four from last year, with defending champion Mike Phillips, Steve McKenna, Nicholas Free and Caleb Noble all set to race.

Kiwi Mike Phillips took the title in 2023 in 3:40:00, less than a minute clear of McKenna, and is looking forward to returning to the Victorian race.

“Geelong was a bit of a bonus race for me last year after a big summer of racing,” said Phillips. “I knew I was biking well and was happy to take some risks, the strategy paid off with a five-minute lead starting the run, it was more than I hoped for and meant I could run a bit more conservatively.    

“I’ve had some great training across the summer here in New Zealand, and I’m looking forward to adding a few more races before we head into the colder months here,” he said.

Phillips heads to Geelong following a fourth place finish at IM New Zealand in Taupō earlier this month, with McKenna taking the win.

“I was feeling great leading into Ironman New Zealand, but unfortunately I was a bit under the weather on race day,” he said. “It didn’t take too long for the muscles to recover but I have had a few easy weeks to make sure I am 100% for Geelong.”

The 33-year-old is looking forward to taking on the strong field on Sunday.

“It’s great to see a lot of the familiar faces on the start list but also some new ones. I think some of the new faces will bring a different dynamic to the race and it will make it a much more exciting race,” said Phillips.

Adelaide’s Steve McKenna heads to Geelong having stood on the top step of the podium at this year’s IM New Zealand, taking plenty of confidence from the impressive performance.

“I take a lot of confidence in my improvements each year at the Ironman distance, with New Zealand being my best performance yet,” said McKenna. “I also came away with an appreciation for the country, respect for New Zealand’s relationship with their indigenous community unified as one and I was also blown away by the IM history at that event.”

McKenna knows what it takes to be successful in Geelong, finishing second at the last two editions and winning back in 2021.

“I love a sea water swim, an exposed bike course at times and cooler weather for fast running,” he said. “Hoping for wind, cool conditions with a chance of a robot. 

“I’m expecting blows in the swim, bike and run racing athletes with different strengths that cover each discipline. I think a well-rounded athlete wins a race like this, and I’m confident I’ll come in tapered enough to bring my A game and be that athlete,” said McKenna. 

Brisbane’s Nicholas Free is keen to hit the racecourse on Sunday after being sidelined over the summer due to injury.

“The body is finally feeling back to normal after I tore my calf last November,” said Free. “It’s been a long build back but I’m excited to be fit and on the start line again.

“I’m excited because I have no idea how it will play out. With some internationals racing it’s a really good chance to test yourself before some bigger races later in the year,” he said.

Also set to lineup on Eastern Beach on Sunday morning is IM 70.3 Tasmania and IM 70.3 Sunshine Coast champion Nick Thompson, Caleb Noble who won the Mooloolaba Triathlon in a sprint finish a fortnight ago and multiple-time IM and IM 70.3 champion Tim Van Berkel.

The international field includes Finland’s Henrik Goesch who has been on the podium at a number of IM and IM 70.3 races in Europe, Great Britain’s Thomas Bishop who has impressed in recent years and Martin Ulloa from Chile who last year claimed second at two IM 70.3 races.