Australian Matt Hauser celebrates his gritty victory under the shadows of the 1972 Munich Olympic stadium. (Photos courtesy SuperLeagueTriathlon.com)
By Kent Gray/Tri NZ
Hayden Wilde has promised a swift riposte in Malibu after relinquishing his Super League Triathlon (SLT) series lead to Aussie battler Matt Hauser in Germany.
Hauser captured SLT Munich in the early hours of Monday (NZT) with a sensational final swim-run kick that left long-time race pace-setter Wilde 3rd behind Portuguese youngster Vasco Vilaca.
Wilde’s Kiwi and Sharks team-mate Tayler Reid was an eye-catching 6th in the wet at Olympiapark while Nicole van der Kaay fought bravely for her second successive 10th place finish in a women’s race quickly strung out by Georgia Taylor-Brown’s initial bike handling in the greasy conditions and relentlessness thereafter.
But this was Hauser’s afternoon as the enduro format – three successive, lung-busting 300m swim, 4km bike and 1.6km legs – wowed the umbrella-wielding crowds in Munich.
The Aussie dug deep to savour sweet SLT redemption after a case of mistaken identity cost him an unjust penalty in the series opener in London last week where he eventually finished runner-up to Wilde. Hauser warned he was coming for Wilde when he said he was looking forward to starting on an “even playing field” in Munich and didn’t disappoint, twice reigniting his race by taking 12 and then 20 seconds out of Wilde in the second and third 300m swim legs respectively when it looked like the Kiwi might streak away.
Hauser then did a Hayden Wilde to Hayden Wilde by out-kicking the Birmingham Commonwealth Games silver medallist on the final lap of the deciding 1.6km run, despite the Whakatane ‘Falcon’ having the advantage of a short chute slingshot on the penultimate lap.
The victory saw Hauser move atop the individual men’s standings with 29 points. With Wilde a point adrift heading into next week’s race in Malibu, SLT has a tantalising trans-Tasman battle on its hands set to go all the way to the final tape of the final race in Neom, Saudi Arabia on October 29.
But that is for next month. Wilde has a more immediate conundrum– figuring out how to negate Hauser’s clear advantage in the water. It could be an impossible solve in Malibu when SLT experiences its first ocean swim of the season west of Los Angeles on September 17.
But fight back Wilde vows he will. With the winner of the overall series earning a $50,000 bonus, fiscal motivation as well as personal bragging rights are suddenly on the line.
“The points are so close and it’s just another day…and we’ll fight another day in Malibu,” said Wilde who cashed $10,000 for his bronze medal performance in Munich.
Are you looking forward to the eliminator format in Malibu?
“Oh, 100 percent. I love going to Malibu with the surf and a technical course once again so looking forward to going over there and hopefully getting back on top.”
Wilde led for long periods on the bike and run, sparked by his bike handling skills at the hairpin immediately after the swim transition. But Vilaca refused to buckle and Hauser had the motivation of London to spur him home.
“I actually felt like I just got beaten by the other guys out there today,” said Wilde whose advantage courtesy of the short chute was largely negated by a sloppy final transition when he spilt his helmet and had to stoop down again to regather and place the swede protector in his kit box.
“I just didn’t have the gears I had in London, felt a bit flat but those boys rode and swam amazingly and I just didn’t have it there. It was fantastic to see them battle all the way and yeah, it was a close competition there at the end.”
Wilde admitted he had tried to push the tempo after emerging from the water 18th of the 20 starters, albeit slightly better than his dead last exit in London.
“At the start of the swim, didn’t feel that good so I was like, I feel pretty confident on the bike, so yeah, get some space on the bike, get my lines which is really good on the run, I just wanted my own space and honestly, yeah, I felt like I was probably running the exact same splits every single round.
“But I just didn’t have that other gear on the last one [run lap] like the other boys. It is what it is.”
The Sharks targeted the opening swim in the men’s race to snare one of the three short chutes on offer and Reid delivered. The Gisborne athlete is now an impressive 6th overall and leads the swim jersey from South African Jamie Riddle. Wilde is ranked 2nd on the bike and 1st in the run standings which, like the swim discipline, promise $15,000 bonuses for the top-ranked athletes after the final race in Neom.
Taylor-Brown, the defending champion who finished 3rd in London, led from the first transition and never looked back. The Brit’s finish line cursty, kiss to the heavens and touch of the black armband all the athletes wore to mark the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was even classier than her racing. And that was utterly impressive.
Fellow Brit Sophie Coldwell out-sprinted American Taylor Spivey for second while van der Kaay produced a powerful final run to snare a $1500 payday for 10th and to move up to 9th overall in the women’s standings. That six of the 21 women starters were eliminated only underlined Taylor-Brown’s dominance and van der Kaay’s fighting qualities.
There are $120,000, $80,000, $60,000 paydays for the top three teams after Neom, meaning every point counts. The Wilde, Reid, van der Kaay-inspired Sharks remain in second place behind the Chris McCormack-managed Bahrain Victorious Scorpions with the Ronnie Schildknecht-managed Rhinos third.