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By Kent Gray/Tri NZ
One giant stride towards series glory for Hayden Wilde, one small, painful slip out of the race and likely championship contention for Aussie rival Matt Hauser.

Super League Triathlon (SLT) Malibu produced Kiwi thrills and two dramatic spills on Sunday and with it a serious shakeup to the overall men’s and women’s standings.

A second victory in three races has seen Wilde surge back to the summit of the men’s standings while gritty top 10s from fellow Kiwis Tayler Reid and Nicole van der Kaay also helped propel the Wilde-inspired Sharks to the top of the teams’ championship.

After winning in London but faltering to third in Munich, Wilde had a point to prove in California and did just that with another tactical masterclass to overcame big surf conditions off Zuma Beach that did not suit him.

The Whakatane “Falcon” now enjoys a mammoth 11-point series advantage over Portugal’s seal-bite survivor Vasco Vilaca while Hauser is languishing in third, 14 adrift of Wilde.

Hauser, the points leader and race favourite heading into Malibu following victory in Munich last weekend, saw his championship bid literally crash and burn (along with plenty of elbow skin) when he slid into a safety barrier while leading on the first bike leg.

The Gold Coaster had established more than a 20sec buffer on Wilde after underlining his big wave prowess in the opening 300m swim but lost his chain in the fall and with it a heap of time that he was unable to make up on the first (1.6km) run leg. Tragically for Hauser and the overall series, it meant the Australian was one of the first three males shown the elimination flag when he eventually crossed the line 16th at the completion of the stage one run.

With 15 points awarded to the winner of each race and only a point less for each position thereafter on a sliding scale, the much-anticipated Antipodean fight for the title seems over with Hauser seemingly too far back. Indeed, if Wilde can remain upright in Toulouse in a fortnight and in Neom when Saudi Arabia hosts the season decider on October 29,  the U.S. $50,000 champions’ bonus will very conveniently find its way into the Kiwi’s bank account.

Sunday produced another $20,000 payday for Wilde as he limited the damage in the surf, recouped lost time on every bike leg and then powered away on each of the three runs to see off Israeli Shachar Sagiv and Vilaca, the latter overcoming his scary run-in with a seal on a familiarisation swim on Saturday to take bronze.

“It felt good that one,” Wilde said afterwards.

“I was struggling on the swim. I always got some bad luck and fell into the pothole there. I was actually really gutted to see Hausey on the side, having a tumble and getting eliminated but unfortunately, that’s racing.

“I wanted to battle with him all season but unfortunately not today.”

Reid played a huge role in the race including some hip and shoulder argy-bargy with Hauser on the run up Zuma Beach for the first swim points which the Aussie snared by a whisker. Reid retorted with a strong second swim and led off the bike before Sharks team-mate Wilde predictably mowed down all and sundry.

Still, the Gisborne scrapper fought to 7th place for a $3000 payday and is now up to a brilliant 4th overall in the men’s standings. Reid is just two points adrift of Hauser overall and is second to South African Jamie Riddle in the race for the individual swim standings ‘Blue Jersey’ which carries a $15,000 bonus.

Wilde leads the bike and run standings and is en route to a series windfall well in excess of US$100,000.

Van der Kaay battled the threat of elimination all race long but showed her resilience once more to finish 9th in the women’s race, a SLT PB worth $2000. The Taupo 26-year-old is now 8th overall with 19 points.

Spivey leads on 42, one clear of Georgia Taylor-Brown who crashed on the same corner and sand-swept ‘Stop’ road paint as Hauser. The Brit suffered even worse road rash but at least remains in the female series fight after battling back to third in Malibu behind Spivey and Miriam Casillas.

Wilde, Reid and van der Kaay’s performances helped lift the Sharks to the top of the team-standings and on target for a share of $120,000 first place spoils.

Toulouse hosts the penultimate round of STL on October 2 with the ‘Triple Mix’ format, raced in the season-opener in London a fortnight ago, back on the menu. Triple mix throws the traditional swim-bike-run sequence out the window, shuffling the disciplines over three stages.

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