The Kiwi No.1 on his big Super League break, his ‘Monk mode’ plan for WTCS Abu Dhabi, dabbling in some post-Paris PTO, the lure of Ironman and that Comms Games helmet clip moment.
By Kent Gray/Triathlon.kiwi
Hayden Wilde has outlined his final push plans for Super League Triathlon (SLT) and World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) glory in 2022 and offered an even more fascinating insight into his long-term future in the sport.
The 25-year-old Whakatane flier has joined New Zealand Triathlete Podcast host Shane Hooks for a 90-minute conversation that bobbed and weaved between Wilde’s humble beginnings in triathlon, his current rich vein of form and his intriguing long-distance goals post the Paris 2024 Olympics and beyond.
Long chat condensed, Wilde has a carefully plotted plan (read he doesn’t over race) to seal the lucrative SLT title and more importantly, to be fizzing for a much anticipated (but not yet guaranteed) showdown with friendly British foe Alex Yee for the WTCS title in the UAE capital on Nov. 26. That includes the luxury of by-passing the next two WTCS races in Cagliari (Oct.8) and Bermuda (Nov.5-6) as he enjoys a comfortable buffer atop the world rankings courtesy of two wins and two runner-up placings in the opening four races of the season.
Longer term, the reigning Tokyo bronze medallist anticipates competing in at least two more Olympic cycles and beyond Los Angeles 2028, all being equal, he would love to delve into Ironman.
The Commonwealth Games silver medallist (he plays a political straight bat when asked about his controversial helmet clip penalty and offers some frustrating insight into the deliverance of the actual 10-second penalty in Birmingham that handed Yee the gold medal) has already lined up in the PTO’s Collins Cup.
Despite struggling with a stomach virus pre-race, tri’s answer to golf’s Ryder Cup has whetted Wilde’s appetite for more starts in the Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO) circuit. Expect some PTO action next year, more post-Paris and a long-term future focused in endurance racing.
Wilde resumes his gripping Antipodean battle with Aussie rival Matt Hauser in the penultimate round of SLT 2022 in Toulouse on Monday (12.01am, Sky Sport 2/Channel 50) before the series finale in Neom, Saudi Arabia on Oct. 29. He then plans nearly a month in solo-grind “Monk mode” to prepare for WTCS Abu Dhabi on Yas Island.
To set the scene for the exciting eight weeks ahead and the years that follow, we’ve pulled the most intriguing moments from the podcast with the Girona-based Kiwi for your reading pleasure. Enjoy.
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On Wilde’s well-placed tilt at World Triathlon’s premier WT Championship Series title:
I love racing. It looks like I’ve raced a lot just because I raced a lot at the start of the season but it’s actually paid really well for me just because I don’t have to play catch up, I don’t have to race Cagliari or Bermuda, I can just kind of focus on Super League and not worry about chasing world seres points. I can just go straight to Abu Dhabi and yeah, not really worry about critical points. I just have to let fate decide where Léo Bergere and Alex Yee place in the next races and then it just comes down to world champs.
Wilde leads Frenchman Léo Bergere in the WTCS standings but many anticipate a replay of their Comms Games battle in Abu Dhabi:
“Say he [Alex Yee] wins them both [Cagliari and Bermuda], he’d be 150 points ahead. If he goes …1st, 2nd, he’d be 75 points in front so that means it pretty much comes down to whoever crosses the line first [in Abu Dhabi] wins. If he goes 1 for all four [the best four of six races count leading into the UAE finale] I’d have to put some people between us [in Abu Dhabi] and, vice versa, if he gets anything below top three, he’s going to have to pull a shift [in the finale].”
On his post Super League plan:
“We’re going to do [Toulouse this weekend and] Saudi [the SLT finale in Neom] and then I’m going to do three weeks of complete Monk mode in Abu Dhabi…solo, just grinding, four weeks so you won’t hear from this man for four weeks. I might do the odd post but just grind, Monk mode as we call it. It’s so good [in “Abu Dhabi, camels in all”] because the facilities there are so new and so classy but no one uses them. So you’ve got these 100-mile cycling roads that no one is ever on, you’ve got 50-metre pools galore that no one swims in and you’ve got four or five tracks that are just pristine condition but no one uses them.
On Alex Yee:
“I’m a great mate of his and we got on extremely well and it’s just a great rivalry. We kind of laugh, I’m like the Javier Gomez and he’s like the Brownlee….it’s like the British versus an international all over again and it’s good fun and we really enjoy pushing each other. We started in Super League in 2018 and we roomed together and we’ve kind of progressed together naturally exactly the same and that’s been great. We’ve been in the same area for the last five years and just randomly peaked at the same time and it’s cool to see.
On why Yee is not racing Super League:
He did the local race [season-opener in London] which is awesome but it more comes down to he needs to race Cagliari and Bermuda because if he doesn’t, he doesn’t have a chance for the world title because he’ll be a 1000 points down. So he’s won Super League and with Super League at the end of the day, you win the Super League title and that’s it, there’s no Olympic rankings, there’s no points, you’ve won Super League, congratulations, here’s some money and I think that’s how he looks at it. He’s already won it so he doesn’t have to prove that to himself , he’s like, I’ve won this, I might come back next year, I’m just going to focus on the world series because I know on the grapevine if he wins the world title he gets some pretty structured funding from the British…for years to come.
On his lucrative season and whether he intends splashing out on a fishing fizz boat:
“I am having a good season but you know, I’ve got priorities, I’ve got family to look after. My life endeavour with triathlon was, if I ever become professional, was look after family first and look after yourself after and that’s what I’m doing currently. I’m helping out Mum so she can come to more races down the line by helping her out with the mortgage and happy days. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do. So I might be getting all this money but it’s going to better places.”
On Super League rival Matt Hauser:
“I love Matty, he’s a great character and he is 100 percent one of the best mixed team relay athletes in the world. Like, he I mean, he saved Australia’s a… at Comm Games, literally, sole-handedly got them back into medal contention and he’d done it numerous times so when I get beaten by a guy like that, I’m we’ll, he’s good, he’s bloody good. That’s why I was so excited about racing him in Super League because I know he’s been on form and it’s not racing Alex [Yee], it’s completely different. Alex and I, we swim the same, I’d say I can put power on him on the bike and we run the same. With Matt, it’s like, he can demolish us in the swim so then we kind of have to play catch-up all race but then he can still run so it’s like a whole new dynamic.
On the Commonwealth Games appeal:
I know something’s happening and I’m kinda just staying out of it. It’s kind of nice Tri NZ …Shanelle [Barrett] she’s doing a great job, the whole [Tri NZ] team is and they’re keeping me out of it but also cc’ing me into the emails and I’m like sweet, you guys do you because I’m kind of over it, a little bit over it. Shanelle is working with the Tri NZ team and it goes further than that but it sounds like it’s going to be a longer process than anticipated.
On learning of his penalty on the run leg in Birmingham and knowing that meant the Gold medal was already gone:
“I looked back and I gave him [Yee] a smile and realistically 10 seconds in the penalty box is 13 seconds, let’s be realistic. The lady had the iPhone stopwatch out and she kept mis-clicking and I’m like ‘you’re kidding me…just click it, click it! I’m like ‘Matt Hauser’s coming, hurry up!’”
On his relationship with coach Craig Kirkwood:
“Yeah probably,” Wilde said when Hooks asked if “CK’s” hardest job was putting a “leash on Wilde”. “It’s like both end of the spectrums because it’s … when I want to start digging in some mileage, he backs me off and when he wants to dig in mileage, I’m like, I want to race [laughs]. We’re like in synch but not in synch but if I didn’t trust his process I would have left him now and I think we’re six years deep and I just love it. Everyone’s like you’ve got a join a group, you’ve got to JDF squad but I’m like why do I change something that’s working and working well?”
On the tri life versus a social life:
“We’ve got a run club and we have beers on a Thursday sometimes when I turn up and it’s great banter, we have beers all the time, it’s not like I’m stuck in a prison. He [Kirkwood] understands that I like a good social life but he also knows that I really like to put in the hard work and if I don’t have that balance, I just don’t perform. Having that good social life and having a life out of triathlon has always been so key to my success, just having a good time and also the hard work. He knows I can put the hard work in but I need that time off too.”
On Kiwi and Sharks team-mate Tayler Reid who is currently fourth in the SLT standings:
He’s doing well, isn’t he. Last year he the old gastro, he got that midway [through the season] and he just didn’t have anything for most of the racing so it’s good to see him [performing]. Because realistically, a good Super League athlete, if you can swim well and you can kind of fake the run, you’re going to do well. You could say I’m one of the best runners in triathlon currently but I can only put 15 seconds on these guys. If you’re a good swimmer, you’re going to put 30 seconds into these guys …and it’s great to see him doing so well.”
On his Collins Cup race where Wilde was beaten in his ‘match’ by Olympic gold medallist and St George Ironman World Champion Kristian Blummenfelt (Europe) but edged Team USA’s Ben Kanute:
I loved it eh. I came from that distance and I felt like if I didn’t have that sickness [stomach virus], I would have done way better…I actually didn’t realise I did alright, I thought I actually s… the bed and had a crap day and though I finished dead last of everyone but I came like sixth place. I was faster than BC [Braden Currie] and I was faster than Aaron Royle and I was only a minute behind Lionel Sanders. It was a weird thing because I felt mean in the swim and I was like I’m just going to chill and sit bomb Ben, this is great, and I got on the bike and I knew the power that I had to push and I wasn’t going to go with Ben because he flew past me and was like ‘Kristian, he’s battling, he’s falling off’ and I’m like mate, we’re 20km into the race, he’s not battling, he’s just playing games and I got to the 50km mark and my body just completely shut down. My heart rate dropped to 130 and I started to push 230 watts and that was my day done. I got on to the run fresh as a daisy because I was pushing 230 watts and caught Ben at 5k and was running 30 seconds quicker than Kristian at that point and then hit 15k and my door just blew of. But it was a great experience. At the 50km mark I was only 10secs slower than Lionel Sanders and those guys on the bike and I’d only been on the TT bike for about seven days leading into that so If I had more time I think I’d have done way better.
On when he intends “flirting” with longer distances?
After Paris. I’ll be 27-28. I’ll flirt with it like half distance, like the PTO stuff, I actually want to flirt with it next year in some of these races just because it is 100km, you don’t have to really change your training schedule as an Olympic distance athlete, you just do a couple of more different tempo runs and rides. It’s not easy to train for but for us it’s easy to supplement the training into like a quick one month block; maybe once or twice a week on a TT bike to get use to it but you don’t really don’t change anything. The swimming’s the same, the bike and the running’s relatively the same.
On the lure of Ironman:
I really want to dabble in that PTO stuff a little bit more often but Ironman …probably depending on how the body is, I really want to make it to LA [the 2028 Olympic Games], I’ll be about 30, and then after LA I’ll go Ironman.
On his provincial upbringing being beneficial in his emergence as a genuine world star:
I was never in the programme so I was never really handed it at the young development age so I kind of had to fight my way into the funnel as we called it back in the day. I finally got in the funnel but I knew every race, if I didn’t race well, I’m like wow, it could be my last race. So I’ve always got that where there’s a lot of guys on the circuit and they just turn up and know that, if I have a crap day, I have my federation to bank on, they fund me for every race. I kind of look at it differently and just race every race as hard as I can and it works out pretty well.”
On getting his big break from two-time Ironman world champion and Super League co-founder Chris McCormack:
“I nearly didn’t take it because…you’ve heard the Bevan Docherty story right, when he’s starting off he’s pretty much grovelling to get to every race. That was me. I had to race most weekend’s so I could get to the next race and that was how it was for the first two years cause I was still landscaping at that point and I knew if I wasn’t going to race well, I’d need to go home. I just finished doing the mixed team relay the first time at Edmonton, we won that one and that was my first opportunity in the team and then we went home, and this was before Gold Coast World Champs, and I get this random email saying ‘hey, we’ve been watching you, we like how you race, you’re super aggressive, we want to give you this opportunity to race Super League’ and this when it was kind of the first time on Jersey Island. And I was like, I dunno, it’s pretty expensive to fly back over to Europe and I just can’t get the time off work. And they’re were like, ‘Nah, Nah, it’s fully covered’ and I’m like, alright, I’ll book my ticket. And so I asked my boss and he said, Nah, go for it, it’s a great opportunity, go for it and I said I’ll only be away for like a week and then I flew over, raced and it started from there. He definitely gave me my opportunity.”