Images courtesy SuperLeagueTriathlon.com
By Kent Gray/Triathlon.kiwi
Another masterclass in bike handling, tactical awareness and squeaky clean transitions has seen Hayden Wilde waltz to victory at Super League Triathlon (SLT) Toulouse overnight and all but seal series glory.
The Whakatane 25-year-old coasted to his third victory in four SLT starts while Sharks team-mate Tayler Reid lept to third in the standings courtesy of a series-best fifth-place at the season’s penultimate race in the South of France.
Wilde has extended his series lead to a near unassailable 17 points from Matt Hauser after the Aussie, the victim of a bike crash in Malibu a fortnight ago and before that a case of mistaken (false start) identity at the series opener in London, suffered another costly snakes and ladders Sunday (early Monday NZT).
A desperate final 2km run allowed the Gold Coaster to overcome a five-second, mid-race transition penalty and a late bike spill to emerge from a potential title-ending mid-pack finish to fourth place behind Wilde, Frenchman Dorian Coninx and Japan’s Kenji Nener in Toulouse.
But after the Kiwi No.1’s comprehensive victory, it seems only a perfect race for Hauser and DNF misfortune for Wilde at the SLT Grand Final in Neom, Saudi Arabia on October 29 can deny Wilde the league’s $50,000 champions’ bonus.
Reid, at 20 points adrift, is the only other contender still with a mathematic chance given the inflated 20 points up for grabs for victory in Saudi. But the Gisborne 26-year-old is unlikely to stand in Wilde’s way even if he can keep up with his Sharks team-mate in Neom. That Reid is even in the title conversation is already enough, a testament to his series-long consistency and growing reputation.
But this was Wilde’s day in a series that he is increasingly dominating. If the ‘Falcon’ can win the final race in Neom and seal the teams and individual bike and run jerseys in the process, he stands to pocket somewhere in the vicinity of US$165,000 (NZ$295,000). It would also be a huge confidence boost ahead of an even more important Middle East decider, the World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) finale in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 26. Wilde intends going into an intense ‘Monk Mode” training block post-Neom to give himself the best chance of converting his current WTCS lead into title success in what is World Triathlon’s blue-riband product.
The way he laid down the gauntlet on the final bike in Toulouse and ran in all three stages of the unique ‘Triple Mix’ format suggests the Super League title at least looks a fait accompli.
Wilde’s cunning on the bike and running prowess in the two opening stages – the first swim-bike-run and then run-bike-swim – meant he build an accumulated two-second buffer for the pursuit start of the final bike-swim-run stage. That swiftly morphed into a 15-second gap courtesy of an almost flawless transition and Wilde’s ability to put the hammer down around the tight, technical Toulouse bike circuit.
“Hayden’s just on another planet in this race,” said Eagles manager and four-time ITU world champion Tim Don in a sideline interview as Wilde peddled into the distance on the narrow inner-city circuit. “Hayden does the small things well and that puts everyone else on the back foot.”
Wilde later threw another critical factor into the mix in his post-race interview.
“I finally had a good swim today,” he said. “We started the second stage and everything was super close and I was like, do I just sit in and wait and wait till the last round [stage] and that’s what I did. I got into the water first…
“Going into that last round I just thought I needed to put my head down and go for it on the bike and I got a really good buffer. Still swam fairly well, I think they put maybe 15 seconds on me, but I had a good buffer and yeah, it was good enough to run away with it.”
The women’s title will be decided by a first across-the-line battle in Neom between Brit Georgia Taylor-Brown and Taylor Spivey of America. They’re tied on 56 points apiece after Taylor-Brown’s runaway victory in Toulouse.
After crashing on the bike in Malibu a fortnight ago to relinquish the series lead to Spivey, Taylor-Brown claimed her second victory in three starts courtesy of her bike-run prowess and a day Spivey will probably rather forget.
It remains to be seen if Spivey will rue three costly errors in Toulouse, the first when the elastic holding her already-cleated bike shoe in place snapped and meant a slow first transition, the second another tardy escape on the bike and worst still when she did not realise she had a short chute and ran the long way around the short cut. Thankfully she reeled in another Brit, Sophie Coldwell, who went on to claim bronze.
Taylor-Brown’s pace, the cold, tidal river swim, an up-hill start to the narrow bike circuit and an equally twisty run course with challenging downhill spurts combined to see Nicole van der Kaay the last of eight eliminated from the women’s race under the 90s rule.
Van der Kaay hung tough until the third stage but saw the yellow elimination flag waved after the bike leg, meaning she was out before the final swim and run. It was the Kiwi’s first non-counter of the series and saw her drop two places to 10th in the overall standings.