Main image courtesy PTO

Oceania Cup Wānaka

Feb. 17
Swim 750m | Bike 18km | Run 5km
Elite W 6.30pm/Elite M 7.45pm

By Kent Gray/
Who is No.2? The answer to that burning Paris Olympic Games selection question will become just a little clearer on Friday evening after the opening race of the elite summer of tri on the picturesque shores of Lake Wānaka.

With Hayden Wilde in Belgium prepping for the World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) opener in Abu Dhabi on March 3, a new name will top the men’s podium for the first time in a long time at an elite race in New Zealand.

As Wilde’s lieutenant at the Tokyo Olympics and Birmingham Commonwealth Games and a regular front-of-pack presence in Super League last season, Tayler Reid justifiably wears the No.1 bib for the twilight Oceania Cup sprint.

Luke Willian, who won the last World Cup race held in New Zealand in New Plymouth four years ago, and fellow Aussie Jake Birtwhistle, fresh from victory in Ironman 70.3 Tasmania, will add ample trans-Tasman spice to Friday night’s race. But the parochial focus will be on Reid’s bid to hold his fellow Kiwis at bay.

Can Saxon Morgan kick on from his eye-catching 8th place at the U23 worlds in Abu Dhabi last November? Trent Thorpe won the Super League-esque Mount Surfbreaker pre-Christmas and has been re-energised by his new coaching alliance with former Olympian Ryan Sissions. Dylan McCullough will be desperate to make a fast start to the year after his topsy-turvy 2022, trending so well with a 7th at the Comm Games in Birmingham only to go off the boil courtesy of a broken elbow. Don’t discount the bloke in the No.9 bib either; Janus Staufenberg can run with the best of them and will be there or thereabouts if he’s in touch after the swim.

Then, of course, there’s Kyle Smith, the PTO No.34 who is in Wanaka to attend to unfinished Olympic business. The Taupo 25-year-old might be sporting No.43 in a 46-man race but count on him being at the very pointy end of the race with those swim-bike skills former Olympic champion Jan Frodeno rates as the best in triathlon, the mid and long distances at least.

Smith was unceremoniously cut from the Tri NZ funding umbilical cord prior to Tokyo despite a promising 11th place finish at the 2019 U23 Worlds in Switzerland. With the beauty of hindsight, he gets now it was a cold-hearted financial decision but rest assured it will provide all the motivation he needs to be a dangerous presence in Wānaka and Taupo next Saturday before he darts to Abu Dhabi for his maiden WTCS start alongside Wilde.

“I’m not going to say I am [going to qualify] because I think that is arrogant and quite disrespectful for everyone else who is doing it, but I’m going to attempt to go back to World Triathlon and qualify for the Olympics,” Smith told the MX Endurance podcast. 

“And then attempt to qualify to get an Olympic medal is I guess is what I could say. So yeah, it will be 70.3, it will be PTO distance [100km] and hopefully also I’ll race Super League as well as World Triathlon and that WTCS to try and get a qualification for Paris before then hopefully doing a Kristian [Blummenfelt] and returning to Ironman.”

up WNicole van der Kaay

Van der Kaay out to reassert position as Kiwi women’s No.1

Since the Tokyo Olympics, Nicole van der Kaay has been the established Kiwi No 1 but the Taupo 27-year-old won’t wear that number in Wānaka. That honour goes instead to Cambridge-based Aucklander Ainsley Thorpe courtesy of her higher world ranking.

The last time the pair raced side-by-side at the WTCS decider in Abu Dhabi, Thorpe finished 24th and van der Kaay an excruciatingly painful 48th courtesy of stomach cramps caused by the stifling UAE capital heat. It will be fascinating to see who starts the fresh season faster in a race where Spaniard Sara Guerrero Manso and Aussie Ellie Hoitink wear the No3. And No.4 bibs. Watch too for seasoned World Triathlon racer Emma Jeffcoat.

Ainsley Thorpe in action at World Cyp Tongyeong last year. Photo: World Triathlon.

Through a Kiwi lens, there will be much interest outside of the Thorpe-van der Kaay tussel in Brea Roderick, fresh from her maiden Olympic distance start and win at the Canterbury Classic, Otago med student Olivia Thornbury who finished 2022 strongly with 7th at World Cup Miyazaki and second at Asia Cup Ipoh, and dual Tinman and Surfbreaker champion Hannah Knighton.

NB: will carry full coverage from the Oceania Cup in Wanaka. Stay tuned also for coverage of Saturday’s Challenge Wanaka Half, Suzuki NZ Cross Triathlon Championship and Suzuki NZ South Island Mid Aquabike Championship.

2023 Oceania Cup Wanaka – Start Lists

51. Ainsley Thorpe                  NZL
52. Nicole Van Der Kaay         NZL
53. Sara Guerrero Manso       ESP
54. Ellie Hoitink                       AUS
55. Brea Roderick                   NZL
56. Olivia Thornbury               NZL
57. Emma Jeffcoat                  AUS
58. Hannah Howell                 NZL
59. Olivia Cummings               NZL
60. Jessica Ewart-McTigue      AUS
61. Hannah Knighton              NZL
62. Madison Keightley            NZL
63. Manami Iijima                   GUM
64. Aleisha Wesley                  AUS
65. Angharad Llewellyn          NZL
66. Aviv Levi                           ISR
67. Mikayla Messer                AUS
68. Victoria Gillies                   AUS
69. Sophie Spencer                 NZL
70. Maddison Yarrow            AUS
71. Lotte Vandekerckhove      BEL
72. Natasha Bowyer               NZL
73. Emily Irvine                       NZL
74. Amara Rae                         NZL
75. Sarah McClure                  NZL
76. Anna Lindsay                     NZL

1. Tayler Reid                          NZL
2. Luke Willian                         AUS
3. Jacob Birtwhistle                 AUS
4. Trent Thorpe                       NZL
5. Saxon Morgan                     NZL
6. Dylan McCullough               NZL
7. Oscar Dart                           AUS
8. Callum McClusky                AUS
9. Janus Staufenberg              NZL
10. Luke Schofield                   AUS
11. Benjamin Zorgnotti           TAH
12. Tzu I Pan                           TPE
14. James Corbett                   NZL
15. Lachlan Haycock              NZL
16. Jayden Schofield               AUS
17. David Martin                     CZE
18. Lachlan Jones                    AUS
19. Delian Stateff                    ITA
20. Toby Powers                    AUS
21. Sam Parry                         NZL
22. Austin Carter                    NZL
23. Toby Croudson                 AUS
24. Ivan Abele                         NZL
25. Bradley Course                 AUS
26. Sheng Cher Bryce  Chong  SGP
27. Henry McMecking            NZL
28. Yoann Colin                       AUS
29. Jack Crome                        AUS
30. Oliver Larcombe               NZL
31.Luke Scott                          NZL
32. Jordan Chugg                   AUS
33. Jordan Rieck                      AUS
34. Brooklyn Henry                 AUS
35. Lleyton Wall                     AUS
36. Nick Sasse                        NZL
37. Ioan Fuller                          NZL
38. Alex Brackenbury             NZL
39. Gus Marfell                       NZL
40. Rory Thornhill                  AUS
41. Grayson Westgate            NZL
42. William Taylor                   NZL
43. Kyle Smith                        NZL
44. Scott Shackleton               NZL
45. Christian    Davey              NZL
46. Benjamin Airey                 NZL

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