The elite summer of tri features two Continental Cup races before the return of World Cup Plymouth
S 750m | B 18km | R 5km
Elite W 6.30pm/Elite M 7.45pm
S 750m | B 19.5km | R 5km
Jnr W 8am /Jnr M 9.15am/Elite W 10.30am/Elite M 11.45am
S 750m | B 20km | R 5km
Elite W 11am/Elite M 1.30pm
By Kent Gray/ Triathlon.kiwi
There are just 529 days between the opening race of New Zealand’s elite summer of tri in Wanaka on Friday night and the beginning of the triathlon programme at the XXXIII Olympiad.
The count shrinks to a mere 180 days until the traditional 12-months out Olympic test event in Paris and fewer still are the big race days left between each of the most pressing dates in the global short course calendar. Crunch the numbers and the equation is clear – the runway is short and the pace about to get hot in the sprint to race along the Champs-Élysées for New Zealand’s Olympic hopefuls.
For tri fans and especially spectators making their way to Wanaka, Taupo and New Plymouth, it’s a mouth-watering prospect. The fascination will extend to Devonport, Tasmania and Port Douglas for the blue-ribband Oceania Sprint (Mar. 18) and Standard Distance (May 27) Championships respectively before the fastest Kiwis take flight to Tri NZ’s Banyoles training base in Spain and critical European summer campaigns.
The Paris test event (August 17-20) is key among numerous World Triathlon destinations and dates in 2023 but the race to make that elite start list gets serious right here in God’s Own. Not only are ranking points on the line but also a golden opportunity to send signals of Olympic intent to the selectors and gain a psychological edge over rivals near and dear.
One of the beauties of the Tri NZ elite programme is the close knit, us-against-the-world loyalty that pervades at home and especially abroad. But make no mistake, when the airhorn sounds in Wanaka, all bets will be off in the race to become a Kiwi Olympian. With likely only four spots on the plane to Paris, it’s a cut-throat business.
Hayden Wilde, the Kiwi standard bearer, will be back to spice up World Cup New Plymouth but the action at the earlier Oceania Cup races will be no less intense as Tayler Reid sets out to reiterate his next cab off the rank status among the men and partner Nicole van der Kaay likewise looks to fend off challengers to her throne as the Queen of Kiwi short course.
The racing will be fast, thrilling and intriguing too with the Aussie factor (Kia Ora freshly minted 70.3 Tasmania champ Jake Birwhistle, defending New Plymouth champ Luke Willan, Emma Jeffcoat and co.) and the momentous comeback of Rio 2016 gold medallist Gwen Jorgensen, the latter in Taupo and New Plymouth.
There’s also at least one big Kiwi name back in the mix. Yes, Kyles Smith is back. Yes, he has a lot of ground to make up after missing a year of qualification points gathering but the Spain-based Taupo PTO up-and-comer also has a lot of speed.
As 2008 Beijing Olympic Games champion and three-time Ironman World champion Jan Frodeno says of Smith: “He definitely seems to be the strongest swim-biker in the sport at the moment.”
The first test of that in a short course context will come in Wanaka on Friday evening. It promises to be a fascinating prelude to an intriguing summer.