Photos: Sean Beale/

By Kent Gray/
For Nicole van der Kaay, it’s all about nailing a faster start. For Kyle Smith, it’s the realisation that the “hurt is real” and that it’s only going to get tougher from here.

Taupo is ready to cheer on its two home town heroes at the second of the summer’s two big Oceania Cup races on Feb. 25 and the following day when van der Kaay goes for gold as the female anchor of the NZL A team at the Oceania Mixed Relay Championship.

The 27-year-old won the Oceania Cup Wanaka sprint going away on Feb. 17 but left herself an awful lot to do during the 5km run after exciting Lake Wanaka 21 seconds down on swim leader Emma Jeffcoat and 40 seconds adrift out of T2 following the criterium-style bike leg.

NVDK had to battle hard to edge Brea Roderick in Wanaka.

Were you worried?

“Yeah, definitely,” the van der Kaay told TQ.

“I got a bit caught up there in the swim and had to swim through a few people and then I was just way too far behind on the bike. Those girls were really strong up the front so I had to work and run my way up to the pack.

“I got one girl on the first lap and then kind of ticked them off on the second lap and then I had the last lap to really enjoy it. Very pleased. It’s the start of the season, the first race of the year, it’s really cool to be here and have a good race.”

Van der Kaay will line up at World Cup New Plymouth on March 26 and the Oceania Standard Distance Championship in Port Douglas on May 27 before starting her WTCS campaign in either Yokohama or Montreal.

“These races are important but I’m just training through them. I really need the points because I didn’t get to race much last year coming off the back of an injury. So I really need to get my points up but the main races of the year are definitely in Europe so I’m just building a base, building a foundation and building my way through the year.”

Smith will look for a faster swim to make the most of his pedal power.

Smith will jet to Abu Dhabi for the WTCS opener on March 3 immediately after going toe-to-toe with Tayler Reid and co. again in Taupo. If his silver medal performance, sandwiched between Aussie Callum McClusky and Reid in Wanaka, is any indication, the 25-year-old expects to feel a bit second-hand for the flight.

“Back to a bit of sprint distance racing and the hurt of it is real. Especially when it comes to sprinting with @taylerreidnz,” Smith said on social media after Wanaka. “ I think it’s naive to think that the cobwebs would be dusted off and it’s going to get any easier from here on out. Far from it, it’s just more fresh in my mind now.”

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