By Kent Gray/Triathlon.kiwi
From arguably Ainsley Thorpe’s finest performance to irrefutably Hayden Wilde’s worst. Pop Kyle Smith somewhere in between and the World Triathlon Championship Series opener was a roller coaster for New Zealand late on Friday.
Thorpe finished the women’s race at WTCS Abu Dhabi 17th behind a new-look podium of Scot Beth Potter, fellow Brit Sophie Coldwell and American Taylor Spivey.
Wilde was looking for redemption in the UAE capital after struggling to 6th in last season’s WTCS decider and sliding to 3rd overall as a result. However, a flat tire right out of T1 put pay to the Kiwi No.1’s race as he rode the 20km around the Yas Marina F1 circuit solo.
Wilde eventually ran his way to 45th in the 59-strong field, leaving Gustav Iden, among others, in his wake. Still, it was a demoralising way to start his World Championship campaign given Brit Alex Yee’s perfect start and will heap pressure on his round two performance in Yokohama come May.
Smith was making his comeback to the WTCS as he pursues his Paris Olympic dream and featured prominently on the bike. However, the Taupo 25-year-old faded to 30th overall with a 15:36 split for the 5km run.
Yee clocked a 14:26 split by comparison en route to victory in 52:53. Portugal’s Vasco Vilaca was second in 52:59 with Brazil’s Manoel Messias claiming bronze in 53:06.
Potter snared her first WTCS gold medal in 57:56 with Thorpe stopping the clock in 59:10
“I still haven’t beaten my 12th place from Edmonton in 2019 in what you would’ve called a slightly weaker field, but I would say this is one of my best performances I have put together in WTS and my career,” Thorpe told Triathlon.kiwi.
“Overall I am happy as it was a solid race all round and to finish 17th after the first race of the series is a step in the right direction to achieve my overall goal for 2023
“The swim felt controlled and I found clear water most of the way. The bike probably felt the worse and I didn’t position well until the last lap. I had really good T2s in Taupo [at last weekend Oceania Cup] and I made sure I was able to do that again.
“I had a bit of a stitch on the first lap of the run but I ran through it and stayed with a good group of runners. The last lap was brutal, especially up that hill and I just tried to stay with Georgia Taylor Brown [15th] the whole way.”