Images: World Triathlon
By Kent Gray/Triathlon.kiwi
Hayden Wilde is determined to park Abu Dhabi by performing in front of his family and friends and for his legion of fans cheering on from near and afar when he hits the 2023 reset button at World Cup New Plymouth on Sunday.
The Kiwi No.1’s year got off to a flat start, quite literally, at the World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) season opener in Abu Dhabi three weeks ago, a puncture seeing him finish 46th in the 59-strong field in the UAE capital.
Sunday’s sprint race (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run) off Ngāmotu Beach offers the Whakatane 25-year-old the chance to re-ignite a year focused on securing his nomination for next year’s Paris Olympic Games at August’s test event.
“There’s not many opportunities we get to race in front of friends and family, it’s so hard for them to get overseas, they’ve got their own jobs and families to look after so it’s really nice to race here and all I can do is to try and take the race out and give back to those 1am starts that they always get up for in Europe,” Wilde told Triathlon.kiwi.
“So really excited to race here, I feel fit, I’m healthy, I’ve just got to get out there and get amongst it.”
Forecast rain and wind adds an element of the unknown to Sunday’s race. Mix in the hilly New Plymouth course and a field featuring the likes of Canadian Tyler Mislawchuck, Spaniard David Castro Fajardo, American Seth Rider, in-form Aussies Jacob Birtwhistle and Callum McClusky and British wildcard Ben Dijkstra, Wilde expects to be pushed.
Fourth here the last time New Plymouth featured on the World Triathlon circuit in 2019, Wilde will also need to keep tabs on compatriots Tayler Reid, Janus Staufenberg, Dylan McCullough and Saxon Morgan.
“New Plymouth is no course you can hide away from, it’s going to be potentially wet, it sounds like it could be pretty windy and there’s a hill involved with it as well, so there’s no hiding on this course,” the reigning WTCS No.3 and Super League champion said.
“In a way, I was kind of pleased what happened in Abu Dhabi, that it wasn’t a performance base, a mechanical can happen to anyone on the day. It’s the one when you come back of the pack and it was the legs fault [that is concerning].
“But I rode really well by myself, I was happy with my swim and still ran well and I was around that 90-95 percent. I was kind of thinking of later on in the season where, if I absolutely gas this race and I’m just fighting for a 40th place, I might as well take it back a little bit and focus on having a good week of training the next week and that’s exactly what I did. Just kind of kept it at a respectable pace, respecting the race but also getting ready for the big season that’s coming.”
Wilde will remain in New Zealand and will loop his way back to his new Andorra training base via WTCS Yokohama on May 13 on WTCS Cagliari on May 27-28.
“I’ve got myself an apartment in Andorra and will train with Kyle Smith and Jan Frodeno and guys like Cam Worth so it’s a great environment to be a part of and not too far from the Tri NZ team just down the road in Girona [Banyoles].
“It’s a new experiment for me heading up there and I’m really looking forward to it. Obviously, my big goal for the season is the Paris test event. That’s where the automatic qualification spot sits for me so if I can do that a year out, it will just take off that burden of having to perform day in and day out.”
Triathlonlive.tv will carry live coverage of the elite men’s race from 1:20pm on Sunday. The race begins at 1:30pm. The elite women’s race goes at 11am with coverage from 10:50am.