By Kent Gray/Triathlon.kiwi
A stacked female field, superstar men missing in action and the start of a critical year of mixed relay racing where the sum of those two individual parts will play a significant factor.
Storylines abound ahead of World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS)-Montreal with the Kiwi focus for once not trained on Hayden Wilde and his bid for the world title.
Like Great British rival Alex Yee, current series leader Dorian Coninx (FRA) and reigning world champion Leo Bergere (FRA), Wilde is bypassing the Quebec round to prep for next month’s WTCS Hamburg (which doubles as the Sprint and Relay worlds) and the all-important Paris Olympic test event in late August.
It means a brighter spotlight focused on Tayler Reid, Dylan McCullough, Kyle Smith, Nicole van der Kaay, Ainsley Thorpe and WTSC debutant Brea Roderick – and a different dynamic for the relay with the big-hitting males absent.
WTCS Montreal will be raced over the sprint distance (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run) and is live on World Triathlon’s subscription service, triathlonlive.tv, and Sky Sport (check listings). The pro women are scheduled to go first at 11.36am local time Saturday – 3:36am Sunday NZT, ahead of the men at 1.36pm CET Saturday – 5:36am NZT Sunday. The relay is set for a 10.06am CET start Sunday – 2:06am NZT Monday.
Women – Live Sky Sport and Triathlonlive.tv, 3.20am NZT Sunday
After finishing 27th at her 2023 WTCS season bow in Yokohama, Nicole van der Kaay will be keen to see her perfect five-start, five-win Oceania campaign translate into a stronger showing in Montreal. Another solid block of Gold Coast training will help the Taupo 27-year-old but the pace will be hot with the three WTCS winners thus far – Beth Potter (Abu Dhabi), Sophie Coldwell (Yokohama) and Georgia Taylor-Brown (Cagliari) – all facing off for the first time this season.
Throw in series leader Taylor Spivey and fellow American Taylor Knibb, who announced this week is off to pro cycling with Trek-Segafredo, and the women’s race is a mouth-watering prospect.
Ainsley Thorpe, 25, is also in search of more WTCS consistency after 17th and 43rd placings in Abu Dhabi and Yokohama respectively while Brea Roderick, a replacement in the Montreal relay squad for Olivia Thornbury, gets a bonus individual start after jetting into Canada fresh from top 10 at European Cup Kitzbühel.
The 21-year-old Cantabrian hadn’t anticipated racing WTCS so soon so will take a zero expectations, learning opportunity attitude into her debut at World Triathlon’s top table.
Men – Live Sky Sport and Triathlonlive.tv, 5.20am NZT Sunday
With Wilde and co. MIA, Portugal’s Vasco Vilaca will start in the No.1 bib in the men’s race. After withdrawing from the Oceania Standard Distance Championship in Port Douglas as an injury precaution, the performance of Aussie Matt Hauser will be closely watched following his Yokohama silver to Wilde, and expect a retort from Kristian Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden after the Norwegians’ slow start to 2023.
There is also a grand opportunity for Tayler Reid, Dylan McCullough and Kyle Smith to bolster their Paris Olympic Games ambitions with the heaviest of heavy hitters sitting out.
Gisborne 26-year-old Reid was 31st at WTCS Yokohama and will be looking for a return to the form that saw him second behind Wilde at World Cup New Plymouth. McCullough, meanwhile, will look to back up his WTCS best 26th in Yokohama, a result the 22-year-old Aucklander backed up with Oceania U23 bronze in Port Douglas.
Smith, in Montreal as a reserve for the relay, has found his way onto the individual start lline via the waitlist. It offers the Taupo 25-year-old a chance to quickly move on from his 36th at World Cup Huatulco in Mexico last weekend.
Mixed Relay – Live Sky Sport and Triathlonlive, 1:50am NZT Monday
It’s a HUGE year of relay racing for New Zealand with the World Triathlon Relay Championships in Hamburg on July 16 the critical date. Wilde will be back for that race where Team NZL can secure a Paris Olympic Games Relay start, and individual spots for two females and two males as a result, if they finish top – not counting already qualified France and Team GBR.
There are also relays at WTCS Sunderland (July 30) and Paris (August 20) and like Montreal early Monday, all carry critical qualifying points.
The relative rarity of relays makes Montreal an important opportunity to work on tactics and transitions with an eye to Hamburg and beyond and is also the first time the Kiwis will race with the backing of Tri NZ’s new Relay team partner, Radix Nutrition.
WTCS Prize Money
Prize money is distributed equally across all WTCS events, save for the enhanced WTCS finale in Pontevedra, Spain from Sept. 22-24. The payout, in $US, goes down to 20th place in each of the women’s and men’s races.