Photos: Tri NZ & World Triathlon

By Kent Gray/ in Paris
Ainsley Thorpe may have just cracked her own personal code to success after topping the Kiwi results at the Olympic test event in Paris.

The Cambridge-based 25-year-old finished 17th in Thursday’s standard distance dress rehearsal to next summer’s XXXIII Olympiad. The iconic landmark-laden race was won by Beth Potter (1:51:40), the Brit outkicking French favourite Cassandre Beaugrand to claim the gold by six seconds with German Laura Lindemann (1:51:59) rounding out the podium.

Cantabrian Brea Roderick (1:56:08) was an outstanding 24th in just her second start over the 1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run distance, two places ahead of Kiwi No.1 Nicole van der Kaay (1:56:16) who never stood a chance after becoming a human punch bag in the River Seine swim.

Thorpe was so despondent after her 42nd place at WTCS Sunderland on July 29 she gave herself a “no stress” pass for Paris, even admitting after Thursday’s race that she had been targeting Sunday’s mixed relay as the priority of her week in the French capital.

Taking the heat off herself clearly worked a charm with the native Aucklander matching her career best WTCS result from Abu Dhabi in early March. Given the quality of the field and magnitude of the year-out from the Olympics moment, this 17th was way sweeter.

“I’m so happy, it’s probably one of my best performances I’ve ever done,” Thorpe told

The Kiwi No.2 still has work to do to secure a second Olympic Games nomination but Thursday showed what she’s capable of when she gets the mix right. It gives her hope of being able to consign to history her bike crash DNF in the wet at Tokyo 2021 and her Covid-infused DNS at last summer’s Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

“I have the confidence that I have the ability to be in the team next year over the individual and MTR [Mixed Team Relay]. I was more focusing on the MTR this race [week] but the individual went pretty well so yeah, I’m really happy,” she said.

“My last performance was one of my worst performances ever and yeah, going into this, I just tried to enjoy it.

“I really like the swim because it is a long way to the first buoy. I got caught, there was this girl just swimming on top of me for the first 100 metres, it just got really annoying, so I just literally stopped and went to the side, and then I just swam and I was still near the front which was weird.

“I went round the buoy within the top 10 I think so I had a really good start and that just pretty much set up my race.”

Thorpe was 16th out of the Seine, a spot ahead of Roderick. The Kiwi duo missed the front group of eight away on the bike but were quickly able to bridge the gap tacked near the rear of the chasing peloton who then, as a collective, powered away out of sight of the rest of the field.

She wasn’t able to position herself quite where coach Bruce Hunter, yelling tactics and encouragement from the sidelines, would have liked in the leading group. Still, Thorpe was placed handily enough as the laps whizzing beneath the Eiffel Tower and over the famed cobbles of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées ticked down.

“The bike wasn’t too technical, every turn is quite wide so if you are towards the back it’s actually not too hard to get back on, especially as it was really windy so the front guys…it was obviously easier in the middle.”

A 35:30 effort for the 10km got Thorpe home inside the top 20 although van der Kaay’s 34:39 was the slickest of the Kiwi splits with Roderick, still only 21 and developing her run, clocking 37:26. Potter ran a classy 32:57 to ease away from Beaugrand in the closing stages.

“I didn’t find it too hot, we’ve been training in 35+ degrees so I didn’t actually need much water which was nice and it was quite shaded, the sun’s not quite up on the course yet and yeah, I just had a good T2, and I just heard my coach yell at me ‘relax’ so I just controlled it the first two laps and just tried to stay with Natalie [Aussie Natalie Van Coevorden],” Thorpe continued.

“I was hoping for a sprint finish but she had a [transition] penalty so I had to sprint finish myself…I was looking forward to the last 50 metres.”

That there is encouraging fighting talk from a Kiwi with her mojo back. Now the trick is to remember that the less stress approach is likely to translate to more success. It helps having the right people in her camp too, Hunter key among them.

“Being in Paris is insanely cool and… this could be my only opportunity to race in Paris so…” Thorpe said of her effort to race as hard as possible.

“The support team I have behind me, I’m so happy just to be on the start line with that team around me.”

More on Roderick and van der Kaay to follow…

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