Photos: Super League
By Kent Gray/Triathlon.kiwi
The equation, a very lucrative one at that, is simple if not easily achieved for Hayden Wilde to repeat as champion as Super League Triathlon (SLT) season 5 reaches its climax in Neom in the early hours of Sunday NZ time.
Wilde is one of five men still in the hunt for the individual title after hauling himself back into contention with his runaway, penultimate round victory in Malibu late last month. It followed an injury-enforced DNS in London and that tumultuous bike-to-swim transition en-route to 4th in Toulouse – a bell lap that wasn’t really the bell lap bungle that cost the Kiwi 2nd place in France at the very least.
With an athletes’ best two performances plus the final in Saudi Arabia counting, Wilde can guarantee himself the overall title for the second year running with victory in the Saudi Arabian desert.
Frenchman Leo Bergere, the series leader on 29 points, and second placed Brit Jonny Brownlee (28 points) are in the same position as Wilde (27 points). Englishman Alex Yee and South African Henri Schoeman (both 25 points) can also triumph overall but would likely need to win in Neom and finish three places ahead of Bergere and two places ahead of Brownlee and Wilde to get their hands on the trophy.
If Wilde wins, he’ll scoop at least US$70,000 as NZ sleeps – $20,000 for the race win and $50,000 for the overall title. There’s also the $120,000 teams title to gun for with Wilde’s Bahrain Victorious Scorpions – including Kiwi teammates Nicole van der Kaay and Tayler Reid – second in the standings but buoyed by the leading RTP Sharks being without injured Beth Potter.
Wilde, who has already pocketed US$26,000 in Toulouse and Malibu, is also in the running for US$15,000 bonuses given to the leading athletes in each discipline at the end of the series. The Whakatane 26-year-old goes into Saudi second to Kristian Blummenfelt in the bike standings and second to Yee in the run ranking. If he has a day of days in Neom, he could bank more than US$100,000 for less than a hours hard work.
The men’s race starts at 1:20am NZ time after the women get the finale started at 00:08am NZ time Sunday. You can watch live on Sky Sports 5 (Channel 55) from midnight and via SuperLeagueTriathlon.com.
Neom will be raced over SLT’s ‘Enduro’ format, back-to-back-to-back 300m swims, 4km bike rides and 1.6km runs.
It’s the same format as in London which bodes well for Reid who ran to third, his maiden SLT podium, at the season opener.
The Gisborne 27-year-old is also in the hunt for the swim bonus, currently 4th behind Schoeman, Eagle Jamie Riddle and Frenchman Aurelien Raphael.
Reid, currently 10th overall, and van der Kaay in 15th will be looking to cement top 10 season results and to eek out as many points as possible to at least keep the Scorpions second in the team standings, a result that would net a share of the $80,000 second place prize purse.
Jeanne Lehair leads the way in the women’s standings with 28 points with Emma Lombardi (27) and Kate Waugh (26) in close order. Sophie Coldwell needs a bit to go her way, but is certainly not out of it. The RTP Sharks athlete sits level on 24 points with Beth Potter, whose unfortunate training crash rules her out of a shot at the title. For Coldwell to take the Series win she would need to beat Lehair and Lombardi by two places and Waugh by one place. That would effectively mean that if she won in NEOM she would need Lehair and Lombardi to finish third or below.
Injury robbed Cassandre Beaugrand of a shot at the Series win with her absence in Toulouse costing her dearly. However, her performance in NEOM is sure to have a huge impact on deciding who wins. Her imperious victory in Malibu suggests she is the athlete to beat in NEOM, even if winning would leave her on 35 points and realistically out of title contention. If Beaugrand were to win again then the maths for the others moves down a spot. If she were to finish second then it gets very interesting because if Coldwell were to win then she would be champion.