Photo: @janosmschmidt/World Triathlon
By Kent Gray/Triathlon.kiwi
A magnificent sign-off to a statement season.
Dylan McCullough is celebrating his first World Cup medal after finishing second to breakout Brit Hugo Milner in Miyazaki.
The 22-year-old Aucklander bagged US$6000 (NZ$10,321) for the silver but the fiscal reward paled in significance to the confidence boost of a maiden podium in a stacked field at World Triathlon’s second tier and the resulting world and Olympic Games ranking points boost.
McCullough’s World Triathlon ranking, 45th going into Saturday’s race, is on a steady ascent on the back of three World Cup top 10s in as many weeks in China, South Korea and Japan.
He was desperate to podium after 4th placings at New Plymouth in March and in Tangyeong last weekend and showed it was camera hogging efforts in each disclipine. It’s a super satisfying way to cap a season that has also seen the quiet achiever claim the Oceania U23 sprint title, a World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) best 12th in Sunderland and a U23 Mixed Relay World Championship bronze.
“Yeah, I’m so stoked to be on the podium today,” McCullough said on Triathlonlive.tv.
“It was 4th in New Plymouth at the start of the year, 9th in Chengdu and 4th last weekend in Tongyeong so to get silver today, I’m super happy. It’s perfect time because it is the end of the season and I’m on holidays now so it couldn’t have ended any better way.”
McCullough was a race long protagonist, leading the standard distance race out of the water with noted Hungarian fish Márk Dévay and driving the bike early before sagely sitting in with the breakaway too large to get organised. He then made a break for gold just after the halfway mark of 10km run, going off the front solo for one and a half laps. But the 10 second lead McCullough established was not quite enough with Milner and Portugal’s Richardo Batista running the gassed Kiwi down with 750m to go.
A penalty slapped on Batista and served just before the blue carpet was a surprise bonus for McCullough who completed the 1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run in 1:47:50 to finish four seconds adrift of first time World Cup winner Milner.
Was that the tactical plan, Dylan, to go out solo midway through the run?
“Not really, no,” McCullough said with trademark frankness after clocking 30:44 for the 10km compared to Milner’s 29:33 split and third placed Lasse Nygaard Priester’s (GER) 29:43.
“I dunno, running’s not really my strong point so I’m kind of new to knowing what to do with attacking and stuff. It was pretty comfortable for the first five k and I could see Hugo and [4th placed] Tyler [Mislawchuk] and a few others running up pretty quickly and I was feeling good and I knew I had to attack which I did just after 5km.
“I got a bit of a gap and just ran as hard as I could and, yeah, unfortunately lost it with, what, 750m to go or something but still super happy to silver today and I didn’t actually know Richardo had a penalty until just before the finish line so it was a bonus as well.”
Saxon Morgan, battling sickness since Tangyeong, was 38th in Miyazaki with Trent Thorpe recording a DNF.
But the day belonged to McCullough in what was a strong field of men motivated by Olympic ranking points.
“It’s really important with the Olympic qualifying period to get some good points and today was a super stacked field, like I think I’m 45th world ranking and I was [only] ranked 15th in the race so a lot of the top guys are here,” McCullough said.
“So yeah, to perform this weekend and last weekend in Tongyeong in two very good fields, I’m over the moon about that.”