Photo: World Triathlon

By Kent Gray/
New Zealand reps Brea Roderick and Saxon Morgan are back to defend their Canterbury Classic titles on Sunday but it will be no cinch for the latter in Lyttelton.

Morgan, 23, won the standard distance race by nearly eight minutes last year but will be under much more stress on Sunday with 22-year-old Paris Olympic Games hopeful Dylan McCullough adding further big-name kudos to the event.

Like McCullough who finished off an eye catching 2023 on the global circuit with a silver medal in Miyazaki, his maiden World Triathlon Cup podium, Roderick emerged from last season as an international star-in-waiting.

LISTEN: McCullough talks to the ‘World Triathlon podcast’

Roderick was 24th at the Paris Olympic Test Event in August after a series of increasingly impressive rookie season results at World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) level, culminating in 28th place at WTCS Sunderland. Roderick, Morgan and McCullough had earlier teamed with Hannah Knighton to earn Team NZL bronze in the U23 World Triathlon Championship Mixed Relay in Hamburg.

The 21-year-old won the women’s title at last year’s Canterbury Classic in a similar canter to Morgan, finishing third overall behind Morgan and men’s runner-up Laurie Watson. The performance in her first standard distance start out of the junior (U19) ranks was a pointer to the great season offshore to come. On Sunday, Roderick’s main competition is expected to come from NZ squad member Sarah McClure.

2023 RECAP: Morgan, Roderick lap up additional swim distance to seal Canterbury Classic titles

The Canterbury Classic, which again doubles as the Tri NZ Suzuki Series South Island Age Group Triathlon Championships in 2024, was notable for a longer than expected swim in Corsair Bay last year, roughly 2400m according to Morgan’s smart watch.  

On Sunday, there will be a completely new course to contend with, the 1500m swim shifting around the headland to picturesque Cass Bay. The change has necessitated an additional 1km run to transition before the Canterbury Classic’s calling card – an “old school” course full of hills to keep the bike and run very honest – kicks in.

Cass Bay will host the swim leg in 2024

The age group races will serve as the secondary qualifier for October’s World Triathlon Age Group Championships with six slots per age group, per gender on the line for Malaga.

A duathlon has long been incorporated into the Canterbury Classic and this year it will double as the Tri NZ Suzuki Series NZ Standard Distance Duathlon Championship.

That means the fastest 16 duathletes per age group and gender over the hilly course will be eligible to compete at August’s World Triathlon Multisport Championships in Townsville.

Race Director John Newsom is hopeful of cracking 200 entries on Sunday across all disciplines. In addition to the standard distance triathlon and standard distance Duathlon there are aquabike, short distance triathlon and duathlon and Kids (age 5-12 years) aquathon options.

Numbers are up on last year’s 170 entries in an encouraging return to pre-pandemic levels.

As of Friday there were approximately 100 standard distance tri and 30 standard distance duathlon entries.

Stay tuned to for full post-race coverage.

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