Photos: Sean Beale/

By Kent Gray/ in Wanaka
When Dylan McCullough announced himself to the triathlon world with his 2018 Youth Olympic Games gold medal in Buenos Aires, it took everything he had to shake off eventual bronze medalist Alessio Crociani.

Fast-forward nearly 5½ years and the roles, if not the exact mint of medals, were reversed at Oceania Cup Wanaka.

McCullough gave his all on Friday night but had to settle for silver as his friendly Italian foe overcame a 10 second penalty for a mount line transgression exiting T1 to claim the opening race of the Oceania Triathlon season, sealing an Italy double after Ilaria Zane won the women’s race.

Australia’s Luke Schofield rounded out the podium, two places ahead of his twin brother Jayden while New Zealand celebrated top 10s for Janus Staufenberg, Sam Parry and Lachlan Haycock in 6th, 7th and 9th respectively.

Crociani and McCullough dominated from the get-go, leading out of Lake Wanaka and then quickly making it a two-man race by powering away on the 18km bike leg.

McCullough gave as good as he got with a spurt of speed leading out on the run but Crociani was aware of the time penalty so knew he had to put the hammer down to give himself a shot against McCullough.

In the end, the Italian opened up enough of a gap to win the 750m run, 18km bike, 5km run in 47:33, four seconds clear of McCullough.

The Kiwi could only doff his cap to Crociani who produced the fastest 5km split – 14:45. It was three seconds swifter than McCullough, even adding the 10 second penalty.

“I’ve been battling him for a long time…it’s good to have him here in our home country, New Zealand, and battle it out but yeah, he got the top step tonight, so it’s all good,” McCullough told

“I wanted to win tonight, and I tried as hard as I could. We rode the bike really hard, solid power. On the run we seemed to run away from the pack behind which was a surprise after the bike power we put out.

“Yeah, Crociani put in some big surges on the run. I followed for the first two laps, and then he just ran away and I couldn’t do anything about it. I knew he had a penalty, a 10 second one, but I couldn’t quite get him in the end.

“It’s a shame but still happy to finish on the podium for my first race of 2024.”

Silver was indeed a decent start to 2024 for McCullough who ended last year with a maiden World Triathlon Cup medal – also silver – in Japan. It’s all shaping up nicely as he chases the second Paris Olympics spot behind Kiwi No.1 Hayden Wilde.

“Yeah, I’m happy. I didn’t really know how tonight was going to go to be honest,” McCullough said.

“I’ve just been doing everything myself for the last three months down here in Arrowtown, just with my parents, so yeah it is a little bit unknown when you don’t train with anyone else so it was good to have a hitout tonight to see where the form is at.

“I’m sitting in 30th in the world ranking so [I’ll] try and start a good performance in Napier next weekend and follow that through and yeah, who knows how everything will play out but I’ll just give it my all.”

Wilde will be on the start-line at next weekend’s World Triathlon Cup, upping the ante for McCullough and co.

“More firepower on the line next weekend so it will be good fun, really looking forward to it.”

Like his bronze winning medal partner Olivia Thornbury, Staufenberg made up a number of places to finish 6th with a 15:00 5km split. Parry 15:04 was another impressive sign of things to come from the Palmerston North 20-year-old.

Full results HERE.

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