By Kent Gray/
The first stop on off-road triathlon’s XTERRA APAC Tour makes Maeve Kennedy’s heart flutter for more reason than one.

The Aussie star will chase a third title to go with 2021 and 2023 wins at XTERRA Wellington Festival on Saturday.

Kennedy will also open the defence of the overall XTERRA APAC Tour title at the 1km sea swim, 31km mountain bike and 10km run long distance triathlon, the marquee event among seven races being staged at Queen Elizabeth Park in Paekakariki.

Kennedy, 8th at last year’s XTERRA Worlds in Italy and 5th at the Asia-Pacific Championships, made her professional debut in Wellington and it came with an unexpected bonus.

“Wellington XTERRA has a very special place in my heart. I met my soon to be husband there in 2020. Mark has been by my side supporting me at every race since,” she said.

“It was my first pro race. I didn’t come from a triathlon background, I grew up surfing the south coast of Australia and fell in love with the sport in 2018.”

Renowned for featuring “the best downhill of any XTERRA on the planet,”  Wellington launches the six stop APAC Tour which includes the world renowed XTERRA Rotorua Festival on April 6.

Kennedy is looking forward to the unique challenges presented on the Kapiti Coast.

“It’s one of my favourite races. I love the swim, the more swell the better.”

“I’ll be taking the race one discipline at a time. During the swim, I focus on my breathing, I visualise transition, and the process of getting through quickly. On the bike, it always takes a little bit to find my rhythm, smooth is fast.”

Transitioning onto land, the 31K bike course is a quick start that allows athletes to jockey for position. The route then narrows into technical singletrack, where strategy and skill come into play. A segment of 4WD track presents opportunities for aggressive riding, especially on the circuit’s standout downhill section. With an elevation gain of 690 metres, the bike course is both a physical and tactical battleground.

“The downhills are more technical than they look, they are loose and at speed it’s hard to hold a line,” said Kennedy before switching focus to the run which includes a modest elevation gain of 93 metres.

“I’m relieved when I get off the bike in one piece. I usually really enjoy the run, but it’s impossible to set a pace on that terrain. Just go hard and don’t look back.”

XTERRA Wellington Festival consists of seven races including a sprint triathlon, duathlon, mountainbiking, and 21K, 14K, and 6K trail runs.

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