By Kent Gray/ in Napier
Dylan McCullough has come close to a second successive World Triathlon Cup podium as his push for an Olympic Games debut gathered momentum in Napier.

The 23-year-old was 5th at the global season opener, the second Kiwi behind silver medalist Hayden Wilde with Tayler Reid the next best in 12th.

After claiming silver at World Triathlon Cup Miyazaki last October and matching that result at Oceania Cup Wanaka to open his year last Friday, McCullough’s increasingly trademark provocateur performance in Napier won’t have gone unnoticed in the fight for Paris spots.

RELATED: What a Wilde day…for Aussie at World Triathlon Cup Napier

McCullough was second out of Hawk Bay behind Alessio Crociani, the Italian who ultimately pipped him in Wanaka. He then rode near the front before settling for 5th behind Aussie Callum McClusky, fast-finishing Wilde, Spaniard Alberto Gonzalez Garcia and Israel’s Shachar Sagiv.

“That was an extremely fast-paced race, there were just no easy parts,” McCullough said after producing the 5th fastest 5km split of 14:22 compared to Reid’s season-opening 14:39.

“Pushed the swim, Crociani came past me at the end, got on his feet and he was swimming quick and then we had a bit of a gap but he wanted to sit up…and I just wanted to keep going and push hard. I was hoping Hayden [Wilde] was going to be pushing it out of that U-turn and try and bridge up to me so we could have a bit of a breakaway.

“But he was a bit further back and there was a group of about 20 of us and there were a few games [going on] in there and no one pushing too hard.”

McCullough described the run as “just insane”. He tried to go with Wilde when the Kiwi No.1 passed, recovering from second to last out of the water to finish second overall with a bike-run combo that thrilled the big Napier crowds.

“I really tried to stick on him [Wilde] that last k, k and a half when he came past. I didn’t lose too much time and I knew that if I could just try stay within distance, not fall behind then I hopefully stay in that top five.

“I fought for the podium right to the end, just missed out but no complaints.”

McCullough and Reid will combine with Ainsley Thorpe and Brea Roderick in Sunday’s elite mixed relay in Napier before they all jet off to Abu Dhabi for the World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) season opener on March 8-9. McCullough will fly comfortable in the knowledge he is staking a compelling case for Paris but cognisant Reid will only get stronger as the season progresses.

“Wanaka was alright, just a good hit out and today was like the main race. Yeah, good to see where I’m at and yeah, pleased with the performance.”

World Triathlon Cup Napier

1. Callum McClusky (AUS)
2. Hayden Wilde (NZL)
3. Alberto Gonzalez Garcia (ESP)

Also NZL results
5. Dylan McCullough
12. Tayler Reid
21. Trent Thorpe
22. Saxon Morgan
23. Janus Staufenberg
27. Henry McMecking
28. James Corbett
31. Sam Parry
38. Ivan Abele
39. Oliver Larcombe

Full results at World Triathlon HERE.

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