After his second to last out of the water to silver medal performance in Saturday’s World Triathlon Cup men’s race, Wilde served as male reserve for Sunday’s relay with the NZ selectors keen to give McCullough and Reid race time in the countdown to the Paris Olympic Games.

Neither disappointed, executing strong races for NZ who are already a lock for a mixed relay start in Paris, and with it two guaranteed male and female slots for the individual races.

McCullough coolly overcome a confusing start with no ‘on your marks’ audible before the hooter to give NZL pole position after dominating the opening leg. It was all he could have hoped for after a year of mixed relay frustration in 2023 including the cancellation of WTCS Montreal due to bush fires, a DNS at WTCS Sunderland due to illness and the reduction of the Paris Olympic test event relay to a duathlon courtesy of poor water quality in the River Seine.

“I enjoyed it, it was nice to line up with the team. We all performed pretty hard today, unfortunate 4th but I think we’re all happy with our performances,” McCullough said.

“I don’t think they said ‘on your marks’ at all and after the first buoy I got a bit sunken, a bit like the Titanic, with people on either side but pulled it back and a nice little breakaway on the bike and ran real strong.”

Thorpe exited the water level-pegging with Olivia Mathis but the Brit surged on the bike, a strategy that ultimately backfired for GBR and left the Kiwi digging deep on the bike and run to keep her country in the fight.

“I thought we’d be working as a two to get away but obviously I was on the front and got attacked over so obviously she didn’t want to work together, so, yeah, I was in a bit of no man’s land which made it for a tough…it was quite tough out there in the wind, made it a pretty tough ride,” Thorpe said.

“I just tried to stick as close as I could to the couple in front and then hopefully Taylor could swim up…he usually does.”

Indeed, Reid loved playing the role of hunter after being tagged by Thorpe, making ground up on the swim and bike before running stride for stride with Italy’s Alessio Crociani, Portuguese star Vilaco Vilaca and Copeland.

“I love chasing, I love to be in that position to try, like a Bloodhound, just chase those front guys down. I just saw Hugo [GBR’s Hugo Milner] in front [on the bike] and I was just sending it the whole way trying to catch him,” Reid said.

“Then on the run, we started sprinting from 750m. I was full lactating with like 300m to go but yeah, happy with my leg and, yeah, good effort from the team.”

Roderick again shone in the water and on the bike and never wavered on the run against more experienced opponents. After confusing the NZ and Aussie flags in mixed relay transitions in Taupo and Sunderland last year, it was nice to execute a clean anchor leg.

“I am really happy with it. I’ve only done a couple of mixed relays so I’m really thankful that I got the opportunity to race again today and I finally made it through a relay without making a mistake,” Roderick said with a smile.

“As the others said, it was tough with the wind but I’m really happy with how I swan and rode in the bunch . I just didn’t quite have the legs on the run but the crowds kept me going. It was insane out there.”

The last word was left to Reid who agreed the Aussie’s had enjoyed themselves perhaps a little too much in Napier.

We’re not happy with all this green and gold, we’re fighting back, right?

“Oh, yeah,” said Reid with a knowing nod.

Roll on Abu Dhabi and the Oceania Sprint & Mixed Relay Championships in Devonport, Tasmania later in March.

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