Photos: World Triathlon

By Kent Gray/
Will Nicole van der Kaay’s new training regime and Oceania season sidestep pay early World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) dividends? Was Hayden Wilde’s season-opening swim in Napier a fortnight ago a mere blip or something more concerning? Can Tayler Reid and Dylan McCullough both enhance their Olympic Game claims? Will Brea Roderick get an 11th hour start off the waitlist?

All those questions will find at least partial answers across 25 absorbing hours of racing at WTCS Abu Dhabi on Saturday and into the wee hours of Sunday (NZT). Throw in the spotlight on Cambridge-based Auckland siblings Ainsley and Trent Thorpe, absolutely stacked individual fields that may not be replicated until the Olympics, a final pre-Paris Mixed Relay, perhaps even some rain and the 2024 curtain-raiser of World Triathlon’s premier series shapes as essential viewing.

The swim, bike and run fun, HQ’d inside Abu Dhabi’s famed F1 track on Yas Island, begins from 12:45am Saturday NZT. Here’s everything you need to know to compliment your viewing pleasure on and Sky Sport.


WTCS Abu Dhabi – Elite Women

When: 1am Saturday NZT
Kiwis: Nicole van der Kaay (#18), Ainsley Thorpe (#32)
*Watch: Coverage on Sky Sport and from 12:45am-2:15am Saturday. Replay on Sky Sport from 7:30am Saturday.

Kiwi Briefing Notes

NVDK ‘loving the new usual’ in campaign switch-up

International Intel

The top-10 women’s seeds give hint of the quality of racing we can expect all weekend long in Abu Dhabi. Potter, Beaugrand, Lombardi, Spivey, Coldwell, Waugh, Tertsch, Lehair, Tapia Vidal and Rappaport is a mouth-watering list and it doesn’t stop there. Watch for Georgia Taylor-Brown in her comeback, Laura Lindermann, Taylor Knibb, Gwen Jorgenson and…the list goes on and on. Heck even Sophie Linn, who won World Cup Napier so impressively and is the lowest of the five Aussies in the field at #44, cannot be discounted. What’s not to get excited about?

Read the World Triathlon’s women’s preview here.


WTCS Abu Dhabi – Elite Men
When: 3am Saturday NZT
Kiwis: Hayden Wilde (#2), Dylan McCullough (#24), Tayler Reid (#27), Trent Thorpe (#50)
* Watch: Coverage on Sky Sport and from 2:45am-4:15am Saturday. Replay on Sky Sport from 9:15am Saturday.

Kiwi Briefing Notes

Wilde rebound in Abu Dhabi?

Hayden Wilde’s lousy swim at World Triathlon Cup Napier, and that incredible run to eventually finish second behind Aussie Callum McClusky, has been well documented. Less widely reported were the Kiwi No.1’s comments in the immediate aftermath.

“I’m just really struggling with speed at the moment with the swim…yeah, coming into it mentally knowing I’m a little bit lacking in the water.

“I don’t know what it is. I’ve been training as much as I have been normally and swimmimg more than I have been but it just hasn’t come together.

“Heading into Abu Dhabi, looking at an even stronger field for the swim and bike, yeah I really have to pull some things together in a couple of weeks. Maybe just completely work on speed in the water.”

Social media posts suggest Wilde hasn’t locked himself entirely in the pool but it will be intriguing to see what he and coach Craig Kirkwood have come up with to ensure he can make the most of his bike and run superpowers on Yas Island. The 26-year-old will be hoping for a change of fortune in Abu Dhabi after a flat tyre left him 46th last year but more importantly won’t want to give Alex Yee any additional psychological wiggle room in the battle many see going all the way to the tape in Paris.

Just as absorbing will be the performances of Dylan McCullough and Tayler Reid. As the current qualifying situation stands, it seems one or the other will make it to Paris as the Kiwi male No.2 behind Wilde although there is a scenario where NZL could have three men toe the individual start line at the XXXIII Olympiad.

To do so, all three would need to be comfortably inside the top 30 of the World Triathlon Olympic rankings. Wilde and McCullough are 2nd and 27th currently while Reid needs to string together a series of top results before the May 27 cutoff to improve his ranking of 53. Either way, expect an intense, if not outwardly visible, battle within the battle in the men’s race after McCullough edged Reid – 5th place versus 12th – in Napier.

Likewise, Trent Thorpe can potentially sneak in the backdoor for Paris with a pair of WTCS top 8s. He’ll look to capitalise on his swim speed in Abu Dhabi where he’ll likely need one of those top 8s to trigger starts in Yokohama (May 11) and Cagliari (May 25), the two remaining WTCS within the Paris qualifying period. Thorpe was 21st in Napier.

International Intel

Chances are we won’t see a men’s short course start list as deep as this until the men’s race at the Olympics on July 30 (France time).

Reigning world champion Dorian Coninx will look to pick up where he left off in Pontevedra last year while Yee will be braced for a Wilde backlash. Dismiss Coninx’s countrymen Léo Bergere and Vincent Luis at your peril, Matthew Hauser and Vasco Vilaca too.  

An intriguing subplot will be the performance of reigning Olympic champion Kristian Blummenfelt. The Norwegian, world champion in 2021, enjoyed four top 10s in WTCS action last year but won’t be satisfied with his 18th place signoff at the finals in Pontevedra. Abu Dhabi will give hint to his off season progress and whether a Paris medal is realistic.

Read the World Triathlon’s men’s preview here.


Mixed Relay Series Abu Dhabi
When: 00.01am Sunday NZT
*Watch: Coverage on Sky Sport and from 11:45am Saturday-1:45am Sunday. Replay on Sky Sport from 3:30pm Sunday.

Reid to kick off MTR

Dylan McCullough will be tested in the No.3 spot in Sunday’s MTR.

Barring mishap in the individual races, the NZL lineup for the MTR early Sunday NZT will be Tayler Reid, Nicole van der Kaay, Dylan McCullough and Ainsley Thorpe. Hayden Wilde and Brea Roderick are on standby as reserves.

NZL is a lock for a relay spot, and thus two male and two female individual slots, in Paris, meaning the NZL selectors have been afforded an opportunity to rest Wilde and experiment with their starting order.

McCullough led off at World Triathlon Mixed Relay Series Napier, so it’s Reid’s chance at No.1 in Abu Dhabi.

The unknown for Sunday is the weather. As much as 40mm of rain is forecast in the buildup to what is the last scheduled mixed relay in the Paris qualifying period.

*Race and broadcast times are subject to change. Check listings.

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