Photos: Delly Carr/AusTriathlon

By Kent Gray/ in Devonport
Dylan McCullough has always been a triathlete who prefers to let his racing and results do the talking.

Media interviews aren’t his favourite thing but in the 23-year-old Cambridge-based Aucklander’s defence, he has become far more comfortable in front of the camera of late. Perhaps that’s because it’s becoming quite a common occurrence.

On Saturday, McCullough became a duel continental champion, winning both the elite and U23 titles in one fell, whistle-to-tape swoop at the Oceania Sprint Championship in picturesque Devonport.

It was a statement from Bass Strait to the finishing chute with the Kiwi first out of the water and 13 seconds clear of Aussie Luke Willian in the final analysis.

But this race was won on the imposing hill that had to be summitted four times during the 20km ride.

McCullough was first out of the water and quickly joined by Kiwi team-mate Tayler Reid and Australia’s Jack Crome in a breakaway of three on the bike. Crome was quickly jettisoned by the Kiwis who opened up a 25 second gap after the first lap and seemed headed for a classic mano-o-mano battle to the tape.

Except when McCullough stepped up out of his saddle on the second climb, Reid couldn’t respond. Suddenly, McCullough had put 32 seconds on Reid, who fell back into the chasing peloton, by the end of lap two.

“I was kind of in two minds what to do because you can’t really go solo on the bike these days with a lot of fast runners behind, but my bike power was just really high and my legs were feeling incredible so I just went for it,” McCullough told

He turned his advantage into 37 seconds off the bike and then ran a controlled 14:44 5km to defend his U23 title and become the elite Oceania champion for the first time.

“I’m very stoked with that. It was a pretty hard race from start to finish but the legs just felt incredible today,” he said after Jake Birtwhistle crossed the line third to round out the podium.

The damage McCullough inflicted on the bike meant Austrialian whippet Callum McClusky, fresh from his victory at World Cup Napier, was too far back to threaten, eventually settling for 9th. Still, McCullough was wary of the class of runners in hot pursuit.

“I knew there was some incredible runners behind me and I was pretty nervous coming off the bike just because my power was at an all time high,” he said.

“Legs felt like jelly for the first one K but I kind of just controlled it, not got too excited, and found my legs probably halfway through.

“The gap was coming down a little bit but still holding reasonably strong so, yup, just carried it home.”


Reid eventually finished 6th, a place behind Saxon Morgan in what was arguably the Cantabrian’s best race since finishing 8th at the November 2022 U23 World Championships in Abu Dhabi.

McCullough agreed it was a mini statement in the battle to be Kiwi No.2 at the Paris Olympic Games in July-August. But he also knows there is still plenty of runway before the May 28 qualification period cutoff.

The plan, as ever, is to let his racing do the talking some more at the Oceania Standard Distance Championships in Taupo on April 14 and at WTCS Yokohama and WTCS Cagliari on May 11 and 25 respectively.

“I’m just putting my best foot forward, don’t really know what is going to happen but all I can do is give it my best,” McCullough said.

“I think there was some good Olympic points on the line today so hopefully get some of those and yeah, we’ll see what happens.”

After finishing 12th to McCullough’s 5th at World Cup Napier and now 6th behind the new Oceania sprint champion in Devonport, Reid’s riposte will be fascinating. And guaranteed. The Tokyo Olympian won’t take his tough start to 2024 lying down.

A pair of WTCS top 8s in Japan and Italy would meet the secondary qualification criteria. If that cannot be achieved, the Gisborne 27-year-old’s other option may be to chase ranking rich World Cup starts in addition to Taupo and the WTCS races to try and pull his Olympic ranking inside the top 30 and potentially earn New Zealand three men on the start-line in Paris.

Before Devonport, McCullough was ranked 27th and Reid 53rd. Those rankings will inevitably improve when the calculations are done by World Triathlon overnight.

The next move in this absorbing qualification conundrum is, then, down to Reid. Whatever Reid decides, McCullough will just carry on with trying to get himself in front of as many cameras as possible.

Oceania Triathlon Sprint Championship – Elite & U23 Men

1       Dylan McCullough (NZ)  00:53:48  00:08:26    00:00:28    00:29:24    00:00:45    00:14:44
2       Luke Willian (AUS) 00:54:01 00:08:38    00:00:26    00:29:52    00:00:44    00:14:19
3       Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS) 00:54:15   00:08:45    00:00:27    00:29:44    00:00:45    00:14:32

Also NZL
5       Saxon Morgan           00:54:36    00:08:44    00:00:27    00:29:46    00:00:46        00:14:51
6       Tayler Reid          00:54:42    00:08:29    00:00:27    00:30:00    00:00:43    00:15:02
15     Trent Thorpe             00:55:40    00:08:31    00:00:31    00:29:56    00:00:46         00:15:54
16     Henry McMecking     00:55:54    00:08:57    00:00:28    00:30:12    00:00:44         00:15:30
18     James Corbett           00:56:10    00:08:56    00:00:30    00:30:13    00:00:46         00:15:43
19     Sam Parry           00:56:18    00:08:58    00:00:30    00:30:09    00:00:46    00:15:52
20     Ivan Abele           00:56:28    00:09:07    00:00:29    00:30:02    00:00:51    00:15:57
24     Benjamin Airey           00:57:05    00:09:03    00:00:29    00:30:08    00:00:48         00:16:35
25     Gus Marfell         00:57:18    00:09:38    00:00:27    00:30:30    00:00:45    00:15:56
28     Lachlan Haycock        00:57:46    00:09:17    00:00:31    00:31:13    00:00:47         00:15:56
31     Jack Staples               00:58:32    00:09:00    00:00:32    00:30:09    00:00:53         00:17:56
34     William Taylor             00:58:55    00:09:31    00:00:32    00:32:05    00:00:52         00:15:53
35     Grayson Westgate      00:59:05    00:09:26    00:00:30    00:31:18    00:00:53         00:16:57
41     Oliver Larcombe         01:00:00    00:09:30    00:00:29    00:31:01    00:00:53         00:18:05
42     Christian Davey          01:00:36    00:10:01    00:00:29    00:32:30    00:00:52         00:16:43

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