Photos: Xterra

By Kent Gray/
You can take the boy out of Rotorua but you can’t take the love of XTERRA Rotorua out of the boy.

Sam Osborne might be focused on long course, on road triathlon goals in 2024 but he was never going to miss New Zealand’s preeminent stop on the Asia-Pacific XTERRA Tour, not on his back doorstep. Nor the chance to have another crack at Auckland rival Jack Moody.

The Osborne-Moody match-up shapes as the highlight of Saturday’s racing which includes a 1km swim in Rotorua’s picturesque Blue Lake before a 26km mountain bike and 11km trail run through Whakarewarewa Forest.

Moody is defending champion and comes into Rotorua on the back of a long overdue victory at the Tauranga Half in January and bronze at Challenge Wanaka in February. He was also an impressive 22nd at last September’s XTERRA Worlds in Trentino, Italy.

Jack Moody en route to winning last year’s XTERRA Rotorua

A flat tyre meant Osborne was unable to cash in being second out of the water in Trentino, eventually finishing 27th. The Rotorua 31-year-old also finished more than three minutes adrift of Moody in Rotorua last year but his stock is on the rise after winning XTERRA Wellington before his breakthrough Ironman 70.3 Geelong victory late last month.

The maiden Ironman podium helped Osborne punch his ticket to the 2024 Ironman 70.3 Worlds in Taupo, his No.1 goal for 2024. But that is for December. Right now, XTERRA Rotorua revenge is top of mind. And Moody, of course.

“This race is always a special one for me. It’s my home race and it’s not often you get an opportunity to race in front of your friends & family. I just can’t pass up an opportunity to line up at home and open the taps,” Osborne said. “I think it’ll be another big battle with Jack Moody this year.”

Sam Osborne during last year’s XTERRA Worlds

Moody’s improved swim hasn’t gone unnoticed by Osborne.

“Jack’s swim has got a lot better the last couple of years so we could be going to bar to bar from early on in the day. He always brings a good mano a mano battle and I’d expect nothing less from him on Saturday.”

Count on Osborne fighting a good fight in familiar surrounds. You don’t boast a XTERRA pedigree including back-to-back Wellington wins, the 2023 XTERRA Australia Championship, a bronze medal at World Cup USA and two APAC Tour Championships by accident.

Australia’s Benjamin Forbes, fresh from an impressive 13th place at the Asia Pacific Championships, is expected to offer the stiffest challenge to the Osborne-Moody narrative.

Another Aussie, Maeve Kennedy, is back to defend the women’s title. Countrywoman Hannah Lee-Young presents as a danger having won the Asia Pacific title in Taiwan, Watch also for Italian Marta Menditto.

For more, read XTERRA’s Rotorua preview here

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