By Kent Gray/
Hayden Wilde has found a new happy place at altitude – for his mind, body and soul – as he puts the finishing touches on his Paris Olympic Games preparation.

The world No.2 linked into the NZOC’s virtual team naming media conference early Monday from famed Pic Maià Mountain Hotel in the Andorran alps. The luxury lodge 2408m above sea level is a favourite training haunt of Giro d’Italia and Tour de France cyclists and will be Wilde’s temporary home for the next three weeks.

All up, the Tokyo bronze medallist is spending a month-long block training in the principality’s fresh, thin air, following a template that worked well earlier in the year.

While Paris team-mates Dylan McCullough, Nicole van der Kaay and Ainsley Thorpe will race WTCS Hamburg on July 13-14, Wilde’s opted to finalise his prep by drawing on the energy of a powerful cohort of training partners, good pal and Paris 1500m qualifier Sam Tanner chief among them.

There’s also Christchurch 800m-1500m specialist Tom Moulai, U.S. triathlete Ryan Lund who is guided by Wilde’s coach Craig Kirkwood, while INEOS Grenadiers pro cyclist cum Ironman Cam Wurf will no doubt continue to keep training rides “honest”.

Famed French swimming coach Fred Vergnoux is also bringing a squad of French, Spanish and Andorran Olympic swimmers to Pic Maià, so Wilde won’t have it easy in the pool either. The Kiwi No.1 reconstructed his freestyle stroke under the watchful eye of Vergnoux at the new World Aquatics Centre in Antibes, a French Riviera resort town between Cannes and Nice, earlier this year.

Combined, the finishing camp at altitude is a welcome change to Wilde’s pandemic-impacted build-up to Tokyo.

“Obviously things are completely different this time. Hugely different actually. You know, with Tokyo, I wasn’t able to race [beforehand] and was stuck in New Zealand,” he told

“This year, I’m based here in Andorra. It’s where I live and I’ve just been training here relatively hard with training partners and for the first ever time up at altitude as well. So, we’re testing out a few things.

“And when we tested out those things at the start of the year, it really worked for us. We’ve also implemented a lot of the stuff we used for Tokyo as well.

“I feel like I’m in a pretty good position, like, mentally and physically.”

Wilde’s buildup to the July 30 men’s race in Paris has included running a 5000m PB of 13:23:9 at a track meet in Spain in late April (“so I know the form’s there”), a time that was encouragingly a whisker faster than Alex Yee’s track PB set at the Müller Anniversary Games in London in 2019.

Yee might have had the wood on Wilde in their World Triathlon head-to-heads, but the Whakatane flier drew quiet satisfaction from his narrow second to the Great Brit at WTCS Cagliari on May 25.

“I was pretty stoked of how everything kind of happened there,” Wilde said of the sprint finish with Yee in Sardina.

“And I feel like, yeah, I think I know what I need to do to crack Alex if we do come off the bike with each other in Paris.”

Indeed, Wilde insists he’s not feeling anywhere near the pressure he suspects is building up around Yee, the French trio of Pierre Le Corre, Dorian Coninx and Léo Bergère and the likes of Team USA’s Morgan Pearson and Aussie scrapper Matt Hauser.

“With Tokyo, I was kind of like a top 10 under underdog, and I knew if everything went well, I could have a special day in Tokyo.

“In Paris, you’ve got Alex as probably the hot favourite to take out gold, and Kristian [Blummenfelt] is returning as an Olympic gold medalist. And you’ve got the French as well in home turf. So, I feel like I’ve haven’t really inherited any extra pressure, just probably more so my personal pressure.

“I feel like that is perfect because there’s all these guys with massive pressures around them. I kind of feel like I’m just low-key sliding under the radar, which I really like.

“So, I can take that, learn from my experiences in Tokyo and grab it by the horns and go for it.”

Wilde will come down from altitude on July 17 and will spend a few days at home before driving into Paris to meet up with his team-mates ahead of the July 26 (July 27 from 5:30am NZT) Opening Ceremony on the Seine River.

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