Performances from future stars proved the most encouraging aspect for New Zealand triathletes at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Rotterdam.
The efforts from Hannah Knighton and Tayler Reid yesterday, finishing fifth in the junior women and 11th in the under-23 men respectively were followed with solid efforts today. Auckland’s Elise Salt and Taupo’s Nicole van der Kaay were 12th and 13th respectively in the under-23 women, run in the day’s worst conditions, while Daniel Hoy (Auckland) was 14th in the junior men.
Meanwhile New Zealand’s major elite hopes, the experienced Andrea Hewitt and Ryan Sissons, finished fifth and 10th respectively in the overall World Series rankings.
Both came in to the World Grand Final with higher hopes which were extinguished after both missed out on the front packs out of the swim, which proved crucial over the uniquely technical bike course in cold and wet conditions.
Both Rio Olympians Sissons and Hewitt came in with hopes of cementing higher honours to cap off excellent results in the World Series, with a key for both to secure top efforts in the water.
Sissons, who positioned himself on the feet of Spain’s multi-world champion Javier Gomez, was swum over several times as three groups converged on the first turning buoy and from that point he found himself too far back, exiting over 40 seconds behind the leaders.
Any chances were dashed with a crash in the second group slowed any momentum at the time the front pack had stepped up the pace, leaving the chase bunch nearly two minutes adrift.
Sissons pushed off the front of the second group with his 30:14 effort for the 10km run the eighth fastest overall, he could only work his way to 23rd overall with Frenchman Vincent Luis surprising all with the victory and Spain’s Mario Mola crowned the overall series champion with his third placing.
Hewitt, third overall in the series coming into the Grand Final, had set her sights on the front bunch out of the swim in her pre-race objectives. But her 19:47 for the 1500m swim proved a few seconds too much and she just missed out on being able to bridge up to the exclusive group.
Any progress was also stalled with a crash in front of her in the chase group, and while there were some strong riders with her, like Rio silver medallist Nicola Spirig, they made no inroads into the leaders on the technical bike course with 18 corners each lap around the inner city course.
They came off around three minutes down, and while Hewitt’s 34:49 effort for the 10km run was the fifth fastest, she could only move up as far as 11th place.
“The encouraging aspect was the efforts of our younger athletes here, particularly Hannah Knighton and Tayler Reid on the first day,” said Triathlon New Zealand high performance director, Mark Elliott.
“Most have had little experience over the full Olympic distance and they had to cope with cold and wet conditions today.
“The performances here are a starting point and everyone is aware there is a lot of hard work needed to advance us to the top of the sport.”
Elliott said the results had been interesting at the elite level, with the athletes who dominated in the heat at last year’s world finals, not figuring in the cold and set in Rotterdam.
“For us both Andrea and Ryan came here in good form from excellent performances this year. Neither was able to nail the swim which proved the difference and both were clearly disappointed.
“However over the series Andrea has shown she is still world class and Ryan produced the best performances of his life this year with a win and two podiums, and both will be medal threats at the Commonwealth Games next year.”
Earlier Hoy ran a solid 15:47 over 5kms to push to 14th in the junior men ahead of teammate Janus Staufenberg (Wanaka) who was 18th and Trent Dodds (Auckland) 33rd.
The conditions worsened for the under-23 women’s race with Auckland’s Elise Salt producing a powerful swim and bike to be in the front group on to the run, just fading in the final lap to be 12th. She was one spot ahead of teammate Nicole van der Kaay (Taupo) who ran up to 13th after being well back off the bike.
Elite men: Vincent Luis (FRA) 1:51:26, 1; Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) 1:51:28, 2; Mario Mola (ESP) 1:51:36, 3. Also: Ryan Sissons (NZL) 1:54:59, 23; Sam Ward (NZL) dns (illness).
Elite women: Flora Duffy (BER) 1:58:39, 1; Katie Zaferes (USA) 1:59:34, 2; Jessica Learmonth (GBR) 2:00:57, 3. Also: Andrea Hewitt (NZL) 2:03:05, 11.
Junior men, sprint: Matthew Hauser (AUS) 55:54, 1; Vasco Vilaca (POR) 56:22, 2; Ben Dijkstra (GBR) 56:35, 3. Also NZers: Daniel Hoy 57:26, 14; Janus Staufenberg 57:43, 18; Trent Dodds 58:18, 33.
Under-23 women: Tamara Gorman (USA) 2:05:21, 1; Melanie Santos (POR) 2:05:37, 2; Sophie Coldwell (GBR) 2:05:51, 3. Also: Elise Salt (NZL) 2:07:53, 12; Nicole van der Kaay (NZL) 2:07:55, 13.