The ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships to be held in Australia's iconic Snowy Mountains this weekend includes a strong Bay of Plenty contingent.

Tauranga athletes Aiden Dunster, Sarah Backler and Sam Durrant plus Rotorua's Sam Osborne and Olly Shaw are part of the Bay group taking on a world-class international field at various levels, from elite open and under-23 grade to age groups divisions.
The setting could not be more archetypal Australian.

The Kiwis will get up close with local wildlife along the off-road race course, including platypuses, emus, kangaroos, kookaburras and wombats.

Starting at an altitude of 1100m with Australia's highest peak, Mt Kosciusko as the backdrop, the course will challenge athletes of all levels with reputably the best single-track mountain bike trails and off-road running trails found anywhere in Australia.

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Dunster, 23, is confident he can get back into the form that last year saw him competing with the best under-23 racers in the world.

"The chances are quite high of getting a good overall placing. Just looking at the start list I have pretty much beaten everyone on that list in the last year so the chances of getting in the top three is pretty high," Dunster said.

"I raced in at the Xterra South African national champs earlier in the year and most of the guys I am racing in Australia were racing there.

"But it pretty much comes down to the day and what the course is like and how everyone has trained through the year. Personally I have had a tough year and lost a bit of training so we will just have to see what happens."

Durrant, 22, grew up in Papamoa with Dunster and is a senior firefighter with the NZ Air Force based in Auckland.

He says the job helps with sharpening up for an event as rigorous as off-road cross triathlons.

"It helps a lot because we work shift work so I get a lot of time to train on my days off. But also keeping fit is a massive part of being a firefighter so it really is the perfect job."

Durrant says cross triathlon has quickly taken off as an alternative to conventional triathlons.

"It is a new sport and is just starting to pick up now in New Zealand and overseas as well. There are lots of skills involved with mountain biking more so than on the road and probably a little bit more focus.

"Definitely it is more of a strength sport I find than just your basic triathlon."

Joining elite athletes Braden Currie, Sam Osborne and Lizzie Orchard in the New Zealand mixed relay team will be Tauranga's Sarah Backler.

The 30-34 age group world champion has been drafted in with the withdrawal of elite athlete Mary Gray though injury. The innovative division combines age group and elite athletes in teams.

Backler can't wait to mix it up in the elite environment.

"I am feeling privileged to race with some amazing athletes for New Zealand, and I am looking forward to racing hard for the team in a race that should be fast and exciting, both as a competitor and for spectators," she said.

Olly Shaw will race in the elite division having last raced as an under-23 in 2013 where he finished fourth. He is a reserve for the mixed relay team.


ITU Cross Triathlon Championship
Snowy Mountains, NSW, November 18-20
Elite and Under-23 World Championship course
Swim: 1500m
Bike: 32.8km
Run: 10km