Summer of triathlon heating up


Kinloch will ring to the tune of nearly 1000 triathletes with the latest round of the Contact Tri Series this weekend, with national sprint titles on the line for age group and elite athletes as well as the introduction of the Tri Tag Relay on the Sunday morning at the same venue.

Elite racing will be at its best so far this season, with the entire Tri NZ high performance squad starting and a host of world-class internationals to add to the mix.

London Olympians Ryan Sissons, Kate McIlroy and Andrea Hewitt will all race, albeit Hewitt will take part only in the Oceania Cup Relay on the Sunday as she continues her recovery from a race fall at Pegasus this year.

Tri NZ national coach Greg Fraine will oversee the New Zealand athletes and is looking forward to the weekend.

"It is always a competitive race and a great course, the swim is in a beautiful, warm, fresh-water lake and the bike and run are on a very testing and technical course, and Kinloch is just a beautiful place to race," he said.

"This is a key race for our athletes though, the first points race of the year for us where we can accumulate points towards world rankings and can help set up the career of some of our younger athletes while setting up the year for some of the experienced ones."

Adding international spice to the women's mix is Maaike Caelers (Holland), looking to add to an impressive 2012 season in which the Dutch team made a genuine impact at ITU level.

She and a strong Australian development team will make their presence felt on the start line.

They might all be chasing McIlroy though; the world No 10 has been in great form this summer, the defending Kinloch champion winning at Pegasus and Wanaka in recent weeks.

Of the men, world No 6 Laurent Vidal (France) will start as race favourite, but he will have his hands full in fending off Sissons (Auckland), Wanaka winner Tony Dodds (Wanaka) and countryman Tony Moulai while again the Australians have a strong team.

"Australia always brings a strong team across, you don't always know them by name at this stage but in three or four years they are often starring for Australia so they will be strong," said Fraine. "Laurent and Tony are obvious threats; they are training in Christchurch and of course Maaike Caelers in the women's race.

"Throw in our team and a host of promising young athletes from around New Zealand and it makes for great racing."

The elite U19 and U23 races will be fiercely competitive, led by members of the Tri NZ high performance squad such as under 19's Mikayla Nielsen (Waikato) and Elise Salt (Auckland) who both raced at the Australian Youth Olympics Festival two weeks ago. Taupo hope Nicole Van der Kaay will also be looking to impress as she has so far this summer in the Contact Series.

The men's U19 will be led by another two Youth Olympians in Sam Ward (Auckland) and Troy McAlister (Invercargill) but they will face a strong challenge from arguably the toughest field assembled in this age group for some years.

Sunday sees the athletes return for the Tri Tag Relay and Oceania Cup Relay for the elites. With this mixed-relay concept on the programme at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, there is heightened interest in the style of racing that creates a great atmosphere as each athlete completes a super-sprint course before tagging a teammate, with the final athlete crossing the finish line to record a time for the team of four.

The elites race in mixed teams of two males and two females.

Fraine is a huge fan of team racing and is looking forward to Sunday's fast-paced action.

"This is a key event; we pushed for this to be an Oceania Championship. Team racing suits our athletes well, we have a good team in all three elite age grades, we want them to focus and get used to the team concept and learn from the experience and for the U19s to push the U23s and in turn the elites and keep everyone on their toes.

"There is so much in the team relay that comes down to quick thinking and tactical decisions that happen on the race course, the more we can throw the athletes into these situations the better before the Commonwealth Games and then Rio if the event gets the tick for the Olympics, which we think it will."

Age-groupers are being given their own taste of this exciting new format, with a Tri Tag Relay for all comers also being held on the Sunday morning at Kinloch.

Teams can enter as late as Saturday, with those competing as individuals encouraged to form composite teams. Age-group teams have no restriction on the make-up of their four athletes, with any combination of male and female welcome.

Entries are open now for all events at Kinloch, simply visit www.triseries.co.nz for further information and get your team together, race solo on the Saturday and enjoy Kinloch and Taupo on the Saturday night before racing in a Tri Tag Relay team on the Sunday morning.

The price works out to just $37.50 per participant.

- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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