Triathlon: Auckland rises to the occasion in strength test

By Dylan Cleaver

Kris Gemmell of New Zealand takes to the hills. Photo / Dean Purcell
Kris Gemmell of New Zealand takes to the hills. Photo / Dean Purcell

To central city workers who stroll up them once a day they're gentle inclines, but Auckland's rolling slopes became topographical nightmares for the world's best triathletes yesterday.

As suspected, Auckland's hilly and technical 40km bike leg sorted the strong from the not-quite-as-strong, reducing the final run leg from a race to a coronation for New Zealanders Andrea Hewitt and Kris Gemmell.

That will please the purists who believe the bike leg has become a procession, with flat courses and drafting meaning nobody is prepared to take a gamble.

It might not please the sports bosses quite so much, who no doubt want to lure broadcasters with the promise of athletes racing each other down the chute for medals.

This was a course tailormade for New Zealand's renowned strength athletes. "I honest to god think it's one of the best courses out there," said Bevan Docherty, second behind Gemmell in a Kiwi quinella.

"Obviously it suits the Kiwis pretty well with some of the climbs in there, but that's the advantage of having it at home. The only course I can liken it to is Athens. It's got a nasty hill in it, so you really have to be an all-round triathlete to do well."

Athens, of course, was the scene of another Kiwi quinella, when Docherty and Hamish Carter duked it out for gold and silver at the 2004 Olympics.

Not all the New Zealand athletes found the going to their liking yesterday. Nicky Samuels, hoping for a good showing in front of a home crowd, let the leaders get away from her in the last 200m of the swim and couldn't catch the small lead bunch on the bike. From there it was, literally, an uphill battle.

"The hills were really tough, a lot harder than I thought they'd be.

"The first one [Shortland St] was quite steep and longer than the rest. It's one of the toughest courses I've ever ridden."

The severity of the climbs in the Barfoot & Thompson ITU World Cup was soon evident for the women, with an eight-strong lead bunch quickly cut to two, before the leg ended with five out in front by more than a minute.

"The first few laps we tried really hard on the hills to get a group away," Hewitt said. "We ended up dropping a few girls. It all came together."

- NZ Herald

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