Triathlon: Kiwis closer to Olympics spot

By Dana Johannsen

The women take to the hills on the bike leg. Kiwis Andrea Hewitt and Kris Gemmell took the titles. Photo / Dean Purcell
The women take to the hills on the bike leg. Kiwis Andrea Hewitt and Kris Gemmell took the titles. Photo / Dean Purcell

Kris Gemmell and Bevan Docherty strengthened New Zealand's bid for three Olympic spots with a one-two finish in yesterday's ITU World Cup in Auckland.

Kiwi star Andrea Hewitt got the day off to a winning start, demolishing the women's field to win by nearly a minute, before a dramatic men's race, in which Gemmell triumphed on the back of some clever tactical work from his teammates.

Docherty, who helped his compatriot and good friend to the gold by keeping the chase pack at bay on the bike leg, did not go home empty-handed for his work, picking up silver.

The trio enjoyed the rare opportunity to race in front of a home crowd, with the final lap down Queen St taking on almost a festival atmosphere.

Hewitt smiled and waved to the crowd, while Gemmell saluted the crowd with several fistpumps and high-fiving Docherty as the pair passed each other on opposite sides of the track.

"I think it was the longest victory lap ever, but I felt pretty comfortable on the run so I just wanted to enjoy the moment," said Gemmell.

Gemmell, whose season has been derailed by illness, desperately needed a strong performance in yesterday's Barfoot & Thompson ITU World Cup to pick up Olympic qualifying points and boost the New Zealand men's chances of having three spots in London.

After positioning himself nicely in the lead pack on the bike leg, he made a bold breakaway with about 10km to go, which later proved the defining period of the race.

Kiwi rookie Tom Davison went with him on the break, and helped Gemmell push the pace out the front, eking out a good buffer in the chasing group. Docherty, sitting back in the chase pack, did his bit for his teammates out in front, refusing to do any work out the front of the group to help bridge the gap.

The others in the chase pack including Australia's Ryan Fisher, who eventually finished third, had a fair bit to say to Docherty about the tactics, but the Kiwi veteran said that is the name of the game.

"They weren't too happy with me and I did apologise, I know they have Olympic points on the line as well. But at the end of the day you've got to be selfish and this is the nature of the sport," he said.

Docherty said there was no talk of any team strategy before the race, and the tactics evolved "naturally".

"We hadn't discussed it but it became obvious halfway through the race that we were in the position to apply some good tactics and it was only going to help everyone out," he said.

Just as with the men, the women's race was virtually decided before the run leg had begun. Kiwi No 1 Hewitt left the water in the first bunch before leading a breakaway group of eight on the first lap of the bike leg to split the field early.

Leading the charge alongside Hewitt was fellow New Zealander Teresa Adam, who helped the race favourite push the pace on the bike. But it was clear Adam was not going to have the legs to compete in the run, leaving the Japanese pairing of Tomoko Sakimoto and Mariko Adachi to battle it out with the world No 2.

But by the end of the second lap of the 2.5km run course Hewitt had stretched out a 30-second lead and the race was hers.

"I've had a great end to the year starting with Beijing, then Yokohama and now finishing off here - it's awesome," said Hewitt.

Hewitt's partner and coach, Laurent Vidal of France, just missed out on a podium spot, finishing fourth.

Barfoot & Thompson ITU World Cup:

Men

1. Kris Gemmell (NZL) 1hr 59 min 58 sec
2. Bevan Docherty (NZL) 2:01.05
3. Ryan Fisher (AUS) 2:01.19

Women

1. Andrea Hewitt (NZL) 2:14.12
2. Tomoko Sakimoto (JPN) 2:15.09
3. Mariko Adachi (JPN) 2:15.22

- NZ Herald

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