It was a tough day at the office for the New Zealanders at the Sovereign Oceania Triathlon Championships in Gisborne Saturday as the locals struggled to make an impact in the Continental Championship event.
The women's race was essentially over as a contest the moment that Emma Moffatt and Emma Jeffcoat caught a wave into the beach on the second of two swim laps, in the process body surfing out of sight of the chasing Simone Ackermann (NZL) in a move that would effectively decide the gold and silver medal positions.
With a lead of close to two minutes out of the water, the Aussies rode away while Ackermann sat up to wait for Jaz Hedgeland (AUS) and Maddie Dillon (NZL) to form a chase pack of three - one that would become two halfway through the ride when Ackermann lost contact and dropped back to the third pack on the road.
Once on to the run Moffatt showed all of her class to win with ease from Jeffcoat (who took out the U23 title) with Hedgeland coming home third overall (second U23) while Dillon held her form to be first Kiwi home and collect the bronze medal in the U23 category.
Dillon was pleased with her performance in just her second race of the season.
"It was pretty gnarly with the win but Jaz and I worked well together and pulled good turns, it was awesome to work with her on the bike. The surf wasn't too bad, I caught a good wave on the second lap but it was a shame I let some of them go on the first lap and couldn't close the gap.
"I am really happy in what was my second race of the season, I haven't raced much lately, I have been training with Andrea Hewitt in Christchurch and she is just such an inspiration, so I am back to Christchurch to train this week in what I hope will be a really good year."
Moffatt was all smiles as she crossed the line, knowing that she is in great form with a key ITU World Series race on the Gold Coast coming up in three weeks, one that could decider her Olympic fate.
"Emma and I worked really well on the bike but the headwind was tough coming back each time which stung the legs a little bit and likewise on the run it was hard running into that wind.
I was really focused, here to race and wanted to go hard but it is a nice setting so that eases the pain a little.
"It is a tough year trying to get into the Olympic team for Australia is a hard feat in itself, I have to go well in the World Series race in April on the Gold Coast and then if I qualify, go hard again in August. I was disappointed in Mooloolaba not to catch a wave so it was nice to get one this week and gives you a nice lead on the other girls and then work well together from then on."
In the men's race it was an Australian trifecta, with Marcel Walkington winning from Aaron Royle and Jake Birtwhistle, with Braden Currie the first Kiwi home in 11th place with Sam Ward withdrawing early on the run with a recurrence of back issues that saw him on the treatment table most of the week leading in, with Sam Osborne next best in 13th.
The three Aussies broke away on the swim, with Royle exiting the surf with a lead of over 30 seconds before he sat up on the bike and waiting for his team mates to form what was effectively a three man pursuit team to establish a lead of 1:35 going into the run.
With Ward struggling to get over his bars and effect any power, the work was left to Osborne and Currie on the bike, Currie eventually riding off the chase group as he lay it all on the line to close the gap on the breakaway Aussies. That effort would pay though on the run, with Currie not able to make an impact during the 10 kilometre run home.
Currie said he had emptied the tank in pursuit of the Aussies.
"It was just one of those days, we went out to try and bring them back for New Zealand but it ended up with just me and Sammy Osborne on the front, I went to the back to take a rest and the pace dropped off straight away so I thought I might as well give it a go on my own.
"It takes it out of you on your own, hammering away at 45 - 50 'k' an hour with the wind and 25 - 30 'k' an hour back into it. It takes a bit to get used to but at least when you are on your own it is good fun and you don't have to think too much about what is going on. It was just one of those days it wasn't coming together as a team so I just went by myself and tried to be first Kiwi home."