Triathlon: Kiwis among favourites at World Cross Tri Champs

Braden Currie during the Port Tauranga 1/2 Ironman Triathlon. Photo / Getty Images
Braden Currie during the Port Tauranga 1/2 Ironman Triathlon. Photo / Getty Images

When the ITU World Cross Tri Championships are hosted in the New South Wales snowy mountains in just over a week, New Zealand will be well represented and right in the hunt for medals in both the individual events and the new mixed team relay race.

Leading the way at Lake Crackenback will be elite men's contenders in Sam Osborne and Braden Currie, with both finishing in the top ten at the recent XTERRA World Championships in Maui, Currie just off the podium in fourth place.

For Osborne the fast nature of the course is likely to suit him given his largely speed based programme this year.

"It's a relatively flat course with a lot of real single trail, literally one bike sort of width so not a lot of passing room. There is no doubt It will be really fast which should suit me coming from ITU and given the way of trained this year with Ryan and Andrea in the buildup for Rio.

"I think sometimes these flat courses are harder than the hillier courses though because there is just no let-up the whole bike, and there are so many big surges to try and break up the groups forming. Going off how the racing has been in Europe this year on the XTERRA circuit, they are getting more aggressive with a lot of attacking each other, and this course will only fuel that sort of thing.

"I'm always proud to put that black tri suit, New Zealand has a history of doing big things on the tri and adventure racing circuit so it's always a proud moment to race with the fern on your back."

Currie is looking forward to being on the start line in better shape than last year.

"I raced the course there last year in a pretty fatigued state, after doing Coast to Coast and Challenge Wanaka the two weekends before. So I'm looking forward to racing this course again in close to my top form.

"The USA was good to me over the last two months so I'm feeling strong in all three disciplines and looking forward to racing again, as this year I've had quite a bit of time training. Also XTERRA Worlds, a few weeks ago threw everyone a lot of challenges, and I know a lot of pro men and women who raced that event are coming over for ITU Cross Tri and hoping for a bit of redemption. It's tough putting so much into a World Championship race and not being able to race to your potential. And I know almost everyone feels that way, which should make for a really competitive race at ITU World Cross Tri this year."

In the women's race Lizzie Orchard will be looking to repeat and indeed go better than her 9th place finish last year, and with a 5th place at the XTERRA World Champs already under her belt, she has the form to do just that.

"It's really exciting to have the World Champs so close to home. The short travel and time difference will be a great advantage to the whole New Zealand team. Personally I'm aiming for a top 10 result for the second year straight," said the Aucklander.

"Usually we are very much an individual sport, so it's really cool to have the opportunity to compete in a team as well. The short distances will lend to a high energy action packed race. I'm looking forward to battling it out for New Zealand with my team mates."

Making up that team for New Zealand will be Sarah Backler, in an exciting opportunity that sees age group and elite athletes join forces, the 30-34 age group world champion has been drafted in with the withdrawal of Mary Gray though injury. Tauranga's 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."

Olly Shaw (Rotorua) will also be racing in the elite division having last raced as an under 23 in 2013 where he finished fourth, he will act as reserve for the mixed relay team.

I raced at Lake Crackenback last year as part of the ITU Oceania Cross Triathlon Champs, so I know to expect fast, close racing throughout. I enjoy the course there with nearly all the mountain bike course being tight, twisty single track and am looking forward to going back and seeing the improvements they would have no doubt made leading into this huge event.

For me this race is the pinnacle of off road triathlon and gives me the chance to test myself against the best in the world. I've had a turbulent racing year and I'm looking forward to producing a performance that makes myself, my supporters and New Zealanders, proud.

Aiden Dunster (Tauranga) completes the elite athletes as he races in the under 23 category.

The elites will be joined in Lake Crackenback by a 58 strong age group team also proudly wearing the silver fern, with an age range from 18 to 71 and made up of 40 male and 18 female athletes, expectations are high for a strong representation.

Those looking to be in the medal hunt include Hayden Wilde (18-19 Male) who recently won his category at the XTERRA Worlds. Fellow young Kiwi Lewis Ryan will also be competing at Crackenback and is a podium hopeful, after just missing out at XTERRA, in 4th place.

Lynne Pattle (65-69 Female) placed second at XTERRA Worlds, while Sharon Prutton is also part of team Kiwi and was placed closely in third in the same age group at XTERRA, a feat they can hopefully repeat.

Alan Pattle (husband of Lynne) narrowly missed out on adding to the family medal collection finishing in fourth in his age group at XTERRA, but hopefully he can rectify this at Snowy Mountains and perhaps make it a double medal celebration in the Pattle household.

- NZ Herald

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