New Zealand's only ITU World Cup Triathlon has again attracted a stellar field of international athletes, with 18 countries and ten of the top twenty triathletes * in the world set to be represented in New Plymouth on April 2nd, with recent Abu Dhabi World Series winner Andrea Hewitt headlining the local charge to the podium.
The Quality Hotel Plymouth International ITU New Plymouth Triathlon World Cup is the chance for New Zealand athletes to mix it with the best in their own backyard and in the process, gain vital experience and ranking points to set them up for the rest of 2018. Organisers are again thrilled at the quality of athletes coming to Taranaki to sample the local culture and enjoy the race dubbed 'sprint by the mountain.'
South Africa's world number four Richard Murray is the two-time defending champion and leads a strong men's field that any World Series race would be proud of, one that includes compatriot world number five and Rio bronze medalist Henri Schoeman, multiple World Cup winner and sixth ranked Joao Silva (Portugal), Mexico's Crisanto Grajales (world #7), the latest Spanish sensation in Vicente Hernandez (world #19) and Belgium's Marten Van Riel (world #24).
The women's field is even better, with an incredible seven of the top eleven ranked athletes set to go toe to toe over the sprint distance. 2018 sees a return for Katie Zaferes (world #4)) and multiple World Cup and World Series winner Sarah True (world #6), Japanese star Ai Ueda (world #5), Dutch star Rachel Klamer (world #7) current World number 10 Kirsten Kasper (USA) and Summer Cook (USA, world #11).
Event Director Terry Sheldrake says the reputation of the event is such that athletes love returning to the region.
"We pride ourselves in putting on an event that is much loved by the athletes, coaches and spectators. Richard Murray (defending champion) is testament to that, he loves coming here and loves the relaxed vibe around the event and the chance to really be a part of the community for the time that he is here. He was fourth in Rio and will bring his countryman who won bronze that day in Henri Schoeman in what is a truly world class men's race.
"The women's field is even better, headlined of course by our own Andrea Hewitt (world #3) who was just pipped here by Gwen Jorgensen in a sprint finish last year, I know she will be determined to go one better and win an ITU World Cup on home soil, it would mean so much to her. She will have perhaps the toughest competition ever though, with seven of the top eleven ranked athletes in the world coming to race, it is going to be spectacular."
New Zealand will be well represented in both races, with a total of 12 Kiwis wearing the sliver fern in New Plymouth (6 men and 6 women), headlined by Hewitt on the women's side and Rio Olympian Ryan Sissons (world #25) on the men's side.
Emerging athletes also get their chance, with former Youth Olympic games individual silver medalist Daniel Hoy and Tayler Reid leading the young brigade on the men's side, while Nicole Van Der Kaay (bronze at the recent Oceania Sprint Championships) and 19 year old Elizabeth Stannard are included.
Triathlon New Zealand High Performance Coach Jon Brown says the event plays a big role in the sport here.
"The New Plymouth World Cup race is the premier ITU race in New Zealand, so has a lot of significance for the kiwi's athletes to impress in front of a home crowd, and is a good opportunity for the emerging U23 athletes to dip their toes into world class racing. This year you will see a number of U23 men being exposed to this level of competition for the first time which is a critical step in their development."
The event dubbed 'Sprint by the Mountain' is made possible with the ongoing support of Quality Hotel Plymouth International, Venture Taranaki, Port Taranaki and TSB Community Trust.
New Zealanders on the start list for the Quality Hotel Plymouth International ITU World Cup are:
Men: Tayler Reid (Gisborne), Hayden Wilde (Whakatane), Kyle Smith (Taupo), Daniel Hoy (Auckland), Ryan Sissons (Auckland), Liam Ward (Auckland)
Women: Deborah Lynch (Porirua), Nicole Van Der Kaay (Taupo), Elise Salt (Auckland), Sophie Corbidge (Auckland), Andrea Hewitt (Christchurch), Elizabeth Stannard (Palmerston North).