When it comes to the Blue Lake Multisport Festival, a pair of New Zealand triathletes are proving to be unstoppable forces. Sports reporter David Beck was there at the weekend to see how they went.
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With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on the horizon, it appears places in New Zealand's triathlon squad could be one of the most hotly contested of any sport.
There is a wide range of talented young stars impressing both overseas and locally as they build towards possible qualification and at the weekend many of them were in action at Rotorua's Blue Lake Multisport Festival.
The events, hosted by the Rotorua Association of Triathlon and Multisport (RATS), sees the top athletes race in the Go Physio Aquathon (5.5km forest run and 800m swim) and the Swim T3 2km open water swim on Saturday before the grand finale on Sunday - the Cyclezone Sprint Triathlon (750m swim, 16km cycle, 5.5km run). Their times from each event are combined and the fastest man and woman are crowned King and Queen of the Lake.
Today, it was last year's winners Tayler Reid and Ainsley Thorpe, teammates at the World Triathlon Championships last year, who did enough to successfully defend their respective titles.
Reid won the Aquathon in 29m 27s and the 2km Open Water Swim in 24m 25s on Saturday. He was fourth in the Sprint Triathlon on Sunday in 54m 17s but it was enough to take the overall title by 25 seconds over Christchurch triathlete Saxon Morgan. Tauranga's Lachlan Haycock was third.
Reid said it felt good to go back-to-back at Blue Lake, although he had hoped for a better finish in the sprint triathlon.
"I'm happy but having just finished this race I'm a bit disappointed, fourth is probably the worst position you can come so I'm not very happy about that at all. It was a hard race, it was good having some of the boys come in a bit fresher, they didn't do the Aquathon yesterday, and that made the competition all the more fierce.
"We all train and race together all the time so it was a good hit out. It does it make it hard because no-one is surprised by what anyone else does. We all have little things that we always try and do and we're all aware of it at this stage."
He said the timing of the Blue Lake Multisport Festival made it a worthwhile event to compete in and it was always a good time.
"There's heaps of benefit, we don't race for another month so for RATS to put this on and put on such a great event - we love coming to do it. There's huge benefits for us, it's basically two good days of training."
Meanwhile, Thorpe won the Aquathon in 32m 11s but was sixth in the Open Water Swim in 26m 41s, just 25 seconds behind the winner Nicole van Der Kaay, of Taupō.
van Der Kaay also won the sprint triathlon on Sunday, in 1h 1m 16s, but Thorpe's third place finish in 1h 1m 38s, combined with the fact van Der Kaay did not enter the Aquathon, was enough for her to clinch her second consecutive Queen of the Lake title.
"It felt pretty hard today," Thorpe said after the Sprint Triathlon.
"I went pretty hard in the run yesterday just to try to get a lead off the start. Today, I didn't quite have the legs on the run but overall it was a pretty good weekend.
"I felt pretty good on the swim and the bike but it was just good to get out and practise racing two days in a row."
Thorpe is in the midst of preparations for the start of the international racing season, Olympic qualification is a long-term goal but she's not getting too far ahead of herself.
"It will be good to see where I am now, we'll see what we need to work on for the next five weeks and hopefully execute a bit better. I've had a pretty big load of training over the last couple of months so it's good to get out and test the legs."
Blue Lake Multisport Festival - King and Queen of the Lake Series
1st Tayler Reid 1h 48m 10s
2nd Saxon Morgan 1h 48m 36s
3rd Lachlan Haycock 1h 50m 34s
1st Ainsley Thorpe 2h 31s
2nd Ari Graham 2h 1m 2s
3rd Olivia Thornbury 2h 3m 14s