Challenge Wanaka: Five PTO stars to watch

CHALLENGEWANAKA takes centre stage in the triathlon world on Saturday (February 20), with several PTO stars set to contend for the podium.

With travel restrictions still in place around the globe due to COVID-19, New Zealand’s domestic aces appear set to dominate with NZ$5,000 on offer to the winner.

Here are five PTO triathletes to look out for on South Island this weekend:

Wells looking for Wanaka treble

PTO World #29 Hannah Wells must be a warm favourite for the women’s race after the withdrawal of compatriot Teresa Adam.

Wells and Adam had enjoyed a healthy rivalry in the early weeks of the 2021 campaign, earning a win apiece. Hannah prevailed at the Rotorua Suffer Half, before Teresa claimed her revenge a month later at the Tauranga Half.

Unfortunately, the next instalment in their Kiwi battle must wait, with Hannah now having one major obstacle removed in her bid to claim a third victory here.

The 30-year-old took the professional half-distance race in 2019 and was also the fastest woman in 2016 in the age-grouper ranks.

Last year Hannah finished second behind the Czech Republic’s Radka Kahlefeldt and must be confident of going one better in 2021. She is definitely looking forward with excitement to the challenge which awaits on Saturday.

“Feeling incredibly grateful to be able to travel around our beautiful country and be able to line up on another start line,” she said on Instagram.The new normal: Hannah Wells preparing for full-distance debut

Currie out to complete hat-trick

PTO World #11 Braden Currie headlines the men’s field as he goes looking for a third consecutive victory in the event.

The 34-year-old set time of 4:00:00 on his way to victory in 2019 before going 12 seconds quicker a year later in a time of 3:59:48. He took the top step of the podium by more than two-and-a-half minutes on both occasions.

However, his fastest time in the race actually came in defeat back in 2018. He finished 17 seconds behind Javier Gomez then as the Spaniard set an event record time.

Braden resumes a blossoming local rivalry this weekend, having found only fellow Kiwi Kyle Smith too good in his two most recent starts.

He finished second to Kyle in his latest outing at the Tauranga Half, coming home just 10 seconds behind after a dramatic battle. He had earlier been forced to give best at the PTO-supported Rotorua Suffer Half Triathlon in December.

When announcing his participation in the race on Instagram, Braden said: “Looking forward to battle #3 with Kyle Smith and enjoying every minute of the Kiwi summer”.Challenge Wanaka: Five PTO stars to watch

Smith bids to continue dominant form

The aforementioned Smith is in stunning form heading into this weekend, having won three events in three months prior to Saturday’s race at Glendhu Bay.

First, the PTO World #33 claimed that impressive pair of victories over Currie – the first one at Rotorua thanks to an exceptional performance which saw him top the podium by almost four minutes.

Most recently, Kyle claimed further success at XTERRA Wellington – a quarter-distance race last weekend.

Smith makes his first appearance in this event on Saturday, and he will have high hopes on current form that he can earn a fourth race victory in a row and a third over big rival Currie.CHALLENGEWANAKA: PTO stars in action

Moody chasing ranking return

Jack Moody will be hoping a good performance here can catapult him back into the PTO World Rankings.

In the build-up to this weekend’s event Jack has showcased good form. He finished fifth in the Rotorua Suffer Half but improved to finish third at the Tauranga Half, just 36 seconds behind the victorious Smith.Challenge Wanaka: Five PTO stars to watch

Clarke hoping to mix-it with the stars

Rebecca Clarke has been somewhat on the outside looking in as Teresa Adam and Hannah Wells stole the show in New Zealand’s early-season events.

The PTO #90 finished third at both the Rotorua Suffer Half and Tauranga Half as her fellow Kiwis fought it out for victory up front.

Rebecca will be hoping to improve on her performance here in 2020, when she finished fourth.

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