PTO athletes Hannah Wells and Kyle Smith produced excellent performances at CHALLENGEWANAKA on Saturday to claim victories in the weekend’s big race at Glendhu Bay.
PTO World #29 Wells produced a stunning display to record a time of 4:24:31 and win the women’s race by more than 10 minutes from fellow PTO star Rebecca Clarke.
Meanwhile Smith, currently #33 in the PTO World Rankings, built what turned out to be an insurmountable gap during the swim and bike legs of the men’s race. That was just enough to keep big domestic rival Braden Currie at bay in a thrilling finish.
The gap at the finish was a mere 13 seconds after Currie’s epic late surge.
With newly-introduced COVID-19 restrictions enforced across New Zealand in the past week, event organisers were delighted to be able to put on the glorious spectacle of elite triathlon in the tranquil waters and surroundings of Glendhu Bay.
In the women’s race Clarke (25:30) claimed a slight edge heading into T1, but Wells was right behind her. Hannah would soon take over at the head of the field, and gradually built a commanding lead.
Wells excelled on the bike with a split of 2:23:31 to take an advantage of over four minutes as they headed for the closing 21.1km run.
Hannah pours it on
The final discipline provided more of the same as Hannah continued to extend her lead, finally crossing the line 10:03 ahead of Clarke in second. Australian Maeve Kennedy-Birdsall rounded of the podium in third, a further 3:53 behind.
After claiming a third success at the event, a delighted Hannah said on Instagram: “So happy to take the win yesterday at CHALLENGEWANAKA. A hilly and technical new course threw a few unknowns our way and I loved every moment of it.
“A great swim for me, sticking on the feet of swim speedster Rebecca Clarke and from there I was able to do my own race on the bike and run to pull away and take the win.
“I know we are so lucky to be here and able to race. I took a couple of moments during the race yesterday to think of those who are stuck in COVID restrictions at the moment, and hoped that one day soon we can all be racing together.”
In the men’s race, a scintillating swim of 23:00 gave Smith a 47-second lead over his big rival Currie as they resumed their blossoming rivalry.
They had already enjoyed two battles for supremacy at the Rotorua Suffer and Taranga Half earlier in the season. was some three minutes off the front two out of the water.
Sting in the tail
An outstanding bike leg from Smith 2:05:08 saw him go into the run with a lead of more than four minutes, but there was still a sting in the tail.
Currie (1:14:56) consistently closed the gap on his compatriot until, with only a kilometre remaining, the PTO World #11 was just 15 seconds behind.
Smith (1:19:16) just held on though, to deny Currie a third victory in the event. The final winning margin was 13 seconds with Moody a further 4:27 back in third.
“Brutal day on a brutal course. Braden Currie hot on my heels in another tight finish. Grateful to be racing in such a beautiful part of the world,” Kyle posted on social media afterwards.
Braden meanwhile reflected: “13 seconds shy at the finish line, but overall close to 10 minutes quicker than last year on a slower course.
“The bar just keeps getting higher. Cheers CHALLENGEWANAKA – I’m very happy I decided to race this year and I think we all feel pretty lucky in New Zealand to be able to enjoy events like this right now.”
Attention now turns to IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 New Zealand in two weeks’ time as New Zealand’s finest triathletes will once again go head-to-head.
Men’s Race Podium
1. Kyle Smith (NZ) 3:50:15
2. Braden Currie (NZ) 3:50:28
3. Jack Moody (NZ) 3:54:55
Women’s Race Podium
1. Hannah Wells (NZ) 4:24:31
2. Rebecca Clarke (NZ) 4:34:34
3. Maeve Kennedy-Birdsall (AUS) 4:38:27