He’s always the guy you have to beat, he’s the best. Mario Mola speaking about his Spanish compatriot and friend, Javier Gomez
A beautiful Taranaki day for the World Cup event
By Roger Childs
The dawn was breaking on New Plymouth’s Ngamotu Beach on Sunday 23 March as the age groupers prepared for their Sprint Triathlon. Away to the northeast a fiery sunrise suggested that rain might be on the way, but in fact it became clearer and hotter as the day wore on: perfect weather for triathlon.
The age groupers had the early 7.30 start, however the main races of the day were the women’s and men’s elite events at 12.00 and 2.00 incorporating
- 750m swimming
- 20km cycling
- 5km running.
This is half the distances of the International Triathlon Union (ITU) standard events, so the sprint is fast and furious!
The favourites didn’t disappoint in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd basking in the sunshine. The fastest competing athletes from the Mooloolaba World Cup race last weekend, Katie Hursey and Mario Mola, took the gold.
Classy performances from the women
There were plenty of big names in the women’s race including the
- 2013 ITU World Cup winner Jodie Stimpson and fellow Brit Helen Jenkins back from injury
- Americans Hursey and Sarah Groff
- Canadians Kirsten Sweetland and Paula Findlay
- Kiwi trio of Andrea Hewitt, Nicky Samuels and Kate McIlroy.
Success in triathlon always comes down to the run. If you are a top runner and stay in touch with the leaders on the bike, your chances of a podium finish are very good. All the likely contenders were in the first bunch on the bike leg. It was five times round a challenging 4km course which was a mix of beachfront roads and city streets with plenty of short climbs, undulations, tight bends and long flat stretches.
All the favourites were near the front early on in the run, however by the end of the first lap Hursey, Stimpson and Hewitt had edged ahead. Hursey was looking the strongest and by lap three was applying the pressure. On the short climb to the turnaround with about 200m to go she was comfortably ahead, so it was just a question of who would get the silver and bronze.
Hewitt and Stimpson were neck and neck on the run down to the finish straight, however egged on by the home crowd, the popular Kiwi was just able to head off the British athlete. Samuels finished 6th and McIlroy 11th.
More excitement in the men’s race
I’ve got good memories of New Plymouth. World number one, Javier Gomez.
He was first in the 2008 ITU event in New Plymouth and was keen to win again. Fellow Spaniard, Mola, was likely to be his toughest competition, especially after the latter’s superb 13 minute 55 second 5km run in the previous weekend’s World Cup event on the Sunshine Coast.
In the latter stages of the men’s bike leg, Irishman Benjamin Shaw and Australian Dan Wilson made a break and were able to head out on the run with a 20 second advantage. However within a kilometre Gomez, Mola and Portuguese runner Joao Silva had gobbled them up.
No-one else was in with a chance, as the three men from the Iberian Peninsula pulled further away. By the end of the second of three laps the two Spaniards had dropped Silva and like the women’s race for the minor money, it was all on from the rise, 300m out from the finish. (See the photo alongside.) Mola proved to be too quick in the final sprint and took out his second title for 2014.
Kiwi men back in the field
Since the glory days of Hamish Carter, Bevan Docherty and Chris Gemmell, New Zealand men have struggled to make an impression in ITU and World Cup events. Triathlon NZ coach and former Waikanae Beach resident, Greg Fraine, observed that some of the younger triathletes had potential, They are coming along well and pushing the senior athletes… this is a chance to make everyone sit up and take notice.
As it turned out it was senior athlete, Ryan Sissons, who was the best of the New Zealanders, coming in sixth. Sadly, the experienced Tony Dodds crashed while in the front bunch of the cycling. The other Kiwis finished 26th, 34th, 48th and 54th.
Let’s hear from the champions
- Katie Hursey: I’m really excited! It’s great. There were a lot of competitive people out there. You have to stay in touch. You miss the (bike) train and it’s a lot harder. It’s a good course, pretty much like Mooloolaba with the hills. You had to be strong, it’s tough.
- Mario Mola: It couldn’t have been any better for me. Javier is an amazing guy. I tried to keep my energy for the run because Javier is so strong. Winning this race is amazing for me. I’m so happy.
So for most of the athletes who performed in New Plymouth, it’s now on to Auckland in a fortnight for the first of the major 2014 ITU standard distance events.