Sissons and McIlroy favourites for Triathlon Nationals and Oceania Championships this Saturday
The Contact National Triathlon Championships are held in Wellington this Saturday, with the added incentive of Oceania Championship titles on the line for elites, with Olympians Ryan Sissons and Kate McIlroy carrying the tag of favourites into their respective races over the standard distance (1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run).
Both have shown great form so far this New Zealand summer as they build towards the opening round of the ITU World Triathlon Series in Auckland in early April (5-7) and will be tough to beat on what is primarily a flat and fast Wellington course.
Auckland’s Sissons rebounded from a calf muscle cramp that ruined his chances in Wanaka to impressively win in Takapuna a fortnight ago and is primed for an international clash on Saturday.
“I’m really looking forward to Wellington being the National and Oceania champs this weekend. For one thing I know I get to back off from the solid training and have a slight taper leading into the race to freshen up the body. And also because it’s the first standard distance race of the season and always a great chance to race some of the Aussies and other Kiwis over the full distance. It's a great chance to see how the fitness is progressing towards the first 2 races on the WTS in Auckland and San Diego.
“The course is always the same, mainly flat and fast and windy so we all know what we are getting ourselves into when we sign up to race here!”
Sissons will have plenty to contend with, including Clark Ellice who was second at Takapuna, Australian World U23 champion Aaron Royle, Wanaka winner Tony Dodds and a host of other Kiwis and Australians chasing Oceania glory.
Wellington’s McIlroy has never won a National title over the standard distance so is also keyed up for a big race.
“I have raced much more than I usually would this summer and have enjoyed being a part of the Contact Tri Series. Winning gives you confidence and I have enjoyed a great summer on the back of a really solid block of training in preparation for the season ahead.
“My first big race will be Auckland in the opening World Tri Series event a month from now and then I am aiming on consistency throughout the season and if all goes well, a place in the top three in the world at the end of the season.
“There are so many athletes to respect though this weekend, I can’t worry about them, my focus is on me and putting out a solid swim and bike and then seeing how the legs are for a strong run to the finish. The bonus for me is racing at home in Wellington in front of family, friends and sponsors who help me out throughout the year, that will provide an added buzz on the start line I’m sure.”
Amongst those to respect include High Performance Squad members Sophie Corbidge, Simone Ackermann (winner in Takapuna), Rebecca Kingsford, a host of Australians led by Felicity Abram and a first appearance at this level since having her first baby for Sam Warriner.
Triathlon New Zealand National Coach Greg Fraine and his team will have a busy day keeping tabs on not only the open elites but the U19 and U23 athletes as well, with a strong representation from the HP Squad on the start line in Wellington.
“Wellington Oceania Championships is a great chance to race at home in a field that has quality and depth. The race offers the chance to gain valuable ITU ranking points which help establish an athlete’s career.
“Kate may be favourite but she will be challenged by the up and coming women’s group of Sophie Corbidge, Simone Ackermann and Rebecca Kingsford. This group and the visiting Australians will be looking to measure themselves prior to the start of the 2013 European campaign.
“A similar situation exists in the men’s race with Ryan looking for a test off the hard work he has put in over the NZ summer. The group of Clark Ellice, Martin van Barneveld and Bryce McMaster are all looking to for a good result against Ryan and a group of quality Australians led by Aaron Royle.
“U23 and U19 athletes will all be focused on their respective sprint distance (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run) races as the Wellington race is their primary selection race for the world Championships to be held in London in September this year.
“The U23 men’s and women’s races will be tough with some good depth and a large number of athletes looking to chase the 3 spots available for London.
“Both U19 events will be another hit out between some world class athletes from both sides of the Tasman. NZ and Australia are using this race as a selection for the World Championships which will guarantee hard and fast racing.”
The U19’s will also be racing for the Trans Tasman Challenge, a race between the New Zealand teams in both men’s and women’s, with the Australians naming teams for their respective States. Teams will be awarded points for each athlete based on their finishing position (1st = 1, 2nd = 2 etc) with the lowest scoring team taking out the Trans Tasman Challenge.
The current champions in the Trans Tasman Challenge are Victoria (men) and New Zealand (women), with the New Zealand U19 women having won the past three Trans Tasman Challenge events.