Blustery but warm conditions greeted triathletes in the ITU Oceania Triathlon Championships in Wellington today and it was Shane Reed (NZL) who mastered them best to take out the elite men’s race in a busy day of racing that also carried NZ Standard Distance titles and points for the final round of the Contact Energy My Sport Series.
The Australians had been hit by the earlier withdrawal of both Craig Walton and Peter Robertson, both were listed to start but were late no shows for the Wellington event. Nonetheless it was a large and strong contingent of green and gold that turned up to challenge the Kiwis in their back yard.
Australian Clayton Fettell led out of the water but not by far. He had close company in countryman Joshua Amberger and with Kris Gemmell in third the leading Kiwi out of the water.
Top ranked New Zealander Bevan Docherty trailed the leaders by 33 seconds into transition in 15th place. Most of the heavyweights were inside that top fifteen with Beijing hopeful Shane Reed (NZL), Matt Hopper (AUS) and James Sear (AUS) all swimming well in choppy conditions.
Docherty worked hard in the early stages of the bike in blustery conditions and soon found himself not only in the lead bunch of a dozen athletes but leading them. It was a class Trans-Tasman battle with the numbers split about even between the two nations.
Off the bike it quickly became evident it was a day for the more experienced and strong athletes with the wind buffeting the athletes around the picturesque Oriental Bay course with Docherty, Gemmell and Reed leading the way. U23 Aussie James Seear was the only one able to go with them but by his own admission was only holding on.
When Docherty surged with two laps to go Gemmell and Seear were unable to go with the pace, leaving just Reed to challenge the World number four in the run to the finish line.
And challenge him he did, eventually running clear to the adulation of the large pro-Kiwi crowd and the welcoming arms of his wife and young boy. It was an emotional Reed following the race.
“My grandfather passed away this week and the funeral was on Friday, but I’m sure he was up there watching over me today, I was very much racing for him today.”
In winning Reed has secured a third starting spot at the Beijing Olympics for New Zealand but knows he still has work to do to earn a start himself.
“I felt strong all day and I’m delighted obviously to win and also to book New Zealand a third spot at Beijing. I just hope I haven’t peaked too early because I know have it all to do again in Mooloolaba in three weeks. I guess I just have to go there and win again.”
Bevan Docherty came home second and he too said he felt great all day.
“I felt really strong all day actually, stronger than I thought I would. I dominated the bike for most of the distance, there were a number of weak riders not doing their share in that lead group so I pushed things along. I’m in the middle of some hard training weeks and have not tapered for this so I am pleased with the way things went.”
Docherty understood the significance of Reed’s win for New Zealand.
“Obviously I was racing to win but if anyone had to beat me today I guess it is good that it was Shane. That confirms three of us on the start line in Beijing which is great for the sport here.”
James Seear has had a tough couple of years fighting illness and injury and was delighted with his third overall and win in the U23 category.
“This is brilliant, just brilliant. I started strongly with a good swim in choppy conditions. My aim was to be amongst the lead group on to the bike and that was achieved. From there it was run strong and hold on. I needed top five today to be automatic for the World Championships so it is mission accomplished.”
“I stayed with Bevan and Shane for as long as I could but when they surged with a couple of laps to go, I had nothing in reserve.”
The Under 23 title went down to the wire with two Kiwis sprinting to the line. Tony Dodds just held on from Ben Visser with the official timing separating the two by just the one second. Both had raced superbly in difficult conditions and had nothing left as they crossed the line.
The day had started with age group races for both men and women with a huge turnout in all events, in particular the teams event with series sponsor Contact Energy putting up an amazing 28 teams on the day.
Huge crowds lined Oriental Parade and the transition area at Waitangi Park on the Wellington waterfront.
Oceania Triathlon Championships – Elite Men
1 Shane Reed NZL 1.55.29
2 Bevan Docherty NZL 1.55.42
3 James Seear NZL 1.56.13
4 Matt Hopper AUS 1.56.28
5 Kris Gemmell NZL 1.56.48
6 Dan Wilson AUS 1.56.54
7 David Matthews AUS 1.57.06
8 David Dellow AUS 1.57.24
9 Graham O’Grady NZL 1.57.59
10 Callum Millward NZL 1.58.21
Under 23 men
1 Tony Dodds NZL 1.57.37
2 Benjamin Visser NZL 1.57.38
3 Martin Van Barneveld NZL 1.58.09
4 Ryan Sissons NZL 1.58.59
5 Min Ho Heo KOR 1.59.00