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Kirsten Sweetland CREDIT: Adrian Malloch
Men's podium CREDIT: Adrian Malloch
Taranaki turned on its Sunday best for the finale to the Port Taranaki World Tri Festival with the ITU Continental Cup races held in New Plymouth today.
Three days of stunning weather and action were rounded out in style as Kirsten Sweetland (Canada) and Bevan Docherty (NZL) took the honours on a testing course under clear sunny skies.
Sweetland confirmed her great form after her second World Cup win in Mooloolaba last weekend, running clear of Nicky Samuels (NZL) and Kiyomi Niwata (Japan).
The tiny 20 year old was delighted with her win and a great start to 2009.
“I feel great, delighted to win here although this was a different race to last week. Last week I raced from behind but this week it was from in front for such a long time in the race.
“I felt in control of my own race the whole time. I can’t control what the other girls are doing but I felt a good energy out there today, the people were nice and cheering me on which was tough with a couple of Kiwi girls alongside or behind me the whole way.”
Sweetland broke clear on the bike along with Samuels and Andrea Hewitt (New Zealand). The three worked superbly together on the undulating 6 lap course and with world number two in 2008 Felicity Abram (Australia) suffering mechanical failure and a puncture behind them, the three ‘heavyweights’ in the race looked set to battle it out.
Samuels wasn’t helped as she suffered a ten second stand down penalty at the end of the bike leg, enforced due to the Wanaka athlete mounting her bike too soon at the start of the 40km.
The Wanaka athlete was philosophical about the result but pleased with another strong performance.
“I tried to go a couple of times on the bike but my legs didn’t have it in them today. I think with just the three of us out it made it a little harder to break clear, each time they quickly closed me down. It was tough as I didn’t want to waste myself totally but I knew to beat Kirsten I had to try and go clear on the bike.”
As for the stand down, Samuels was not so sure.
“All I can say is I would love to see the video footage, I thought I was on after the line.”
Hewitt led early in the run but suffered the effects of her runner up finish at the Singapore 70.3 (half Ironman) two weeks ago and faded to fourth, with Niwata posting the second quickest run split (36:19) after Sweetland to finish on the podium.
The men’s race was full of drama. First was the sight of race favourites Bevan Docherty and Kris Gemmell missing the lead group out of the water, with young Australians Shane Barrie, Ben Allen and Clayton Fettell leading the way, the Kiwis 20 seconds back in the pack.
But it wasn’t long before both rode up to a lead group of a dozen riders and they set to work to put some distance on a big chase group. For Gemmell though, that work along with his hopes came crashing down as he crashed at almost 60kph.
“It was no one’s fault really, there was a bump in the road right on the corner,” said a grazed and bruised Gemmell after the race.
“Clayton Fettell got on the wrong side of the bump, his back wheel jumped out and caught my front wheel and I had nowhere to go, it was either straight through the barriers and break something or down and lose some skin. I chose the latter and here I am. I love coming to this race and again I am in great shape, it just seems I have trouble getting to the finish line.”
With that the group lost momentum and the chase pack closed, forming a lead group of 25 to 30 riders for the remainder of the 40km until young New Zealander Martin Van Barneveld broke on the final lap to lead into transition by 32 seconds.
Docherty didn’t wait long though before he assumed the lead and control of the race, running comfortably within himself to win by ten seconds from New Plymouth favourite Clark Ellice and Andreas Raelert (Germany).
“Once Kris crashed we lost a lot of power in the group, we lost momentum and were caught by the others and it was going to come down to the run,” said Docherty. “That was comfortable for me, the ride wasn’t as tough as some thought it was going to be so overall it was an easy day.
”I haven’t been pushed yet this year so it is hard to tell just how good my form is but certainly feel fine. This is a great place to come and race and the crowd once again was superb, so too was the weather. But we’ll find out just how good I am going in a month in Korea for the first World Championship race.”
Local favourite Clark Ellice received the biggest ovation when called to the podium. The New Plymouth athlete admitting afterwards that it was the home support that kept him going on the final lap.
“Man I was working so hard. I was just saying to myself make it hurt bro’, you can sleep all day tomorrow. I had a few goose bumps thanks to the noise and support of the crowd on the final lap. I guess to finish second to Bevan is not so bad, maybe next year I can finish in front of him.”
ITU Continental Cup
1 Kirsten Sweetland CAN 2:02:22
2 Nicky Samuels NZL 2:03:50
3 Kiyomi Niwata JPN 2:04:37
4 Andrea Hewitt NZL 2:05:54
5` Misato Takagi JPN 2:06:39
9 Kate McIlroy NZL 2:10:26
12 Naomi Fergusson NZL 2:17:00
DNF Rebecca Spence NZL
1 Bevan Docherty NZL 1:51:33
2 Clark Ellice NZL 1:51:43
3 Andreas Raelert GER 1:51:50
4 Claude Eksteen RSA 1:52:01
5 Michael Raelert GER 1:52:16
8 Shane Reed NZL 1:52:56
10 Callum Millward NZL 1:52:57
11 James Elvery NZL 1:52:58
13 Ryan Sissons NZL 1:53:16
17 Tony Dodds NZL 1:53:46
18 Ben Visser NZL 1:53:53
24 Dylan McNeice NZL 1:55:31
32 Lee Greer NZL 1:58:34
35 Nathan Saunders NZL 2:01:57