Hot humid and windy conditions greeted competitors in the Contact Tri Series at Pegasus, Christchurch today, in the third round of the seven event series held at the stunning venue of Pegasus, 15 minutes north of Christchurch.
And the stars came out to play with Kate McIlroy winning the women’s race from NZ U23 elite athlete Rebecca Kingsford and Andrea Hewitt, while NZ U23 rep Mike Phillips won the men’s from iron distance expert Bryan Rhodes and age group world champion Hamish Hammond.
A large group emerged out of the water in the women’s race, led by youngsters Nicole Van der Kaay and Jaimee Leader with Hewitt, McIlroy and Kingsford in close contact.
The quality of McIlroy came to the fore quickly on the bike though, with the world number 10 riding to the front while Hewitt lost valuable time in a crash, leaving the world number 3 with a nasty road rash on her right hip.
McIlroy extended her lead on the bike with Kingsford moving into second past Hewitt, who had bravely remounted and continued in front of the Christchurch crowd. And that is the way they ran to the finish, with McIlroy running strongly to victory.
“I didn’t know where things are at so early in the season and in the middle of some big volume training so that is nice to have an honest race,” said McIlroy. “It was so windy today, testing on the bike and a head wind on the run for half the distance so I am happy to win today. The competition was really good, with Andrea, Rebecca and a lot of young talent coming through on the start line, even the swim was tough today which is great.”
McIlroy was conscious of the crash suffered by Hewitt.
“I saw someone go down on the bike and didn’t realise until later it was Andrea. She is so tough though and obviously carried on and is world class, it was great to have her alongside today, I hope her leg isn’t too bad and she recovers quickly.”
Rebecca Kingsford held off Hewitt for second, a great result for the U23 elite from Tirau.
“That was bloody hard with the wind, but it was fun. I had a disappointing world’s in Auckland last year but have done some hard work since and seem to be on the right track.”
Hewitt was disappointed that a crash marred her day but was determined to finish a rare race in front of family, friends and local Cantabrians.
“The first time round I just came into some contact with some cones on a technical part of the course and came down, the first lap was really hard but after that I got going on the bike, it was very sore on the run though.
“It is great racing in Christchurch though with all the home support, it would be great to see more races like this in Christchurch.”
In the men’s race a group of five emerged from the water together, with all the big guns of Mike Phillips (Christchurch), Bryan Rhodes (Christchurch) and Hamish Hammond (Greytown) in close attendance.
It was Phillips though who found the strength to pull away on the non drafting bike leg and then ran strongly for the win ahead of Rhodes.
“That was really windy, and it was a dry wind so I felt thirsty the whole way, but I knew if I drank too much I could pay for it on the run, said Phillips. “It was a hard race to judge.
“The swim was good, we had a group together zig-zagging, the key was to get on the front on the bike first and put the power down a wee bit. The non drafting wasn’t too bad, I have done a little bit of time trialling this summer so I am used to it and made it a little easier. I am racing Wanaka (Contact Tri Series) on Friday night so that was in the back of my mind today, then the Oceania’s in March.”
Rhodes enjoyed his day over a race distance much shorter than he prefers as he prepares for Challenge Wanaka next Saturday and like Hewitt, he too had an issue on the bike.
“There were a lot of technical turns out there and I t-boned someone turning for their second lap as they turned a little early right in front of me, I hope he is alright! That gave Mike a bit of a gap on me and I need some hills or long straights to wind up and use my power, it could have been a great tussle if I had come off side by side on the run but Mike just had too much for me today.
“It has been three years since my Achilles rupture but there is still a bit of speed left in the legs, I want to go to Kona one more time this year, that will make ten years at Kona, then I have a few bucket list races and I might retire gracefully.”
All races today were over the shorter distance, from the Contact kids 1:2:1 to the beginners 3:9:3 and the Contact Trophy races over the sprint distance with the highlight being the appearance of Hewitt and McIlroy in the women’s race.
Contact Tri Series
Contact Trophy Sprint (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run)
1 Kate McIlroy Wellington 1:05:20
2 Rebecca Kingsford Tirau 1:07:07
3 Andrea Hewitt Christchurch 1:08:26
1 Mike Phillips Christchurch 1:00:35
2 Bryan Rhodes Christchurch 1:01:25
3 Hamish Hammond Greytown 1:02:01