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Clarke and Ward the Best of the Kiwis in Canada

Clarke and Ward the Best of the Kiwis in Canada

Edmonton turned on her worst weather conditions for the world’s leading triathletes in the latest round of the ITU World Triathlon Series this morning, with athletes fighting bitterly cold, windy and wet conditions over the sprint distance in the penultimate round of the WTS.

The women’s race was won by Vicky Holland (Great Britain) from Flora Duffy (Bermuda) and Gillian Backhouse (Australia), with Rebecca Clarke the best of the Kiwis in 17th place and Simone Ackermann in 23rd.

Clarke positioned herself near the front of the field exiting the swim after a strong showing over the 750 metre opening discipline and stayed there throughout the bike while Ackermann missed the lead group out of the water and had to play catch up throughout, eventually finishing just over two minutes behind the winner.

Tri NZ coach Tim Brazier experienced the conditions first hand at the course, and described the effort of the Kiwis.

“The swim set up a good day for Rebecca, she positioned herself well and saw the benefits of that, riding with the lead group. She has improved her performance significantly in the past four or five weeks, in particular in the run and deserved a strong result today.

“Simone’s swim let her down a bit and cost her maybe ten places in the final result, but overall her focus is Chicago and she has trained through this race so this was a solid day with Chicago in mind. Her positioning on the bike and in particular going in and out of transition was excellent so in that regard some of the execution we were looking for today was good.

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“They were some brutal conditions though, it was a war of attrition – survival of the fittest. Transition times ranged between 25 and 50 seconds today, there was some crazy stuff with some athletes just not able to get their helmets on or off.”

Rebecca Spence withdrew during the bike after a poor swim left her off the pace, with Chicago also in mind for the Aucklander in less than two weeks.

In the men’s race the highlight was 20 year old Sam Ward posting a solid 23rd place finish in just his second appearance at this level, with Tony Dodds battling through for 31st to maintain his ranking of 20th in the world.

The race was won by Richard Murray (South Africa) from Javier Gomez (Spain) and Mario Mola (Spain).

Brazier was enthused by what he saw from Ward with the World U23 Champs looming large for the young Aucklander.

“I am stoked with Sam today with his 23rd in tough conditions. His swim was a little bit off the front pack but he positioned himself nicely in the pack and came off the bike in reasonable shape but like the whole field I think he took two laps to warm up – like pretty much everyone he couldn’t feel his feet! He then ran strongly to the finish and showed good improvement in just his second WTS event. He copes well in these environments and has shown that he is ready to race at this level more often, for a 20 year old to do this is impressive.”

Ward highlighted that level of maturity with his own summary of his day, one in which he felt he could have done better.

“I am confident with this level of racing and think I am ready to race more often at this level. Today was a mix of different things, I had a good start in the swim and had some clear water before getting dunked a little at the first buoy, I came out in an average spot between bunches so I sat up a little and then we worked in that group to bridge back up which is not ideal and cost me some energy.

“On the run I could not feel anything from my torso down, it was the weirdest feeling I have ever had, I had no idea what my legs were doing – it was crazy. That is by far the worst weather I have ever raced in, I wore an undershirt and emergency foil vest under my race-suit and I was still freezing cold.

“It was a good result but I was a little disappointed with the way the overall race went. Missing the front bunch in the swim was disappointing and missing the top twenty was annoying. While the result wasn’t too bad, the whole process and the way it came together just wasn’t as good as I felt it could be. These are not my favourite conditions though, so to overcome that and have a solid race is great.”

It proved to be a battle for Dodds today, with Brazier saying further assessments will be made in the lead up to Chicago.

“Tony set himself up well, he swam and biked fantastic, putting himself in a great position off the bike. But obviously his hip is not yet settled well enough to run really fast. It was a brave effort to run through the 5k in 31st and held his overall ranking of 20. The injury hasn’t got any worse but we will now reassess to see if he can improve before Chicago – running the full 10k does present greater risks so we will work with him and the medical team over the next week.”

One highlight of the weekend was the performance of the New Zealand Juniors. Having flown to North America in the days before racing, the team of young New Zealand prospects were using the race to prepare for Chicago and the World Champs in less than a fortnight.

Race execution was superb as Tayler Reid came home third, Dan Hoy 11th, Kyle Smith 13th, Fynn Thompson 16th and in the junior women’s Jaimee Leader was 5th, Katherine Badham 7th, Elizabeth Stannard 8th as the silver fern proved prominent throughout both races.

“The Juniors were very impressive, straight off the plane and into it, they all did a great job and executed well – this is what it was all about,” said Brazier. “Most of them haven’t raced for some weeks – some since April, so to get here and iron out some kinks and be ready for the World Champs sets them up nicely for Chicago.”


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