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2013 Busselton 70.3 fastest female Dr Rachael Smith talks to Trizone

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Anonymity is something on the national scene Dr Rachael Smith used to enjoy, however her 4:17 at the recent Busselton 70.3 certainly has got a few tongues wagging around the country, although none of the WA locals are surprised. Rachael has been a very fast girl on the swim, bike & run for the past few seasons. She is the current state champion and record holder for the State 80km Time Trial (2:04:46/39.32km/h) and finished the second female overall at the inaugural Albany Trek Half Ironman in December.

Born 1975, Rachael is a Kiwi native from central South Island NZ, brought up on a sheep farm 2 hours south and inland from Christchurch. Rachael played various team sports through school and university including hockey, touch rugby, squash, and did a few social fun runs, but horse’s and horse riding were her passion from a very young age.

Dr Rachael Smith in action of the triathlon race course

Dr Rachael Smith in action off the triathlon race course

Rachael studied Veterinary Science at Massey University, one of New Zealand’s largest universities and graduated in 1998. After graduation Rachael worked in a Equine (horse)/Dairy practice in the Waikato region of New Zeland’s North Island, sport including social running.

Eventually circumstances in her Veterinary profession led her to her now home town of Perth to take up a position in post graduate specialist training in Equine Surgery at Murdoch University.

It was in Perth that Rachael discovered triathlon, starting in the Busso Half and IMWA in 2005, where she qualified and competed in Kona 2006.

TriZone caught up with the very fast and not so anonymous (anymore) Rachael Smith

 

TriZone: Usual first up question. Triathlon, how did it find you?

Rachael: I went to a bike shop to buy a commuter bike (given I’d always worked and lived in rural farming areas it was a very novel thing to be able to ride a bike to work) it was there that instead of buying a hybrid commuter bike I ended up with a second hand road bike, and signed up for a beginners triathlon training course at the start of 2003.

I dibbled and dabbled at the start and hated swimming! For a few years work took precedent with long hours of clinic work and study. In 2005 I did my first Olympic distance, first half ironman (Busso 2005) and first ironman (Busso IM), under then coach Andrew Budge. It was here I qualified for Kona and took my spot under the insistence of friends, at this stage not really knowing the significance of or anything about Kona. I competed in Kona 2006, after which I had a couple of years break due to having to prepare for my certifying specialist exams in the United States in Equine Surgery.

TriZone: You had a fair break from the sport since 2006, how long ago did you get back into it, we see you raced in the Pro ranks in 2011?

Rachael: In the 2010/2011 season I started training more regularly, and now I train under coach Raf Baugh, mainly working on my run. Cycling had always been my strength and swimming my weakness. I have had a steady improvement in results since that time with good age group results, juggling busy work and social schedule with training.

I raced the 2010/2011 Triathlon WA state series in the Open category and due to confusion with the age group vs open vs pro categories when Busso became a 70.3 race in 2011, all Open Triathlon WA athletes were encouraged to get their pro license, due to this I raced Singapore and Busso 2011 70.3 under a NZ pro license, performing fairly but lacked confidence and form at that time.

TriZone: You had an outstanding result at Busso 70.3 knocking out a 4:17 which was the fastest female on the day, describe your day?

Rachael Smith on the way to her overall victory - Photo Credit: JWorsfold / Marathon-Photos.com - Copyrighted to Marathon Photos.com

Rachael Smith on the way to her overall victory – Photo Credit: JWorsfold / Marathon-Photos.com – Copyrighted to Marathon Photos.com

Rachael: I had some good races in the lead up and Busso was my key event for the season. The course really plays to my strengths being it’s a wetsuit swim, it’s a flat bike course which means I can really grind out a good consistent pace, without any breaks for climbing etc, and then that type of riding doesn’t really affect my run.

In the swim I was lucky enough to get on Matt Illingworth’s feet (Matt was also racing Open), I hung with Matt for the 2/3’s of the swim until he dropped me at the last turning buoy. When I came out of T1 on to the bike course the roads were empty as the Pro’s had already gone (the Open wave fits in between the Pro’s and Age Groupers) and Matt and most of the Open guys had already gone up the road.

I spent the first lap trying to thaw out as the weather was so cold and get in some type of rhythm. On the 2nd lap the course started to fill up with age groupers and I concentrated on riding to heart rate and catching the other girls in the Open wave.

I knew when I got off the bike that I was in the lead in the Open category so I really tried to settle into a good rhythm and enjoy the run as it’s a course filled with many local supporters, friends and training buddies, it’s like a 21 km party. I achieved my pre-race aims of winning the open category, getting a PB and enjoying the day.

TriZone: Any reason why you didn’t race in the Pro Wave?

Rachael: I didn’t consider racing in the Pro field as I don’t have a Pro license and I had raced open all season as part of the WA Triathlon Open Series championship, the last race of the series includes Busso.

TriZone: Any ambition to step back into the pro ranks?

Rachael: I do triathlon, running and time trialing for social competitive fun and an outlet from what can sometimes be a stressful job. We have a fantastic, social and talented triathlon community here in Perth, everyone knows each other.

I’ve trained hard for the last couple of years and have enjoyed some good results and achieved personal goals of self-improvement. I’m not motivated to be a full time professional triathlete. I have a rewarding career, and I already function on a knife edge with fitting in work, relationship, training, social life and family and friends.

TriZone: We’ve had friends that have completed their Veterinary Studies, we know from them that it’s a demanding course and profession. How do you find that all important work/life/training balance?

Dr Rachael Smith's other passion

Dr Rachael Smith’s other passion

Rachael: My work is quite physically and mentally demanding, working full-time as an Equine Surgeon (surgery of horses) at the Equine Centre, Murdoch University Veterinary Hospital, which is mainly a referral equine hospital. I also teach and lecture on the subject of equine surgery, and the job includes a demanding after hour’s roster for emergencies.

Triathlon is very much my social life, and outlet from work. But I still enjoy training hard to be competitive. My partner Rich and I both love the sport and we have a great bunch of friends and training buddies in the triathlon community here in Perth. This makes the 4.30- 4.45am starts before work for training, and after work sessions a whole lot easier to get to. Still the long days of training and work can be draining, and for me personally not sustainable for month in month out, so I’ve tried to focus on one or two key races a season to get up for.

TriZone:- I see you had a stint in Europe last year, how did you end up there?

Rachael: In 2012 whilst using part of my long service leave, I travelled to France with fellow athlete Thomas Bruins and coach Raf Baugh to compete in the French Duathlon Grand Prix series for the Metz Duathlon Team. This went for a 5 week period, finishing with the European Long Course Duathlon Championships (Powerman Holland) in Horst Holland where I finished 7th women overall.

TriZone:- Tell me about your Coach Raf Baugh, how has he helped you to become such a fast athlete?

A career highlight

A career highlight – With the delayed start behind the pros this is a spectacular time.

Rachael: Raf has been my coach and mentor for the past few years, and integral into the development of my running and confidence to train and compete at higher levels. Raf, having been a world class duathlete for many years has a wealth of experience and passion for the sport, and his intuitive and engaging coaching methods, particularly training within his group of ‘like minded’ athletes, have seen me slowly go from strength to strength in the ride and run, and I can’t thank him enough. I’m a goal driven person, love competing and being fit and healthy so triathlon accommodates many of these characteristics.

TriZone:- Any supporters or sponsors you wish to thank?

Rachael: I don’t really have any official sponsors but Ride Advice Cyclery, Milligan Street, Perth (Steve Rukavina and Carlo Barendilla) have helped me out with a  Specialized Shiv S-Works (which I love!) and have been a fantastic support for me and my racing, as have Raf Baugh and Jason Nuttman from The Running Centre, West Perth. My work and my career have always been my priority, and it is important to me that triathlon remains my fun time away from work[RS3] , the guys at Ride Advice, and The Running Centre are good friends, and don’t put any pressure or obligation on me which I really value.

TriZone:- So what’s Next for you?

Rachael: Cairns 70.3, I entered Cairns 70.3 months ago in age group, a group of us are going up to do it as part of a holiday, and fun trip. I was hoping to do the City to Surf Marathon here in Perth late August so I can reduce my swimming for a while (Sorry Stu!) and concentrate on running which is more fun in the colder weather. Then Powerman Malaysia (Duathlon) in KL at the start of November and maybe one of the Challenge Half Ironman races next year, and always Busso Half…it’s our local end of season celebration race .

TriZone:- Thanks Rachael, good luck!

Rachael: Cheer’s

 

Karl is a keen age group triathlete who races more than he trains. Good life balance! Karl works in the media industry in Australia and is passionate about the sport of triathlon.

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News & Racing

Challenge Roma – The First Big European Challenge Event In 2018

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On April 15, 2018, will be Challenge Roma’s second edition. After its debut in 2017, the Italian capital will be again protagonist of great international triathlon in a new location, the Rome Marina “Porto Turistico di Roma”, with new distances: 1.9 km swimming, 90 km bike, 21 km running. A middle distance like Challenge’s primary races, Challenge Roma will be the first European race of the year too. A chance for triathletes from all over the world to test their athletic preparation, in a very fast and beautiful path, in Roman Spring beginning.

Porto Turistico di Roma will also be home of the Expo Village, which will host numerous side activities for the entire weekend starting from Friday. The involvement of schools and local institutions, and then go on Saturday with the Sprint triathlon, the paratriathlon super sprint, valid as the second stage of the Italian Championship, before the Challenge Roma race on Sunday morning.

Challenge Roma Location

For the second edition of Challenge Roma, a new location was selected: the Porto Turistico di Roma. In fact, Rome extends its borders to the coasts of the Tyrrhenian sea, and its marina is a central point for many activities, thanks to the excellent sea-water quality. Completely renovated, the Marina is close to the Leonardo Da Vinci Fiumicino Airport, and offers a lot of public services including restaurants, shops, children spaces and a long, romantic walk through piers and boats.

Protagonists

What will kick off at the Challenge Roma will be a high-level parterre. Attracted by the charm of the capital and by the calendar that places the race as the first test of the 2018 season in Europe, lots of pro’s are keen to join Challenge Roma second edition and the fair weather of spring.

Among others, the Slovenian Jaroslav Kovacic, 34, the British Will Clarke, 33, the German Andreas Dreitz, 34 years winner of Cervia (Italy) full distance. But they will not be the only ones. Also, the Germans Alexander Schilling, 30, and Michael Goehner, 38, the Spaniards Inaki Baldellou, 29, and Pablo Dapena Gonzalez, 30, the Russian Georgii Kaurov, 25, and the young British George Goodwin, 22 years.

Among the women, all eyes will be on the Italian medium-distance champion Marta Bernardi, 28 years old and the new name of the international triathlon. Two skilled athletes will challenge her: the Dutch Yvonne Van Vlerken, 39, and Britain’s Caroline Livesey, 38 years old, and Sofie Goos, 28 years old from Belgium. In addition to them also the Hungarian Gabriella Zelinka, 27, the young Russian Mariia Bibicheva, just 21 years old, the Czech Simona Krivankova, 35, the two Belgian Sofie Goos and Karen Steurs, respectively 37 and 38 years, and the Croatian Sonja Skevin, 23 years old.

Paratriathlon, 2nd Stage Italian Championship

The long weekend of the Challenge Roma will host Saturday, April 2 at 2 pm the 2nd stage of the Italian Paratriathlon championship on the Super Sprint distance (0.4 km of swimming, 10 km of bike, 2.5 km of running). At the start over 40 athletes for a parterre of the highest level led by the Rio 2016 Olympic bronze Giovanni Achenza in addition to Italian champion pts5 Gianfilippo Mirabile and multi-champion champion Veronica Plebani.

Challenge Roma Sprint

Saturday, April 14 will be staged, starting at 10.30, also a race Sprint distance (750 m swimming, 20 km cycling and 5 km running) open to all members of the Italian and International Triathlon Federation. The route will develop almost entirely within the Port of Rome, with the exception of the cycling village that will “stretch” on the seafront in a 5 km circuit to be repeated 4 times. The stretch is completely flat.

Time Schedule

It all starts on Friday, April 13, from 10 am with the Duathlon School promotional event, dedicated to schools: children will compete in the area inside the Marina.

From 2 pm, the afternoon will be dedicated to the public with the opening of the Triathlon Expo, where brands and technical equipment dedicated to the discipline will be exhibited. Saturday, April 14th we start with Challenge Sprint triathlon at 10.30 a.m., followed by Paratriathlon Super Sprint at 2 p.m., valid as the second stage of the Italian Championship series and then finish at 4 p.m. with the Challenge Duathlon Kids dedicated to kids and youngsters of Lazio’s triathlon schools. Also, in the afternoon, starting at 4.30 p.m., Challenge Roma briefing (Ita and Eng) in view of the main event of the following day.

Sunday, April 15 will be the day of the Challenge Roma, which starts at 13.15 am. From 5.15 it is expected the leading athletes arrival who will be rewarded immediately with the Flower Ceremony, a characteristic symbol of CHALLENGEFAMILY.

The long triathlon weekend will close up in the evening with the Award Ceremony and live music “farewell party” starting at 9 pm.

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Gear & Tech

Review: SunGod PaceBreaker sunglasses – Look Cool While Dropping Watt Bombs

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SunGod sunglasses are a relatively new player to the market, a successful, UK based, crowd-funded business who’s appeal is focused on the ability to customise the glasses online at an affordable price.

SunGod was founded in 2013 and developed from a frustration that to get quality lenses that would be able to withstand a sports/adventure lifestyle.

They launched their first product, SunGod Classic, as their first complete custom online build, with polycarbonate polarised lenses and TR90 memory polymer frames. This campaign exploded, with SunGods being shipped to 93 countries and making 10x the initial funding target and becoming the largest crowdfunded project of its kind in the UK.

Simple to use interface, customise away.

Jumping on to the website is simple enough, and you get to choose from a variety of frames and styles. The Classics and Renegades focus more on traditional streetwear, extreme sports etc., while the Revolts are focused on snow sports. All of the range bears the funky looking Limited editions, are fully customizable.  As triathletes wouldn’t be seen dead wearing non-race specific gear, we’re going to focus the review on the PaceBreakers – wraparounds focused on riding and running (swimming not tested!)

What design do you ask?

I was lucky enough to get to design a pair of sunglasses via the simple to understand interface. Simple enough in fact that my five-year-old daughter created my first pair below.

From idea….

To reality…!

Going through the interface, you get to choose the frame colour, lens type (4KO Polarised or not – more on that later), icons on the side and ear sock colour (the tips of your glasses). If your creativity is failing you, you can also choose from a set series of best sellers.

The whole process takes around 30 seconds of effort with 20 minutes of procrastination around the right colours to match with your complexion and handbag.

My second pair was a much more straightforward affair focusing on the traditional grey look.

Got to have grey in Melbourne.

The glasses ship from the UK and for me, turned up in 3 days, a surprising and welcome change.

What’s in the box?

SunGod indeed go above and beyond with the packaging and its contents

Funky looking box

As you would expect you get a box with the sunglasses included, but you also get a spare nose clip, a case which also doubles as a cleaning rag and a truckload of stickers to stick around the place. Its quite a few freebies given the low cost of the product.

Quite the haul

4KO pace lens with triple scratch resistance

SunGod claims that the polarised lens is both triple scratch resistant and will enhance both visibility and field of view in both low light and bright conditions. We obviously couldn’t test them in a lab with serious equipment, but we took the glasses out on a treacherous, wet and windy early morning Melbourne ride around the Dandenong mountains in peak hour traffic.

Compared to my Jawbreakers I certainly felt that their visibility in early morning sun up (6am) conditions was improved.  The lens also survived being bounced along the road at high speed when I forgot to put them back on during a decent, with no scratches if I may add.  So science aside, these sunglasses certainly did the job during a challenging day out.

What differentiates SunGod from the competition

SunGod has a few key differentiated points.

Firstly is the price. For around $110 – $130 dollars you get a solid pair of high-performance sunglasses with features to match and outperform glasses twice their price.

The glasses come with a lifetime warranty so if they break they will replace them free of charge. A lofty claim that I haven’t tested but certainly a welcome one – which some of the major players struggle to offer.

The glasses are made from adventure proof flexible rubber which allows the frames to be flexed, and as above bounced along the road, without damage. Which as a clumsy guy is a great feature.

Overall

Simply put, SunGod makes a great pair of sunglasses, both comfortable and high performing, you cannot beat them for value. The customisation feature is excellent and has got my triathlon team all lining up to get the team colours shipped over. I didn’t have anything negative to say about them, to the point where I’m replacing my tried and trusted jawbreakers with these for both racing and training.

Here is a link to the PaceBreakers

  • Price
  • Features
  • Durability
  • Overall

Summary

Simply a great set of sunglasses and are packed with features and value.

Pros
- Well priced
- Great feature set
- Customisable

Cons
- Carbon (Triathlete staple) look frame appears out of stock
- Were clutching at straws to find anything wrong aren't we!

5.0
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News & Racing

Challenge Family Introduces A World Ranking For Pro-athletes

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Challenge has decided to expand the successful European Money Ranking in 2018 to a so-called Challenge World Ranking. This means that professional Athletes can earn points not only in European races but also in races outside of Europe. The earned points count up in a final ranking at the end of the season with a total bonus prize purse of $165.000.

With this World Ranking, Challenge rewards the pro-athletes racing the series and results in having the best professionals racing head-to-head in the Challenge races. “We strongly believe that the professional Athletes are the ambassadors of our wonderful sport. We have seen strong racing and amazing winners in the European Ranking the last two years. We are happy to extend this to a worldwide ranking first time in 2018 ” says Zibi Szlufcik, CEO of Challenge.

The first races to be added to the ranking in the 2018 season are Challenge Taiwan, Challenge Sangil (Mexico), Challenge Aasia-Pacific Championship (Taiwan) and Challenge Daytona (USA). All European races remain part of the ranking.

The total prize purse $165.000 for the worldwide ranking will pay 5 deep for both male and female athletes. The overall winners will take home $30.000. Second place will earn $20.000, third and fourth place $15.000 and $12.000 consecutively and fifth place winner will pocket $5.000. In the event of a tie, the prize money will be averaged between the two athletes and corresponding places.

The points system that leads to the final ranking will remain the same as last year’s European ranking. This is based on points earned by the athlete’s six best Challenge race results of the season, of which no more than two can be long distance races, which earn double points. The Championship is also included in the World Ranking, with more points to collect then regular middle distance races.

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Laura Siddall Looks To Go Back To Back at Ironman Australia

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The 2018 season has kicked off with a bang for Laura Siddall breaking through to pick up the Ironman New Zealand title in March, and she is looking to continue her winning form when she heads to Port Macquarie (6 May) to defend her Ironman Australia crown.

Siddall, who represented England as a junior in 400m hurdles and netball, began her love affair with triathlon while she was working in Australia on a two-year contract with Shell Oil and she was soon on a rampage loading her trophy case full of age-group championships across the globe over all distances.

Siddall eventually made the leap the pro ranks and continued her love affair with Port Macquarie that started with her first half distance triathlon at Ironman 70.3 Port Macquarie back in October 2009.

“Ironman Australia will be my last race in the Southern Hemisphere before I migrate north for the European summer. It is an important race for me, as I won last year, so want to come back and show my support for the event and the people of Port Macquarie.”

“It is also important to me because the race has so much history and was very much part of my early days in the sport. It is pretty much a local race where I started triathlon, so many friends will be participating and competing as well, over both the full and 70.3 distances.”

“While Ironman Australia may be an early season race for many, it will be my fourth race of 2018 and second Ironman, having won Ironman New Zealand in March. Expectations as always to continue the build in my training and race performance globally as an athlete.”

“Ironman Australia is very much part of that development and learning. It’s always about transferring the training into the race and executing a performance that I can be proud of and pushes myself to the limits. If I focus on that, then hopefully I am somewhere in the right place at the end of the day.”

“Ironman Australia is one of the historic races around the world. It truly comes alive with the amazing support in Port Macquarie. The course is tough and gritty but has wonderful crowd encouragement.  With the likes of Matthew Flinders Hill on the bike, the tri club alley on the run, it really does make the races pretty special and a brilliant atmosphere,” Laura said.

This year is the 40th anniversary year of the birth of Ironman and Laura is thankful for the huge influence the sport has been on her life as an athlete.

“It is awesome to see the sport grow over the past few years, not just the 40 years. If I think back to when I was growing up in the UK, I didn’t have a clue about triathlon. It was only when I was in Australia, where the sport was, at that time so much bigger, that I discovered it. But now, almost 10years later, I see how big the sport is in the UK, thanks to the likes of Chrissie Wellington but also the Brownlee brothers.”

“In the early years of my time in the sport, my friends and family wouldn’t have heard of triathlon, yet now I have all sorts of people contacting me saying they’ve signed up for a race or event and are training for a triathlon. It’s fantastic.”

“I started the sport as a complete beginner, and I’m now a professional and grateful for the opportunity to follow something I love, and to live my passion day to day. I travel the world training and racing and I know I’m incredibly privileged to do this. It is a lifestyle and has a wonderful community. I’ve met so many amazing people around the world, and heard so many incredible stories. It has given me some fantastic experiences and ‘pinch myself’ moments that I could never have believed or dreamed of,” she said.

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Australia Takes Gold in Commonwealth Games Mixed Relay Triathlon, Gentle Celebrates Big Comeback

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The Australian mixed relay team win gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. Photo: Triathlon Australia/Delly Carr

The Australian team won on its own turf in Saturday’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games mixed team relay triathlon. The team included Ashleigh Gentle, Matthew Hauser, Jake Birtwhistle, and Gillian Backhouse. Birtwhistle secured the victory in 01:17:36, 52 seconds ahead of England’s team and 01:52 ahead of the bronze winners of New Zealand.

For Birtwhistle, the mixed relay marked a Commonwealth Games podium streak after he nearly closed a wide gap behind South Africa’s Henri Schoeman, in the run leg of Thursday’s men’s triathlon, and won a silver. For Gentle, it was a major comeback story after she missed the Thursday podium by two positions.

Ashleigh Gentle Excels in Relay

Gentle, the third member on the course, made up for a 15-second deficit in the 250m swim leg by handing Birtwhistle a 39-second lead during the 1.5km run, easing his sprint to victory.

Gentle didn’t have it easy. She struggled with Thursday’s silver winner, Jessica Learmonth of Britain, during the entire 7km bike leg, which they completed together. Learmonth had a slight mishap while dismounting her bike, giving Gentle an opportunity to sprint ahead of her in the run before handing the final run stretch to her teammate.

A Tough Week for the Brownlee Brothers

Birtwhistle commanded a solid, and growing lead, over two-time Olympic champion, Alistair Brownlee of England. Brownlee had a rough week after realizing he did not give a prior calf injury enough time to recover. His brother, Jonny, was also recovering from a leg injury.

Who Australia was Up Against

England had a truly all-star team. Other than the Brownlee brothers and Learmonth, the team also included Vicky Holland. In the individual triathlon race, Learmonth and Holland claimed silver and bronze behind Bermuda’s Flora Duffy, who finished in 00:56:50, 43 seconds ahead of Learmonth.

The New Zealand quartet had Tayler Reid, Nicole van der Kaay, Andrew Hewitt, and Ryan Sissons. Sissons, a last minute replacement for Tony Dodds, claimed fifth in the individual triathlon. Dodds finished in 16th. Pundits had high expectations for Hewitt this year, but she finished 13thin the individual race.

 

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XTERRA New Zealand returns to Rotorua for 16th year this Saturday

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Sam Osborne and Jacqui Allen are back to defend their elite titles at the 16th annual XTERRA New Zealand Championship race at Lake Tikitapu in Rotorua on Saturday.

For Osborne, a Rotorua native and the reigning XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour Champion, it marks the start of another ambitious season of XTERRA racing.

“I’m feeling good & ready,” said Osborne, who won five majors and finished second in the European Tour rankings last year.  “I’ve had a very consistent block of training with no interruptions, and that can only be a good thing.”

Osborne will need to come out of the gates sharp if he is to defend the hometown crown in front of a raucous crowd sure to be filled with his family and friends. The field is stacked with Kiwi greats and Aussie star Ben Allen who has 18 career wins of his own, including two in Rotorua (2012 and 2013).

“Yeah, I’ve seen Benny’s made the trip over earlier than normal, so he’s clearly giving the race and the course a great deal of respect,” said Osborne.  “There’s plenty of big mountain bikers in the field to be concerned about as well. We’re racing at one of the best bike parks in the world and with the swim only being 1km here, it puts a lot of those guys right in the mix. Watch out for Hayden (Wilde) too.  He is coming off a decent racing block with ITU, so you know he’ll be sharp, and he’s not someone you take lightly on the start list.”

Of note, the bike course has seen some significant changes this year, and the new arena is a good one says Osborne.

“The new course is great.  Organizer Frank Clarke has done a good job to get it to flow so well. Rotorua is like a playground of trails so to have a course that links up some of the best cross-country trails we have means it’ll be one of the best bike courses in the world. The talk around the course is its a bit flatter than before but there is a lot of power climbing on loose gravel in there which is incredibly leg sapping. And re-introducing Split Enz was a great move, it’s a trail that has got a lot of free speed if you invest in working the bike down it.  It’s pretty physical to ride it fast but that’s the sort of stuff the mountain bikers can strut their stuff on.”

Wilde, a two-time 15-19 division XTERRA World Champion, finished three minutes behind Osborne in second-place last year and says he’s excited to ditch the road for the dirt this weekend.

“Can’t wait to get back on the trails where it all started and compete at XTERRA again,” said Wilde. “For me, this will be my only XTERRA this year as from May to August I’ll be in Europe racing WTS and World Cups to get as much experience and racing in as possible. I am finding the road stuff fast and exciting, but I miss XTERRA.  Nothing compares to the off-road XTERRA feel and that’s where my triathlon career started so I just love it and can’t wait to race this weekend.”

Keep an eye out for Wilde, as his goal is the 2020 games and the pursuit of the Olympic dream, “but a return to Maui someday is in the cards for sure, I love that place,” he said.

The seemingly endless string of super strong Kiwi XTERRA racers carries on with the likes of Lewis Ryan, the youngest of the Rotorua crew at just 19-years of age.  Ryan won the overall XTERRA Pan Am Championship amateur title two years ago and will make his elite debut on Saturday.

“Lining up with the big boys from here on out,” said the ever-cheerful Ryan.  “Definitely an awesome opportunity and something I’m super stoked to commit too. Making it even more special is that I’m able to pin on my first pro number at home here in Rotorua, so my excitement levels are peaking!”

Ryan said he grew up watching the “old guard” XTERRA pros and feels honoured to toe the line with the legends.

“I’ve been pre-riding the course the last couple days with Ben and Jacqui Allen and it’s brought back a whole load of memories,” he explained. “I grew up watching Ben have some epic battles here and as a kid who knew nothing about triathlon and was just at XTERRA Rotorua to support my Dad, these guys like Ben made the sport look so attractive.  It’ll be special to line up beside one of the good guys of the sport who I’ve idolized since day one.”

As for who he thinks the favourites should be, Ryan says “it’s Sam, Hayden, Ben and Olly Shaw. Olly (also from Rotorua) is always a player here, and they’re all phenomenal athletes.  In terms of the actual race, everyone knows it’s going to be a fast swim. Ben and Sam have proven themselves as some of the best fish in the sea. Going out onto the new bike course, the race dynamic will be a little bit different to previous years and I think it’ll make for an exciting showdown. There’s going to be plenty of opportunities to put moves in over different sections of the course. There’s no obvious make or break sector so I think we’re just going to have to wait and see what happens. For myself, I’ve got certain sections of trail that seem to have a nice flow about them which should make for some good fun come Saturday. My actual goals are completely different to previous races, as I’m really going into it totally relaxed. It’ll be my first time lining up as a pro, so I just want to enjoy the moment and embrace the atmosphere.”

Other elite men on the line include XTERRA veteran Alex Roberts from Taupo and Rodney Bell from Australia.

In the women’s race, Jacqui Slack from Great Britain will be gunning for her third Rotorua crown (she also won in 2012).

“It’s awesome to be back here in Rotorua,” said Slack, who also won XTERRA Tahiti and finished 2nd on the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour last year.  “The weather is being kind and the trails are dry and fast. I’m feeling great and training has been going well so I’m ready to kick off the Asia-Pacific Tour. As always, there will be some solid competition from the Kiwi ladies making sure it’s a close race along with our Aussie lass Penny Slater.”

Of note amongst those Kiwi, ladies is Hannah Wells, who was second to Slack here last year, and Kristy Jennings, the reigning 35-39 XTERRA World Champion who will be making her debut in the elite field on Saturday should injuries she suffered in a bike crash last week subside.

“I’m going to ride the mountain bike course to see how I feel and will make the call then,” said Jennings, who also has XTERRA Danao, Tahiti, and Albay on her docket this season.  “It’s a 50/50 chance of racing right now which is super disappointing, but we’ll see.”

Other female elites on the line include Aussie Leela Hancox, who finished fourth at the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship race in Malaysia last year, and Laura Mira from Brazil, who was fourth in the XTERRA Pan Am Pro Series last season.

XTERRA New Zealand is the first of four races on the 2018 XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour, which heads to the Philippines for the one-day Asia-Pacific Championship race in Danao on April 22, follows with XTERRA Tahiti in Moorea on May 11, and wraps up in Albay (Philippines) on June 17.

XTERRA NEW ZEALAND ALL-TIME ELITE WINNERS
Year Men Women
2003 Sam Mallard Evelyn Willamson
2004 Hamish Carter Sonia Foote
2005 Hamish Carter Sonia Foote
2006 Hamish Carter Gina Ferguson
2007 Tim Wilding Gina Ferguson
2008 Terenzo Bozzone Sonia Foote
2009 Richard Ussher Nicola Leary
2010 Scott Thorne Nicola Leary
2011 Richard Ussher Karen Hanlen
2012 Ben Allen Jacqui Slack
2013 Ben Allen Renata Bucher
2014 Conrad Stoltz Barbara Riveros
2015 Braden Currie Suzie Snyder
2016 Braden Currie Lizzie Orchard
2017 Sam Osborne Jacquie Allen

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