You could be forgiven for confusing the name Laura Siddall as a professional on the female long course circuit after finishing second overall at the recent Honolulu 70.3 to seasoned professional Belinda Granger. In reality Laura is an age grouper juggling a demanding career as a qualified chartered mechanical engineer. After making the move from Nottinghamshire/Yorkshire in the UK in 2008 to pursue her career, it was here in Australia that Laura discovered triathlon and hasn’t looked back since. To date her focus has been on short course events, with two age group world titles in both the sprint and Olympic distances (Beijing 2011 and Auckland 2012 respectively).
Prior to attending university Laura spent a year as a Second Lieutenant in REME, in the British Army, based with an artillery Regiment in Germany. A self-confessed sport junky, Laura’s idols include her own sister, a Commonwealth medal holder in the English Netball team, her coach Spot Anderson (a champion athlete in his own right), Chrissie Wellington and a number of other highly driven and successful Olympians. To Laura, it is the high work ethic and dedication displayed by these athletes that inspires her, giving you an insight into how she achieves at such a high level across two demanding domains.
We spoke to Laura to see what makes her tick and her plans for the future.
Trizone: Hi Laura, thanks for joining us on Trizone and congrats on your recent result at Honolulu 70.3 – first overall age grouper and 2nd overall female â€“ can you tell us a little about this performance?
Laura Siddall: Thanks. It was a fantastic race. The whole event was really well organised and such good fun. I think because the race was in Hawai’i it was a bit like being on holiday. In fact in the days leading up to the race I was so relaxed (ok well relatively) I kept forgetting I had to race!
As for the result itself, I was obviously really pleased. I guess deep down I’d hoped to win and wanted to win but until you cross the finish line, I don’t think you can really take it for granted or believe it. I still feel so new to the sport and I’m still learning all the time, that every race is a bit of an unknown.
I really enjoyed the race though, and that was one of the goals. It’s such a fantastic location and course, with the challenge of the climb up to Hawi and the winds, as well as the Hawiian heat on the undulating run around the golf course.
The swim was in the stunning setting of Hapuna Beach. There were so many fish and even the odd turtle about, it was easy to forget you were racing. I was wearing a new Huub speed suit which was great. The bike was great too. I felt really comfortable and in control and loved every minute of it. I have to say thanks as well to the team at Shotz for the help with my nutrition plan. I think this was a real boost knowing that I had this structured (apart from when I managed to drop my gels at the start of the run â€“ a big learning here and I’m keen to see how I go when I don’t mess this bit up!)
I don’t think it really sank in when I crossed the finish line. I was 4th female outright to actually cross the line and that was a pretty good feeling as well as knowing I was the first female age grouper to finish. I felt really good at the finish, which was either just the high from racing or the caffeine in my system! However at the same time I was disappointed with certain elements of my race so I always find it’s a whole mix of emotions. Elation for the win and finishing, relief that I achieved what I’d dreamt about and envisioned, and that training is going in the right direction, but also a little disappointment or frustration for various aspects of my race and a question or knowing of â€˜could I have done better’?
Trizone: Does a result like this make you wonder how you would have fared in the pro wave, or are you content on focussing on your own races and performances?
Laura Siddall: Whenever I race, I focus on my own race and performance and making sure I execute to the best of my ability. You can only control yourself in the race, so I focus on the controllable. However, having said that, yes, it is hard not to wonder afterwards how I would have fared. I think to an extent that’s human nature. I think I have to be pretty realistic about it too though. On paper I may have been second, but I started in a different wave. If I was racing shoulder to shoulder who knows what would have happened and the outcome could have been completely different.
TZ: You have a couple of age group world championship victories to your name, including in Auckland 2012 (Olympic distance) and Beijing 2011 (Sprint). Do you have a preference towards the shorter distance, or do you plan on racing longer in the future?
Laura: I love the short distance, and these have been great as a learning and start for me into the sport of Triathlon, but my plan is to race longer going forward. My swim isn’t as fast as I would like and I feel this is key to the shorter distance races, particularly at the elite level. I’m excited about moving up to the longer distance though. It’s daunting but I’m looking forward to the challenge and learning how to race and be competitive over that distance. (I’m also not getting any younger and so the longer races I think will suit me better.)
TZ: Any desire to step up to the pro ranks? Is there anything specific you’re aiming towards or working at before taking this step?
Laura: Yes for sure, I’d love to step up and see what I can do. I love the sport, the training and the racing so why not make the leap and compete with the other girls in the Pro ranks. I want to see how fast I can go.
At the moment I have to sort out things like visa and work, if I’m going to do this I want to try and do it properly (well as much as I can whilst still surviving). I aim to race at Las Vegas and London as an Age Grouper and then will hopefully step up after that.
TZ: You moved to Australia and discovered Triathlon in 2008 â€“ can you tell us a little bit about this and how it’s changed your life?
Laura: Changed my life…?? It is my life! Ha ha! As you said I’m a self confessed Tri Geek come Sports junky!
As a youngster I’ve always been involved in sport. I pretty much played every sport I could at school, before focusing more on Netball and Athletics (400m hurdles and then 800m). When I moved to Australia, I didn’t really find a athletics group I gelled with, and after a few lunch time swims with colleagues, and also signing up for the Sydney to Wollongong Cycle (before I even owned a bike), Triathlon was suggested as something I try. I found a beginners course run by Bondifit and signed up. Before I knew it I was hooked, and addicted to the Triathlon drug. To be honest it shouldn’t really have surprised me. I’m kind of all or nothing. If I do something or start something I want to see how far I can go and I fully commit to doing that.
TZ: You’re working with Spot Anderson of Bondi Fit for your coaching, do you have any additional coaches or assistance for individual disciplines, or does Spot keep a tight reign on your entire program?
Laura: Spot has an overall view and charge, I guess, of my training and program, but I think over the years we’ve developed this into quite a good partnership or two way relationship, where I can have some input as well. We’ll discuss numbers and types of sessions and I can make my suggestions.
I have a specific coach for my strength and conditioning training (Radley Spring, www.springwellness.com) and this is incorporated into the plan, as well as being supported by Turbo Studio, (www.turbostudio.com.au), and I do a weekly session there, which is awesome.
TZ: On the note of coaching, I see you joined Darren Smith for a D-squad camp in February. What did you take away from this experience?
Laura: The camp in February was fantastic. I loved every minute of it and didn’t want it to end. It was brilliant to be able to get a glimpse of the environment that Darren had created in Canberra and to be able to watch and train alongside his elite squad. He has an incredible attention to detail. He’s constantly watching, analysing, critiquing and providing feedback to his athletes. His hours and commitment to the athletes and the squad is impressive but something that I believe is necessary in demanding the best of the best and something I would want from a coach if at that level. To me it shows they are fully committed and are wholeheartedly interested in the athlete and improving.
I just couldn’t get enough of the experience. It definitely made me realise that, yes I want more of this, and I could actually see myself living in Canberra!! Ha ha! Scary I know!
It’s also about making sure that everything you are doing in training has a purpose and reason that is linked towards performing your best. Don’t just go through the motions of a session to hit a time repeat or rep or to get a session done. It’s remembering to think constantly and focus on your technique and getting the detail right all the time in everything you do. Even when you’re tired make sure your thinking about the little things and focusing.
TZ: Would you ever consider quitting work and training full time? Or do you see value as an athlete in maintaining a level of balance in your life?
Laura: Yep! I would quit work in an instance if I could and train full time! Unfortunately without an income it’s just not sustainable, until Triathlon gets the coverage and following that soccer or AFL does and pays the same! I do think there is something key though in maintaining a level of balance in your life, be that through work or family. There are lots of ways to gain the balance without working (hint hint if anyone would like to fund me full time, I’m in! 😉
I guess it depends on your passion. If you love your work then it doesn’t feel like work. I love training and finding my limits and therefore would happily do this full time.
TZ: How do you find training in a city as large as Sydney? Do you spend much time traveling for training, or are you able to keep everything pretty close to home?
Laura: Sydney is fantastic for training, well it definitely suits me with fitting in training around work. As a city, and maybe it’s just because I’m from the UK originally, it’s amazing to have so many swimming facilities (yes 50m pools) as well as all the beaches on your door step. We are incredible lucky to have Centennial Park as a cycling venue as well as being pretty close to the National Parks (North or South) for those longer rides and hills. I think I’m very fortunate to have all these facilities very close to home and a great group of people based here to train with.
TZ: Do you prefer to train alone or with company, and what do you look for in your training partners?
Laura: Most of my training is in a group and I prefer this. I thrive of the buzz between the group whatever level or ability, it’s the people that make this sport. The group can be great for really pushing you and motivating you, particularly on those days when you may not feel 100%. However some of my training is on my own. This is also good I think (I’m convincing myself now) as it’s more a mental challenge often with these sessions to keep going or to keep pushing yourself. At the end of the day in a race it’s just you and you need to be able to push and maintain your efforts without chasing or having other people around you.
What do I look for in training partners….? People who inspire and motivate me. This doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be fitter, faster and stronger but that they don’t give up and they always give it a go and 100% ++ effort. However I also look for training buddies that do obviously challenge me in speed and strength. People I can chase down, or people who I know are going to push my boundaries and limits and put me in that uncomfortable space.
TZ: Would you mind sharing a favourite training session of yours and why you enjoy it so much?
Breakfast and coffee afterwards?
Hmmm…tricky, the sessions can be so varied it’s hard to pick out a specific one. It can so often depend on how I’m feeling fitness wise and where I am in race preparation as to which sessions I love or hate. I’m not sure I really have a favourite. I really enjoy the sessions at Turbo Studio. I started these in September 2012 and I’m now really starting to see and feel the benefit. I love the fact that it’s just you against the Watts, and ok I’m now contradicting myself as I’ve just said I thrive off a group, but at the Turbo Studio there’s no hiding. You know whatever the weather, traffic or conditions you are going to get a quality work out in and can challenge yourself against the power (Most of the time there are others going through the pain with you, so there’s still the group aspect.).
Before a race, I like doing a run set that involves a series of 1km reps (for example 4-6) at race pace (or faster) off relatively short recovery. These can be done either on the promenade at Bondi Beach (which is about 1km in length) or on the track or even at Centennial Park on rougher terrain. If I’m feeling good and hitting good splits, that gives me confidence.
TZ: Outside of triathlon, is there such a thing? You obviously have a demanding career, do you manage to fit in time for other interests?
Laura: My favourite interest or hobby after triathlon… is the post training coffee and breakfast with everyone! Ha ha! So in terms of life outside of the sport, well I probably don’t really have one if you ask my friends, family and training group. One of the huge benefits of training in a group like Bondifit I think, is that it’s a pretty social group as well. There’s always time for coffee and breakfast after a training session and there’s always something going on at the weekend.
I’m kind of also of the opinion that all those other amazing interests and things to do in life will always be there, my years in triathlon are probably more limited and so why not make the most of that now.
Thanks for your time Laura, we look forward to continuing to watch you climb the ranks in the sport of triathlon, and wish you the very best for the remainder of the 2013 season and beyond.
Thanks and thanks for the support.
Challenge Roma – The First Big European Challenge Event In 2018
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.
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.
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.
Challenge Family Introduces A World Ranking For Pro-athletes
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.
Laura Siddall Looks To Go Back To Back at Ironman Australia
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.
Australia Takes Gold in Commonwealth Games Mixed Relay Triathlon, Gentle Celebrates Big Comeback
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.
XTERRA New Zealand returns to Rotorua for 16th year this Saturday
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|
|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|
Ironman Foundation and Challenged Athletes Foundation Team Up for Junior Seau Adaptive Surf Clinic in Oceanside
The Ironman Foundation will hold its second service project of the 2018 season with an adaptive surf clinic that will include specialized sessions for youth, women and military/adults with physical challenges as part of the Junior Seau Foundation Adaptive Youth Surf Program presented by Challenged Athletes Foundation, taking place on Sunday, April 8, 2018. In addition, the Ironman Foundation will distribute over $33,000 in charitable giveback to non-profit initiatives and groups in the greater Oceanside, California community in conjunction with the 2018 Ironman70.3Oceanside triathlon taking place on Saturday, April 7.
The clinic will host three specialized sessions that will total up to 30 kids, women and military/adults with physical challenges who will spend the morning learning to paddle and surf at Oceanside Pier with the assistance of volunteers including professional and age-group triathletes and coaches. The Junior Seau Foundation Adaptive Surf Program presented by Challenge Athletes Foundation provides the opportunity for participants with physical challenges to learn how to surf, improve their skills and ultimately share in a lifestyle sport that so many in Southern California enjoy, while celebrating the legacy of Junior Seau, the former San Diego Chargers linebacker who lived in Oceanside and surfed regularly.
“We are very grateful to the Junior Seau Foundation, the Ironman Foundation and all the athletes who will come out to help advance our program to teach and develop the next wave of challenged athletes in Adaptive Surfing,” said Virginia Tinley, CAF Executive Director. “This clinic offers everyone that participates in a truly special and life-changing opportunity to make an impact in this community. We are excited to see some of these attendees catch their first waves and stand on their surfboards for the first time.”
The Ironman Foundation Community Fund provides community and volunteer grant opportunities to non-profit organizations where North American Ironman events are held. In 2018, the Ironman Foundation will distribute more than $1.7 million in grant funding to support the needs of Ironman race communities across North America, including a grant program to support organizations with a volunteerism component.
“We are honoured to support so many outstanding local community organizations and for our ongoing partnership with Challenged Athletes Foundation,” said Sarah Hartmann, Acting Executive Director of the Ironman Foundation. “The adaptive surf clinic is an extraordinary opportunity for our athletes to connect with CAF heroes and create a lasting and tangible impact in Oceanside.”
To register for the Ironman Foundation 2018 Junior Seau Foundation Adaptive Surf Clinic presented by Challenged Athletes Foundation as a participant, surf coach or volunteer, please visit www.ironmanfoundation.org/oceanside.