Laurent Vidal steals the Tony Dodds Show and his Money at the Contact Triathlon Series

Wanaka turned on a stunning day as thousands lined the lakefront and the bars and restaurants to watch world class triathlon in the latest round of the Contact Tri Series but to their dismay it was a Frenchman who stole the day and took the money from local hope Tony Dodds.

Laurent Vidal showed his undoubted world class ability in running away from Dodds and Kris Gemmell on the last of three laps around the tight sprint circuit, with his ears ringing to a ‘Doddsy, Doddsy’ chant as the home fans urged their hero on to greater heights. It was all in good spirit however as the partner to New Zealand star Andrea Hewitt admitted post race that he was ‘49% Kiwi and 51% French’ to the delight of the huge crowd.

Vidal, Dodds, Gemmell and young Gore up and comer Aaran Barclay broke away on the bike, establishing a lead of 38 seconds by the end of the fast and furious 20km. One of the pre race favourites Ryan Sissons was in the second group and despite a great surge, the gap was too big to close and the Aucklander had to make do with fourth place while defending champion Martin van Barneveld paid the price for a poor swim and was never in the race despite cycling and running strongly.

Vidal was delighted with his win, one that secured him double the prize money with Tony Dodds and his supporters putting the extra two thousand dollars up to challenge all-comers in his own backyard.

“Yes I am taking some of Tony’s cash but this was all part of the day,” said a slightly embarrassed Vidal to the large crowd at the finish line. “I am very pleased, I wasn’t going to enter this race as I have a little injury, a pulled muscle and I wasn’t sure for today but it has worked out well. What a race though, and what a crowd, awesome.

“The other guys raced really well, Tony especially and of course Kris and young Barclay, he is a star for the future for sure, what a bike ride he had. So today is a great day and a great event, it is my first race in the South Island and I think it is already better than Takapuna (another Contact Tri Series event) so perhaps there is a challenge between the two cities.”

Dodds was equally delighted with the day and the support from the huge crowd.

“This has been fantastic, I just couldn’t get there but Laurent ran a great race. When I came around through the start finish the second time on the run and heard the crowd chanting my name, it sent shivers up my spine and I thought, ‘I’ve got this, I’m going to go now, surge and I can win this and suddenly this Frenchman sprints past me and I thought, maybe not today!

“But I just want to thank the crowd for coming out and my supporters and family who have helped me with this idea and of course to the other guys for showing up and racing. It is a good start to the season for me, just not the win I was after.

If the men’s race was a thriller, the women’s was a one lady show with Wanaka local Nicky Samuels slamming the door shut on her opponents early in the bike. Penny Hayes (Southland) led out of the water and established a 30 second lead on Samuels with the rest of the field strung out behind this pair. Samuels though powered to the lead and was never threatened; she too was delighted with her days work.

“That was a fabulous day and great race in front of some great supporters, many of them competing in the Challenge race tomorrow which is all the more amazing that they are out here today supporting everyone and cheering me on, I couldn’t think of a better place to race.

“Today I felt really good off the bike and held my cadence well on the run. I am still in a big block of bike training so haven’t even started serious running yet but today was all about staying focused, even when you are way ahead.”

Sophie Corbidge rode and then ran superbly into second place, a great result for the 19 year old member of the Tri NZ Development Squad.

“I think I got everything right today, I have been out for a long time with injury and Whangamata was my first standard distance race and I came here knowing I could smash it as I am faster over the shorter distance. I felt fantastic on the run and it is awesome to be back fit again.”

Maddy Brunton finished third with Hayes not heading out on to the run, a pre-race plan due to the management of an injury at the moment but it was a strong swim and bike from the promising young triathletes nonetheless.

Contact Tri Series

750m Swim, 20km bike, 5km run
Elite Men
1 Laurent Vidal France 53:15
2 Tony Dodds Wanaka 53:31
3 Kris Gemmell Palm North 53:47
4 Ryan Sissons Auckland 53:48
5 James Elvery Christchurch 54:45

Elite Women
1 Nicky Samuels Wanaka 59:39
2 Sophie Corbidge Auckland 1:03:14
3 Maddy Brunton Waikato 1:04:17
4 Tanya Dromgool Queenstown 1:04:33
5 Janine Simpson Tauranga 1:05:34