Preview: Challenge Family’s 2019 begins in Wanaka, New Zealand

Having finished second for the last four editions, can Great Britain's Laura Siddall finally top the podium at Challenge Wanaka on Saturday?

Chief Correspondent
Last updated -

“The world’s most scenic long distance triathlon” this coming Saturday

Can Great Britain’s Laura Siddall finally take the win in New Zealand?!

Regarded around the world for its stunning beauty, Challenge Wanaka on Saturday represents the start of another busy season on racing for the Challenge Family (

Formerly a full-distance event, in 2018 the Pro element of the raced switched to the half – and produced one of the best races of the year; two very close battles in top quality fields which saw Javier Gomez (ESP) and Annabel Luxford (AUS) take hard-earned wins, by margins of just 17 and 11 seconds, respectively.

As announced last year, from this years edition the focus for Age-Group athletes too will be the half distance race, meaning the end of the full – a logical decision really, with the full attracting only around 100 starters last year.

Can Laura do it?

One athlete who loves racing in Wanaka is Great Britain’s Laura Siddall. She has finished second for the last four years –  and of those, her deficit in 2017 (full distance) to Yvonne van Vlerken was just 27 seconds, while last year (half distance), she was just 11 seconds shy of Luxford. With the same progression, she should win by five seconds this year, right?!

Challenge Wanaka 2017
Yvonne van Vlerken and Laura Siddall just 27 seconds apart at Challenge Wanaka 2017

2018 year was a great year for the ‘global’ Brit, with three big full distance wins at IRONMAN New Zealand, defending her title at IRONMAN Australia and the ETU Long Distance Triathlon European Championships at Challenge Madrid. To that she added a host of podium finishes and a second place finish in the Challenge Family Rankings / Bonus Pool for 2018.

You can be sure that she will be more determined than ever to finally stand on the top step of the Wanaka podium, in a country that she loves and has spend a significant amount of time in over recent years.


Who’s racing?

I don’t have a full-listing of Pro entrants at the time of writing, but we do know that Meredith Kessler (USA) – a multiple winner of IRONMAN New Zealand (and many other big races too) – will be racing. A strong swimmer, she’ll surely be out at the front early and will certainly provide a target for the Laura to try and chase down on the bike and run. Laura will have a new bike she’ll be hoping to put to good use on Saturday, and we’ll be taking a much closer look at that soon.

For the men, race favourite will surely be home athlete Braden Currie, who pushed Javier Gomez so close last year. Braden turned the tables on Javier later in 2018 by winning the IRONMAN Asia Pacific Championship, before going on to finish fifth at the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona.

We can expect to see some fireworks on the bike from Andrew Starykowicz (USA), plus the fish-like swimming from three-time Wanaka full-distance winner, Dylan McNiece (NZL) who finished fourth last year.

Events Links:

John Levison
Written by
John Levison
TRI247's Chief Correspondent, John has been involved in triathlon for well over 30 years, 15 of those writing on these pages, whilst he can also be found commentating for events across the UK.
Discover more
ROUVY routes and workouts – Best ROUVY routes to get ready for Challenge Roth
Sumarpo vanguard vs Zone 3 Vanquish X triathlon wetsuits
ZONE3 Vanquish X wetsuit vs Sumarpo Vanguard wetsuit – how do these triathlon wetsuits match up?
Challenge Family Roth
Five things you need to know about the Challenge Roth bike course
Triathlete riding a time trial bike wearing a Ryzon tri suit
Tri suit buying guide: how to find your perfect tri suit
Riixo Recovery contrast therapy compression calf sleeves
What is contrast therapy? How to use heat and ice to recover from training and racing
latest News
Lionel Sanders took his sixth title at IRONMAN 70.3 Mont-Tremblant.
Triathlon superstar Lionel Sanders reveals ‘Porta Potty or puke’ struggle during rough day at Mont-Tremblant
Taylor Knibb - T100 San Francisco 2024 bike
Olympic Games: USA Cycling confirms triathlon superstar Taylor Knibb’s spot for time trial event at Paris 2024
Hannah Moore World Triathlon Para Series Swansea 2024 / WTPS Swansea
World Triathlon Para Series Swansea 2024: Moore, Ellis and Cashmore strike gold in Wales
Kristian Blummenfelt Olympic Games Triathlon Tokyo 2021
Olympic Games triathlon: Defending champion Kristian Blummenfelt taking training ‘risks’ to prepare for ‘Big Dance’ at Paris 2024
Lionel Sanders took his sixth title at IRONMAN 70.3 Mont-Tremblant.
Lionel Sanders CONFIRMS his next race AND his return to competing at the Ironman triathlon distance
triathlon on your terms
Never miss out with our triathlon alerts & digest. Get a dose of adventure & inspiration with Boundless.
Invalid email address
The SBRX Group

Proudly elevating endurance sports through content, products & services

Share to...