Australia’s Luke Willian added individual Gold to the Mixed Relay victory he gained in Abu Dhabi with victory on Sunday at the New Plymouth ITU Triathlon World Cup in New Zealand.
Willian’s fastest run split of the day (14:31) allowed him to enjoy the blue carpet and an, in triathlon terms, comfortable winning margin of six seconds over Justus Nieschlag (GER) who just got the better of a sprint to the line with home athlete Sam Ward. That’s two World Cup Bronze medals for Ward in two weeks, who after finishing 12th in the 2018 World Triathlon Series rankings and sixth this year in Abu Dhabi, you can expect to hear much more from over the next few years.
The return of Javier Gomez
It was a solid return to draft-legal racing for the five-time ITU World Champion, Javier Gomez. While Sprint distance racing is not his preferred format, fifth is a respectable return. If you dig a little deeper and note that he had almost the slowest T2 of the race thanks to missing his spot in transition, an early season 14:38 run suggests we’ll be seeing a lot more from the legendary Spaniard later in the year, notably over his preferred Olympic distance format.
Check out the highlights from TriathlonLIVE (www.TriathlonLIVE.tv) here.
Here is the full race recap courtesy of the ITU Media team.
Luke Willian wins the battle in New Plymouth
The coastal city of New Plymouth welcomed a field of 67 elite men onto the start line at Ngamotu Beach. The field was stacked with Olympians, Commonwealth Games representatives, sprint specialists and triathlon royalty, Javier Gomez from Spain. The five-time world champion making his comeback to the ITU circuit with the race here in New Plymouth today.
The water was whipped with a slight chop for the 750m ocean swim which was followed by a 20km technical bike course and 5km run, taking in the scenic roads of Taranaki. The non-wetsuit rule favoured the swimmers and it was no surprise to see Slovakia’s Richard Varga establish an early lead in the choppy conditions. New Zealand’s Sam Ward set his race up with a fantastic swim, to follow Varga into the first transition of the day. Russell White from Ireland and New Zealand’s Tayler Reid were quick into transition with the front group, to make their way onto the bike course.
The famous Spaniard, Gomez, came out of the swim just off the back of the leaders and exited transition with the chase group with some work to do.
The lead group of four men, including Varga, Ward, Italy’s Gianluca Pozzatti and Reid, established themselves early out on the bike course with a gap of 7-seconds on the chase group.
The chase group, including Jomez and New Zealand’s Ryan Sissons, were extremely motivated to close the gap on the leaders.
As the athletes rode their way across the course, the two lead groups formed into one to settle in across the technical and hilly bike course. Gomez safely made his way across to the main group with his bike strength, proving his experience in the field. As he established himself in the group, the Spaniard attempted to break away from the field and charged up the steep hill. This move put notice on the field on notice, the battle was on and the pace increased hard off the hill.
The event hub welcomed a freight train of chaos as the elite men entered their second transition before making their way out onto the 5km run. Australia’s Luke Willian pushed the pace early on the run with New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde and Germany’s Valentin Wernz trying to hold on to the renowned Australian’s stride.
Wernz, bronze medallist in the 2019 Mooloolaba ITU Triathlon World Cup, didn’t quite have the leg power and came unstuck from the front runners. Germany’s Justus Nieschlag and Ward moved through into the leading charge. With Gomez hot on their heels in fifth spot on course, the men were running scared.
On the final lap of the run the Australian was out on his own and as he hit the blue carpet he began to celebrate the success of victory. Willian produced a dominant display and was awarded with the gold medal in a classy field of men.
“Had a good swim today, we rode really well and made sure I was at the front into transition. We know it’s a technical course so it was really important to get out in front. I started out in front and kept going and didn’t look back. I saw on the first lap that I had a bit of a gap and it kept getting bit bigger every time I checked so there was a lot of confidence there. I saw at the top of the hill that I had it and could really enjoy it and soak it up,” said Willian.
Germany’s Nieschlag crossed the finish line to earn the silver medal. “It was amazing. After fifth place in Cape Town, I am really happy. It was a good fight. Running with Javier (Gomez), is always a pleasure,” said Nieschlag
New Zealand’s Ward, raced proudly with a home crowd advantage, produced a strong race result to earn the bronze medal and was welcomed onto the podium for the second consecutive year.
“It’s amazing. Two years in a row, I was really going for that top step today. I am really happy to be on the podium today. The swim was so choppy, positioning was so important. The bike was a really honest bike course, it showed the pace was on. I knew (Javier) Gomez was close. I was prepared to go with him as long as I could and I managed to do that. The home town support was absolutely amazing, probably the best I have had,” Ward said.
The Spanish Olympian, Javier Gomez, showcased a strong result across the sprint distant format in New Plymouth and is motivated for the season ahead. There is no doubt that his sights are fixed on earning a spot on the Spanish triathlon team to represent at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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Good to do my first ITU race in quite a long time! 5th for me in New Plymouth, after a bad swim, good bike, horrible T2 and a 14.39 solid run. Happy with my fitness at the moment and looking forward to the next phase of training, with more intensity. Thanks everyone for the support out there, it was a lot of fun! / Contento por mi primera carrera ITU en bastante tiempo. Quinto en New Plymouth, después de una mala natación, buena bici en un circuito duro, horrorosa T2 y unos sólidos 14.39 corriendo. Contento con el estado de forma actual y con ganas de afrontar la siguiente fase de entrenamientos con más intensidad. Gracias a todos por el apoyo, fue una carrera divertida!
“It was fun, it was a really good course, especially on the bike. I really enjoyed it. I made a few mistakes. I went too far in T2 and had to turn around and had to put my bike in and lose a few seconds, which made me start a little too hard on the run. I just didn’t have much left on the last lap. It’s ok, it’s quite early for me in the season. It was a good racing experience again and hopefully I get better for the next ones. I love this race, the crowd is always spectacular. This course is even better than the old one,” said Gomez.
New Plymouth ITU Triathlon World Cup, New Zealand, Sunday 31st March 2019
750m / 20km / 5km
1st – Luke Willian (AUS) – 56:04
2nd – Justus Nieschlag (GER) – 56:10
3rd – Sam Ward (NZL) – 56:10
4th – Hayden Wilde (NZL) – 56:15
5th – Javier Gomez Noya (ESP) – 56:17
6th – Valentin Wernz (GER) – 56:24
7th – Andrea Salvisburg (SUI) – 56:28
8th – Brandon Copeland (AUS) – 56:28
9th – Ryan Sissons (NZL) – 56:29
10th – Stefan Zachäus (LUX) – 56:36
19th – Russell White (IRL) – 57:09
35th – Benjamin Shaw (IRL) – 58:57
46th – Constantine Doherty (IRL) – 1:00:15