For the seventh time in ITU history, the elites head to the coastal city on the North Island of New Zealand for the 2017 New Plymouth ITU Triathlon World Cup. As the third stop on the World Cup calendar, the Kiwi city will host the second sprint distance race of the year. Both the women’s and men’s start lists are coming loaded with talent as reigning champions and eager rising stars are all slated to compete in the hopes of joining the New Plymouth record books.
Topping the women’s field for New Plymouth will be the Kiwi herself, Andrea Hewitt. Hewitt comes in to race in her first World Cup event of the season as the current leader in the ITU rankings after she won gold in the debut World Triathlon Series race in Abu Dhabi. The sprint dash at the finish line that gave her the victory was her first competition win since 2013. Last year in New Plymouth Hewitt earned the silver medal, a feat she accomplished in 2014 as well. However, she has yet to take home the title hosted in her home nation, but if she performs on Sunday the way she performed in Abu Dhabi, there is a large chance that will change.
Hewitt has some stiff competition to overcome thought if she wants to snag the World Cup honour. The U.S. is coming stacked with top talent in the hopes of continuing their streak of winning the New Plymouth crown for the fourth year in a row. In 2014, Katie Zaferes started the winning streak for the USA when she was victorious in New Zealand, which also happens to be the last World Cup race that she competed in, so she will be returning to take back the title. Three other strong Americans are in contention to win this Sunday: Sarah True, Kirsten Kasper and Summer Cook. New Plymouth in 2014 was the last World Cup event True has competed in, and despite her successes on the WTS podium, she has never won a World Cup race in her career, so this weekend could be the time to change that fact. But then there are the young guns from the U.S. that have been making headlines. Kasper earned her first WC win in Salinas last year and will be hungry for more, while Cook captured four WC podiums last year and is on the hunt for her first of 2017.
Japan’s Ai Ueda also comes into New Plymouth near the top of the women’s start list. Ueda earned the bronze medal in the WC opening race of the season in Cape Town. Known as one of the most consistent athletes across all three disciplines, Ueda also has the reputation for racing many competitions throughout the year, so not only does she show up on race day ready to put up a strong performance, she also shows up a lot!
Rachel Klamer (NED) has been a rising star in the making over the past couple seasons. Her strength in the water has been consistently putting her among the leaders on the bike pack and setting her up for a solid run. She has been just off the podium for fourth place in her first two races of the season in the Cape Town WC and WTS Abu Dhabi, so she is searching for her first podium of 2017.
Other names to look out for this Sunday is Mexico’s Claudia Rivas, Italy’s Alice Betto and Vendula Frintova (CZE). Rivas found herself on the Mooloolaba WC podium this season after earning the bronze medal. Betto showcased a really strong performance in WTS Abu Dhabi with a breakthrough swim and bike, so she proved she can keep up with the leaders. While Frintova is always a steadily consistent competitor in the field, eager to get on her first WC podium since 2015.
The men of South Africa will be topping the start list for the men’s race. Continuing to make the headlines, Richard Murray and Henri Schoeman are paving the way as one of the top nations in the field. Murray is returning to New Plymouth as the reigning Champion for the past two years. In 2015, New Plymouth was where he won his first-career World Cup gold and then he went back in 2016 and won it again. This year he will be going for the three-peat, so all eyes will be on him to see if he can succeed. If Murray continues with the momentum that he has been building for himself so far this season, he won the Cape Town WC and was crowned the inaugural Super League Triathlon Champion, it will be easy for him to grab another crown.
Schoeman is also eager to get back onto the podium. He earned the silver medal in Cape Town, but has not won a WC race since 2014 in Tongyeong. And while he still continues to be one of the fastest swimmers in the field, he is wanting to prove this year that he is also as big of a threat on the bike and run as he is in the water.
Mexico’s Crisanto Grajales is a name that has been rising to the top in the last couple of seasons. While he has made his way onto a couple of WC and WTS podiums over the past years, he has not seen the top of the WC podium since 2012. His strength is on his run, so if he makes it among the lead bike pack he is going to be a real threat once his feet hit the pavement.
The hometown favourite will be honoured by Kiwi Ryan Sissons. He is the New Zealand national champion and last year in New Plymouth he just missed his chance on the podium by finishing fourth. While he has seen a WC podium before, he has yet to win one, so what better chance than this weekend to grab a first-time victory amongst a home crowd? While a Kiwi on the rise is Daniel Hoy, he earned the silver medal in the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympic Games. He did well at the Junior World Championships last year in Cozumel and he is ready to start climbing the elite ladder.
The U.S. is bringing a list of men that are working as hard as they can to put USA on the map for men’s triathlon. Greg Billington has put forth some standout performances in his last couple of races by hanging with the best of them in the swim and lead bike packs. Kevin McDowell, Matthew Mcelroy, Eric Lagerstrom and Ben Kanute have also all had WC success by making podiums, so it will just come down to who can be the first one from the nation to get a medal in 2017.
Another viable podium contender is Joao Silva (POR). While he hasn’t seen the top of the WC podium since 2010, he has stepped foot on some in the past couple of years, his last medal being earned just last year in Miyazaki.
Full Men’s Start List
The women will get the 2017 New Plymouth ITU Triathlon World Cup underway at 11:00 on Sunday, April 02, while the men will follow at 13:00 local time. Follow all of the action with live timing at triathlon.org/live and on twitter @triathlonlive.