Birth of a sport
The new sport of Winter Triathlon officially got underway in New Zealand with the inaugural ITU World Cup Winter Triathlon held at the Snow Farm this morning (Sat 2 September NZ Time).
Winter triathlon consists of running, mountain biking and cross-country skiing all on groomed snow. The small but notable field included athletes from New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Europe.
Event Director Tracey Neil, says that just as in the early days of summer triathlon, competitors came from a variety of sporting backgrounds.
It must be remembered that this is a totally new sport so the field was notable for who was there rather than who wasnt. We definitely had the two best in the Southern Hemisphere, she says.
Mens winner Nat Anglem is one of our best cross country skiers, and runner up Cameron Morton competed at this years Winter Olympics as a Biathlete for Australia. Canadian Antonie Arcard was third.
Geoff Small, New Zealands greatest alpine skier was there, as well as former French national kayak champion and adventure racer Eric Billoud.
Multisporter Murray Thomas qualified to represent New Zealand at the World Championships to be held in Italy in March 2007 and so too did his former Eco-Challenge team mate, Geoff Matthews. Both are previous winners of the Southern Traverse and Geoff Matthews will be the first Triathlete to represent New Zealand at both Summer and Winter Triathlon World Championships.
Top Canadian cross country skier Karen Messenger was the first woman, followed by Dunedins Natalie Corby.
Tracey Neil says the event was held in near blizzard conditions with severe wind chill and combined with the soft spring snow, it made the event extremely tough for competitors.
The action up front was hot however with Cameron Morton leading from the gun and taking a 26 second lead into the run, only to see Nat Anglem pass him on the cycle and eventually pull away.
I couldnt match him on the downhills, says Cameron Morton, but we seem pretty even on the up hills.
After losing nearly 5 minutes on the bike Cameron had the fastest ski split but his late charge wasnt enough to reel in New Zealands best.
Tracey Neil says the pace shown by the two leaders in such difficult conditions won the admiration of the crowd and the officials.
These guys were really going for it, it was sensational competition, she says.
It was a great start for the sport in New Zealand and all of us there both officials and competitors can only see the sport getting stronger.
Tracey Neil says Winter Triathlon is a sport that also suits New Zealands strength type athletes.
I have no doubt that we will one day see New Zealanders on the Olympic podium in Winter Triathlon, just as we have seen gold and silver in Summer Triathlon.