Nicole van der Kaay earns first World Cup gold in season opener in New Zealand
A moody morning welcomed 54 women onto the black sand of Ngamotu Beach, to line up in the first World Triathlon Cup of the year in New Plymouth, New Zealand. 2023 World Triathlon Cup New Plymouth included a stacked international field, valuable Olympic points on the line and a sprint distance race format.
Australia’s ocean swim specialist Emma Jeffcoat, New Zealand’s Nicole van der Kaay and Ainsley Thorpe made their way out in front, to the buoy, to lead the women through the opening portion of the race.
Following the swim was a sizeable run to transition for the athletes and Jeffcoat, van der Kaay, Thorpe, New Zealand’s Hannah Knighton, Australia’s Sophie Linn and Mexico’s Rosa Maria Tapia Vidal led the athletes out of the Tasman sea. Yuka Sato and Olivia Thornbury had brilliant swims to exit the water in eighth and ninth place. Seconds separated the next group of athletes out of the swim as they rushed to remove their wetsuits and make their way onto the bike course. Linn and Jeffcoat were the first women on the bike course, in and around the streets of New Plymouth, both Australian women are known for their bike power on the world circuit.
2016 Rio Olympic champion Gwen Jorgensen was out of the water in 37th place and went out onto the course with a large pack of athletes, 33 seconds down on the front women alongside Claire Michel of Belgium.
Linn, Jeffcoat, van der Kaay, Knighton, Thorpe, Thornbury, Vidal and USAs Erika Ackerlund were driving the front group, across a course that is known for its twists, turns and technical elements.
A chase pack, 50 metres back, was working hard to bridge the gap to the leaders but the front group was working well together to apply the pressure and maintain a solid lead. Australia’s Kira Hedgeland was doing a lot of work at the front of this group.
At this stage, there were 30 women within 18 seconds of each other. Michel and Jorgensen did a lot of work on the first lap to move up closer to leaders. Australia’s Jaz Hedgeland was a further 10 seconds back leading another group of women around the course.
On the final lap on the bike, the front group applied pressure to the field and the likes of Jorgensen were riding 40 seconds down on the leaders. The front group had organised themselves down to 17 athletes, led by Norway’s Solveig Lovseth and van der Kaay.
Ackerlund, wearing number one today, was the first woman to dismount alongside Van der Kaay, Thorpe, New Zealand’s Brea Roderick, Jeffcoat, Linn and Thornbury headed out on the run course together. Kira Hedgeland and Spain’s Noelia Juan were among the first group onto the 5km hard and fast run course.
Strong form coupled with home crowd motivation pushed Van der Kaay to run away with the lead. Thorpe and Roderick were chasing hard, in an attempt to make it a New Zealand podium sweep at the World Triathlon Cup in Taranaki.
Jorgensen was left with work to do, as she entered the final transition of the day, nearly one minute behind Van der Kaay and Thorpe.
On the final stage of the race, van der Kaay looked exceptional and in control as she dominated the run. The New Zealander made her way down the street, sidelined with home crowd support, to sprint down the blue carpet and into the finish chute to take the tape and earn her first World Cup gold medal.
“This race is super special for me. This was actually my first World Cup podium four or five years ago and I haven’t had a World Cup podium since. So to get gold has made it super special. It was a goal of mine to get that gold but I didn’t know how I was coming in against some of the internationals. It’s a great feeling and the home crowd, even better. There was alot of cheering out there for the New Zealanders. First of all, was to get those points and I’ve nailed my first half of the season now it’s just building up to Paris,” said van der Kaay.
Thorpe displayed an outstanding race performance, across all three disciplines, to cross the line and claim the silver medal on home soil.
“I came here today to podium. To podium today and with a silver medal and in New Zealand, which is even more special,” said Thorpe.
An overjoyed Lovseth claimed the best result of her career with a bronze and first medal on the World Cup stage.
“I just didn’t know what to expect. Very happy, very relieved. I felt the pace was controlled, felt quite good. Took some turns, I didn’t really want to break away as it’s sometimes so much harder on your own, just tried to stay quite close to the front and get ready for the run.”
“I spoke to Kristian Blummenfelt a couple of days ago and he told me he got his first podium here in New Plymouth, 8 years ago. He told me I hope they have a Norwegian flag ready for you. I am happy to meet the expectations now,” Lovseth added.
Rio 2016 Olympic champion Jorgensen finished in fourteenth place, in the first race of her comeback to triathlon with the goal of qualifying for USA at the next Olympic Games in Paris.
Athletes will continue their campaigns to earn points at the next races on the World Triathlon calendar, in the Olympic qualification window to Paris 2024.
Watch the 2023 World Triathlon Cup New Plymouth race on-demand over on TriathlonLive.tv
Review the full race results online.
Sprint distance stars preview 2023 World Triathlon Cup New Plymouth04:31 - 25 Mar, 2023