Kyle Smith and Els Visser Take Wins at Challenge Wanaka

Two convincing victories were earned today at Challenge Wanaka by Kyle Smith (NZL) and Els Visser (NED) as they took the first Challenge Family titles of 2024. Smith led from the start with a lead that never looked under threat, taking the win in 3:53:08 while Visser showed her domination on the bike, giving her a comfortable lead into the testing Wanaka run, crossing the line in 4:34:46.

Visser showcased her resilience and determination as she claimed victory in impressive fashion. Overcoming the disappointment of her second-place finish last year, she had unfinished business. Rebecca Clarke (NZL) came out of the water first with a swim time of 24:27, followed just over a minute later by Aleisha Wesley (NZL). Visser then followed in fifth, but was nearly 4:30 minutes behind and she had Britain’s Laura Siddall directly on her feet.

On the bike, Clarke and Wesley initially got together, but the main focus was on Visser, who did not ride quietly, but rather raced to the front of the race and made up her deficit at an almost dizzying pace. After thirty kilometers, there was already less than a minute of her deficit left, and on the climb out of the Red Bridge at around 60km, Visser made here move and took the lead. Clarke was still following close behind, but Wesley had already been dropped and not much later Clarke also had to let the Dutchwoman go. Once back in T2, Visser’s lead appeared to have grown quickly, as Clarke followed at 2:03 minutes, Wesley at 5:25 minutes and Siddall, then fourth, at 9:47 minutes.

Visser’s comfortable lead meant she was never under threat on the testing Challenge Wanaka trail run, crossing the finish line in 4:34:46. Clarke secured the second position with a time of 4:43:29, while Siddall ran up into third in 4:44:22.

Visser said “New Zealand is an incredibly country and has a special place in my heart so to take the win is very special’. Today’s race was an emotional win as she dedicated it to her friend and acclaimed Brazilian Triathlete Luisa Baptisa who has a long road to recovery after a severe accident.

Smith demonstrated sheer dominance from start to finishHe exited the water first in 23:08 minutes followed just under a minute later by Mike Phillips (NZL), Benjamin Zorgnotti (FPY), Valentino Agnelli (ARG), Jack Moody (NZL) and Nick Thompson (AUS). That lead quickly grew, however, when Smith began to push watts on the bike. For almost the entire 90km on the bike, Smith managed to build his lead until he came back in T2 with a 2:30 lead over Phillips. Behind the two fastest man, it was a huge battlefield as defending champion Moody and Zorgnotti returned in third and fourth, respectively, but by then were nearly nine minutes behind already.

During the tough trail run that includes two tough climbs, it quickly became apparent that Smith no longer had to worry: at the halfway point, his lead over Phillips had already grown to five minutes and in the meantime Moody, who was still trailing by more than eight minutes, barely managed to get any closer.

In the end, Smith finished the race and took victory in 3:53:08. Phillips finished second in 3:58:11 and Moody third in 4:00:21.

Smith’s commanding performance showcased his prowess as he navigated the challenging course, leaving his competitors trailing behind. “It was one of those magical days, you don’t get many in your career. It was probably my best in three years – a complete performance.”

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