Vicky Holland (GBR) and Kris Gemmell (NZL) were victorious in Wellington, New Zealand today at the Oceania Championships. Gemmell, an Olympian and 4-time World Cup winner, claimed his second straight Oceania Championship. Australian Ashleigh Gentle, the reigning Junior World Champion, was crowned the new women’s Oceania champion as the top Continental finisher.
Elite Men Recap
The glory and the finish tape was all Gemmell’s as he won outright from Aaron Royle (AUS) and Ryan Sissons (NZL), who claimed the U23 title in coming home third overall.
Gemmell was always in control of the race, leading virtually the entire way, making his break for victory well before the finish line and cruising home to the cheers of the large crowd.
“This is important to me, to go back to back as Oceania and New Zealand champion feels great and today and I will be proud to carry both titles with me around the world for the remainder of the year,” said Gemmell.
He praised the work of young Tom Davison (Christchurch) especially as the lead bike group kept the chasers at bay throughout the 40km ride.
“I think there is a bit of evolution this year leading into the Olympics, there are some young Kiwis that are swimming really well knowing that if they can then bike hard they can make some of these runners hurt,” said Gemmell. “I tried to motivate the group as much as I could, we had a couple of really strong guys and Tom was one of them, we never took the foot off the gas and kept committed and eventually broke the chasing bunch.”
Royle was the best of the big Australian contingent in second followed home by Sissons who ran superbly but was left once again to rue a poor swim.
“It was a great field, I knew it was going to make or break in the swim and unfortunately I found myself in the second pack again which is not ideal and makes the race so much harder for me. We tried to catch on the bike but it just didn’t work,” said Sissons. “It’s always that ten seconds but the lead guys want to get away and the chase pack just didn’t work hard enough to close them down. I luckily had an amazing run to finish third and win the Under23s but I know I can run with Gemmell, it’s just a matter of coming off the bike with him or I can’t do much.”
Elite Women Recap
In the women’s race, Gold Group member Holland continued her hot streak in New Zealand. On a blustery but warm Wellington day, breaking away from doughty Czech Republic triathlete Vendula Frintova to win by 8 seconds, backing up her Takapuna victory last month.
“I think I am three from three, it’s not bad down here, I think I like it!” said Holland. “I had a rough start in the swim but it came together and I was in the lead pack on the bike, took a few turns and felt good heading out onto the run feeling like a could run well. I was yo-yoing off the back of Vendula for a few laps but on the last lap when I sensed her dropping off a bit and surged and took the victory.”
Holland did struggle at times with the blustery Southerly, albeit one blowing only gently for the locals lining the course in their thousands.
“The wind was crazy, one second you are hardly moving because it is so strong then you turn a corner and you are down through the gears and the speed is incredible, it was pretty comical really but so long as you are prepared it doesn’t make a difference and is the same for everyone.”
Gentle, the youngster from Australia, ran strongly for third place and the Oceania title. Best of the Kiwis was 20-year old Rebecca Kingsford as she upstaged her more experienced rivals to not only claim the New Zealand National Championship, but also won the Oceania Under23 title in coming home 6th overall.
“I’m over the moon, I didn’t expect to be best Kiwi, Andrea was unfortunate with her mishap but she still ran pretty good and I just didn’t want her to pass me and sprinted at the end so yeah, it was good,” said Kingsford. “I have sorted out a few medical problems from last year and it is all going good, I’m working hard with my coaches and looking forward to a big season.”
The bad luck story of the day though belonged to Gold Group member Andrea Hewitt, the defending champion looked to be in great form and was comfortably in the lead group early on the bike, only to have to stop twice, first to check what appeared to be a puncture and then again a lap later when her rear tire exploded in spectacular fashion. Hewitt lost over three minutes but carried on to finish in 7th thanks to the fourth fastest run split of the day.
“On the first lap I must have got a nail or something in the wheel, I could feel something bumping, I stopped to change the wheel but it was still pumped up so I kept going but on the next lap ‘boom’ it went and I had no choice to but stop and change the wheel. It is a real bummer, I was feeling good and in a good position and then this, it is pretty much the same as crashing, it puts you out of the race really,” said Hewitt.
Not surprisingly given their limited preparation, both Debbie Tanner and Kate McIlroy struggled with the pace on the run. Tanner dropped back to finish 8th and McIlroy calling it a day early on the run, content with a strong hit out on the swim and bike.
Full results can be viewed here.