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2021 Challenge Family season kicks off in Wanaka

Racing is happening in New Zealand despite the COVID-19 pandemic

Photo by: Neil Kerr and Integrity Homes Challange Wanaka

While here in Canada it looks like regular racing is a long way off, the triathlon season is underway in New Zealand, despite a COVID-19 scare that almost forced race organizers to cancel Challenge Wanaka on the weekend.

Even though Auckland, the country’s largest city, is 1,500 km away, an outbreak there forced the government to lock down parts of the country, and organizers waited anxiously on Wednesday night to find out if their region would be locked down or not. In the end they weren’t, so the 800 competitors in the half-distance race at the second-oldest Challenge Family series were able to compete. The entire field was made up of New Zealand residents because of travel restrictions due to the pandemic.

Hannah Wells takes the women’s pro title at Challenge Wanaka. Photo: Neil Kerr and Integrity Homes Challange Wanaka

Hannah Wells took the women’s race, as she did two years ago, with swim-leader Rebecca Clarke finishing 10-minutes back. Kyle Smith continued his winning streak after taking big wins in Rotorua and Mount Marnanui over Braden Currie. It was close though – Smith led off the bike by over four minutes, but by the finish line Currie had clawed his way to just 13-seconds back. Due to the travel restrictions there were four men and women who competed in the pro race.

Kyle Smith took his third big win of the season by just 13 seconds.

Results from the race can be found here.

Read more: Destination race – Challenge Wanaka

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The Challenge Wanaka event takes place on New Zealand’s South Island and is routinely ranked as one of the most spectacular triathlon events in the world – the photos below certainly seem to confirm that view.

The pro women hit the water. Photo: Neil Kerr and Integrity Homes Challange Wanaka
Photo: Neil Kerr and Integrity Homes Challange Wanaka
Photo: Neil Kerr and Integrity Homes Challange Wanaka
Photo: Neil Kerr and Integrity Homes Challange Wanaka
Braden Currie on the bike. Photo: Sean Beale and Integrity Homes Challange Wanaka
There was no touching Wells once she made it to solid ground. Photo: Neil Kerr and Integrity Homes Challange Wanaka
Smith held on for a 13-second win. Photo: Sean Beale and Integrity Homes Challange Wanaka