Super League Triathlon was back in London and Britain’s Olympic heroes and the home crowds were out in force, but it was Kiwi Hayden Wilde who produced a tactical and technical masterclass to take the opening round of the series.
The Kiwi bronze medallist from Tokyo beat France’s Vincent Luis and Britain’s Jonny Brownlee to the tape in the final stage of the Triple Mix after winning the ‘short chute’ early in the contest and using it to full advantage.
As well as Brownlee’s third place, Olympic gold and silver medallist Alex Yee, raised in Brockley in South East London, finished fifth, just behind Portugal’s Vasco Vilaca.
The Triple Mix format was contested over three mini triathlons, each with a 300m swim, 4km bike and 1.6km run, but with the order shuffled for each stage.
It started with a swim, bike and run, was followed by a run, bike, swim and then finished with a bike, swim, run. The time gaps from the first two stages were totted up ahead of a time-trial start format on the final stage – which meant first across the line would be crowned the overall winner.
The first race rewarded athletes emerging first from T1 and T2 with a ‘short chute’ – the chance to legally cut the course on the final stage, which would ultimately prove decisive for Wilde.
New for 2021, the triathletes were also split into five teams – Rhinos, Eagles, Cheetahs, Sharks and Scorpions – with captains including Ironman champions, Tim Don, Chris McCormack and Ronnie Schildknecht, alongside former Olympian Michelle Dillon and world duathlon champion Annie Emmerson.
Unlike the women’s race, all the men with the exception of Vilaca opted to wear a wetsuit for the initial dive into the waters of West India Quay.
After the subsequent bike and run it was Wilde who took a narrow victory, but more importantly he was the first to leave T2 and gain the ‘short chute’ advantage for the final showdown. Yee lost 14sec, which served to put him out of contention for the overall win.
Stage two started with a run and culminated in a swim, with Luis and Brownlee finishing one-two, and the resulting time gaps meaning it was Brownlee and Luis who started the final stage 7sec ahead of Wilde.
The New Zealander then managed to close the gap on the bike, and stay close enough to the pair on the swim so that he could use his short chute advantage on the second lap of the run and secure victory.
“I love this format,” Wilde said. “I’m a really aggressive racer, and this discipline works for some athletes but doesn’t for others. I’m pretty stoked it works for me. It helps me get my confidence up for other racing too. I was really thankful to be scouted by Super League and then carry on to become one of their top athletes.”
Jonny Brownlee was content he’d carried his form forward from the gold medal-winning mixed team relay performance in Tokyo. When talking about the more experienced racers such as Luis and himself, he said:
“There’s a reason why we’re towards the top and that’s because we can perform consistently. In Super League you have to be good at swim, bike and run, but you also have to be really calm under pressure because you are going to make a mistake, have a bad transition, forget something, or become confused about putting your hat on.
“I think the key is having a good start because it calms you down, and it goes from there. If you’re on the back foot it’s hard to get back into it and you’re always rushing and making more mistakes.”