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Rising stars Wells and Wilde headline Taupo 70.3 - Ironman NZ

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Rising New Zealand stars Hannah Wells and 2019 ITU sensation Hayden Wilde line up as the ones to watch at this weekend’s IRONMAN 70.3 Taupō, as both look to cement their fast-growing reputations in the sport.

Wells is at a fascinating point in her fledgling career, as she puts her career in medical research on hold to go fulltime as a professional athlete and is looking for back to back victories this Saturday, following an impressive win at IRONMAN 70.3 Western Sydney on November 24.

Almost everything is new ground for Wells and racing again so quickly will be a new experience for the 29-year-old.

"The legs are feeling pretty good. I don’t have a lot of race experience really and therefore have never actually raced two 70.3s this close together, so it will be interesting to see how the body responds on race day. I feel very fit though and my recovery from hard training sessions has been a lot quicker than this, so I think I should be fine."

Wells surprised herself in Sydney by emerging out of the water alongside renowned swimmer Rebecca Clarke (NZL) and with both lining up in Taupō, she would love a repeat but is warning that may not be the case!

"It could work out like Western Sydney with Bec racing again, although you never know how a race will unfold. Bec's will always be one of fastest - if not the fastest in the water, being an incredible open water swimmer, so I will try and get to her hip again and just stay there as long as possible. Don’t be surprised if you see me having to chase down on the bike though!"

Wells will face opposition from the likes of Clarke and fellow Kiwis Laura Wood, Melanie Burke and Julia Grant, along with a host of Australians making the trip to Taupō ahead of the event hosting the IRONMAN 70.3 World Champs in 2020. Included in that lineup are youngsters Grace Thek and Holly Kahn, with vastly experienced Felicity Sheedy-Ryan also one to watch.

Meantime Hayden Wilde is looking to end a stunning season in which the 22-year-old year old has set the ITU racing scene alight with his front running aggressive tactics. Known on the circuit as ‘The Falcon’, unlike Wells, Wilde is not yet qualified for the 2020 IRONMAN 70.3 Taupō World Championship, and while Tokyo is the primary goal, he would love to knock that off on Saturday.

"For me I really want to qualify for the World Championship next year and I’m just lucky enough that’s in my home town where I was born and also that being so late in the year it’s a perfect opportunity to try and qualify without it impacting my big picture goals for 2020, especially looking at Tokyo Olympics as the big one!

"I have been at home getting some well needed rest and recovery, catching up with friends and family. It’s been awesome just to get home and put stuff in your drawers after living in a suitcase for half a year. I have mostly just been mountain biking around the Redwoods and just doing stuff I really enjoy."

Whakatane born Wilde has enjoyed a fantastic season, ending the year ranked 14 in the world, capped by a stunning bronze medal at the ITU World Triathlon Tokyo test event in August.

"For me it was a breakthrough season we had goals and targets for the year which we successfully ticked off plus other events that for me as a person overachieved in my view of it it’s been a fantastic year and I can’t wait to finish it in with my first 70.3 this week in Taupō."

Wilde has enjoyed success in almost every event he has taken on, whether it was being the youngest ever to win the 2-day Coast to Coast, taking out age group world championship titles in XTERRA racing, or his more recent strong form on the ITU circuit. It is little surprise then that he takes confidence into Saturday and has coped fine with the extra training miles to add a little more endurance.

"Yeah I think so, a few extra miles haven’t hurt me at all. I am looking forward to the challenge and I think 70.3 is getting faster and faster and more ITU athletes are racing, so it’s quite exciting stuff and I can’t wait."

Wilde concedes he may have to tone down his front running tactics however over the longer distance.

"My race tactics are normally gas from the start, so my coach and I have a plan to take it easy, race wisely and do enough to try and take out the title. But it’s easier said than done with some fantastic quality out there, and also you have to respect the distance."

Wilde will not have things his own way, far from it, as he is up against a raft of quality young New Zealanders and Australians, foremost of them being Max Neumann. Unlike Wilde, the 24-year-old has already booked his spot at the 2020 70.3 World Championship, so can race with a little more freedom on Saturday.

"My main objective for racing is to get a bit of course recon as I believe the course we race on will be very similar if not exactly the same course used for next year’s World Champs.

Neumann has already shown himself to be a versatile athlete, with success of a great variety of distances, but he is on the record as making next year’s 70.3 World Champs in Taupō as a primary goal.

"I do enjoy all forms of the sport and while I can race well at both ITU and 70.3 distances, I will continue to do so. They complement each other and the training is very similar making it quite easy to switch between both. Next year the 70.3 World Championships in Taupō will be a big goal of mine."

Neumann is well aware of not just the danger that Wilde will pose, but the style of racing and impact he will have on the race.

"Having Hayden in the race will for sure make it exciting and I very much look forward to racing him over this distance. On this out and back one lap course in Taupō I think the bike will play a crucial role in deciding the results. Hayden has shown he has one of the strongest bike-run combos on the ITU circuit and I guess we will have to wait till Saturday to see if he's got what it takes over this distance."

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