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Murray, Zafares defend New Plymouth ITU World Cup titles

new plymouth 2017 - world cup

NEW PLYMOUTH ITU, NEW ZEALAND –  The South African and American dominance in New Plymouth continued today, a three-peat for Richard Murray, his third consecutive win, and Katie Zafares scored her second following a win in 2014.

Richard Murray commanding at New Plymouth ITU World Cup

South African Richard Murray delivered another commanding performance to claim his third consecutive title at the New Plymouth ITU World Cup.

It’s been a good start to the year for Murray after a fifth place at the WTS Abu Dhabi event, a win in the new sprint racing on Hamilton Island, and now a convincing win over a credentialed field in a less than perfect race execution.

“I ran in my trainers today because my ankle was a bit sore, a heavier shoe, I’d never put them on before and I spent bout 10-12 sec trying to pull them on and watching everyone run away, not generally what I do in transition, usually I’m quick, but I was a bit slow today.”

In a fast finish for second it was Matthew McElroy (USA) who just got over the top of local favourite Ryan Sissons (NZL) to round out the podium in the seventh edition of the New Plymouth World Cup.

In wet conditions it was still at full throttle speed from the gun but it was Shachar Sagiv (ISR), Trent Thorpe (NZL) and World Champion Henri Schoeman (RSA) who lead out of the swim, and headed up the charge at the front of the bike that contained eight, including Murray.

The chase group was hovering not far behind, the field strung out in the soggy conditions. Sissons was not content to sit back, he took charge at the front of the chase group and eventually bridged the gap.

Murray made sure he remained near the front on the bike to avoid trouble in the slippery conditions.

“It was the wettest one yet, I pulled my glass on a whole bunch of times but then took then off because I couldn’t see. There was a lot of spray, the guys road really well today, Henri and myself tried to get away right before the end of the bike, and said I can’t let this one go.”

As they came into the final changeover it was Ben Kanute (USA) that was the slickest and out onto the run, but Matthew Sharp (CAN), Furuya Jumpei (JPN), McElroy, Luke Willian (AUS) and Sissons out after him in quick succession.

However, it didn’t take Murray long to make up the 12sec lost in transition and surge to the front as the chase was reduced to six.

In the final kilometres it was evident that this would be a three-peat for Murray. But the battle for the other medals was unfolding.

“I think at the start of the day if you’d said that, I’d say no not possible, I think I was the last guy running into the swim I think, was being bit cautious.”

Track star McElroy had to bring his best foot race today and he did that, just edging out the crowd favourite Sissons.

Katie Zaferes continues New Plymouth ITU Domination
Katie Zaferes (USA) has continued the American domination at the New Plymouth World Cup on Sunday, winning the event for a second time, her first in 2014, and the fourth consecutive by the US women.

Canadian Joanna Brown stormed home to take her first World Cup podium, and the silver medal from Belgium’s Claire Michel who put herself in the mix the whole day over the Sprint distance format.

Zaferes was in the lead group out of the swim, remained alert and out of trouble in the tricky conditions on the bike with her compatriots Taylor Spivey, Kristen Kasper, Sarah True, Chelsea Burns and Summer Cook.

“Everyone was pushing from the very beginning, it was a constant really strong ride all the way through for me. It was great practice, I don’t tend to do well on tactics or technically on the course.”

“It was one of my goals to stay in the right place, I was really happy with how I executed it.”

Zaferes was in the lead group out of the non-wetsuit swim, which was key for the 2016 Olympian, however it was fellow American Cook that lead out from Nicole Van Der Kaay (NZL), Alice Betto, Kasper and Yuko Takahashi (JPN).

“I love wetsuit swims but also enjoy the cold, I find that to be a strength, so it gave me some confidence knowing it would be a bit chilly and it’s not the perfect condition, I kind of do better in that,” said Zaferes.

The drizzling rain ensured bike-handling skills were crucial on this technical course but the women didn’t hold back.

In the early stages of the 20-kilometre bike there was just 10 seconds that separated the top 20 women, Spivey and Claire Michel (BEL) were doing a far bit of the work up front with True.

Initially local favourite Andrew Hewitt (NZL) was just 12 seconds off the pace but fell way back to the eventual chase group 2+mins behind. It was clear they were not going to bridge the gap today and the medals would come from the front group.

On the bell lap there was still no holding back for the leaders and coming into T2 it was a group of 20 contenders but Takahashi was first onto the run course.

On the first of three laps the group was whittled away to just 8 with Michel surging to the front and Kasper, Cook, Brown, Takahashi, Rachel Klamer (NED) and Zaferes in contact. Brown had given herself a goal today and that was to be on the podium.

“The whole last part of the run I was just telling myself I had to get on the podium so I could get on the podium to do the interview.”

In the final stages Zafares made an error taking a slight wrong turn and the American had to work hard to reconnect with the group.

But she knows how to win on this course and not afraid of the what’s happening around her. She certainly kept her focus in those final stages to secure her second win at New Plymouth.

“I like to compete scared, I don’t know what it going on behind me I like to pretend everybody is there, keeps me constantly going forward.”

“My last world cup race was here and there’s were I won, so it was pretty cool to come back.”

Brown was delighted with her first World Cup podium and return to form after a long few years in the wilderness.

image credit: ScottieT

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