Kyle Smith and Maeve Kennedy won the men’s and women’s elite races at the XTERRA World Tour off-road triathlon season-opener in Wellington, New Zealand on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021.
It’s the first big XTERRA win for both triathletes.
The race combined a 1K swim with a 31K mountain bike and 10K trail run and XTERRA Asia-Pacific marketing director J-D Cousens described the venue as “Really quite spectacular, the scenery with the rolling hills and high-up forests is something to behold.”
In the men’s race Smith opened up a 30-second gap over two-time XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour Champion Sam Osborne coming out of the choppy waters off Queen Elizabeth Park on the Kapiti Coast.
“I wanted to swim as hard as I could to try and get some time on Sam before he unleashed his talent on the mountain bike,” said Smith, who finished the 1K swim in 13:46.
Osborne was indeed quick to rally and caught Smith 3K into the bike and the two surged back-and-forth to the top of the climb together.
“He reeled me in at the start of the bike and we rode together, and I was preparing for an imminent attack from him up the climb, but he unfortunately got a puncture and left us both wondering what could have been,” said Smith, who defeated former XTERRA Asia-Pacific Champion Braden Currie just a few weeks ago at the Tauranga Half.
For Osborne, who won more World Tour races (6) than anyone during the 2019 season, the flat tire was severe enough to knock him out of contention.
“It was a side wall cut to my rear tire, and like everyone knows they are rather fatal,” explained Osborne. “I wasted a gas canister trying to find the hole. Rolled all my plugs together & had a go at plugging it but no luck. I started riding it out until Kieran McPherson came through & dropped me a tube, which was enough to see me finish the ride. Disappointing way to start the year, especially with the battle that it was shaping up to be, but so glad to be back racing what we love.”
Up at the front Smith rode away with the day’s best bike split (1:13:38) and ran comfortably to take the tape in 2:05:01, more than six-minutes ahead of McPherson in second. Osborne posted the fastest run split of the day (33:59) to round out the podium.
“This race was epic, XTERRA Wellington really put on a stunning race,” said Smith. “I got onto the run and felt really good and enjoyed running along the coast, and was honored to take my first ever XTERRA win. I can’t wait for another race with Sam, hopefully at XTERRA Rotorua on April 10.”
In the women’s race Kennedy, an Aussie living and training in New Zealand, led from wire-to-wire with the fastest swim, bike, and run times to finish in 2:29:23, roughly five-minutes ahead of runner-up Samantha Kingsford.
“The day went really well for me,” said Kennedy. “I’ve been consistent with my training up to the race and felt good all day. It was an honor racing with some of XTERRA’s best athletes, and I look forward to racing again in Rotorua where I’m sure Samantha will be a real contender again.”
Kingsford, who won three races and the XTERRA Pan Am Tour title in 2019, acknowledged a little rust coming off a year of no racing.
“It just wasn’t my day today,” she said. “From the gun I felt like my body couldn’t get out of gear one which was frustrating, especially when it was so exciting to be back on the start line. I felt pretty flat and on a course like this one you can’t afford to not be on you game. Still, awesome to see Maeve, who’s fairly new to XTERRA, pick up her first win and for sure we’ll have some exciting racing come XTERRA Rotorua.”
XTERRA Wellington Festival Elite Results
Pl – Name - Finish - Swim / Bike / Run
1 - Kyle Smith - 2:05:01 - 13:46 / 1:13:38 / 36:37
2 - Kieran McPherson - 2:11:28 - 16:06 / 1:17:41 / 36:44
3 - Sam Osborne - 2:16:59 - 14:17 / 1:27:52 / 33:59
1 - Maeve Kennedy - 2:29:23 - 16:12 / 1:28:01 / 43:29
2 - Samantha Kingsford - 2:34:39 - 16:13 / 1:32:09 / 44:57
XTERRA Wellington Festival Past Elite Champions
2021 – Kyle Smith/Maeve Kennedy
2020 – Ryan Sissons/Kate Bramley
The 2021 XTERRA World Championship Qualifying Series schedule features 40 events in 21 countries from February through October, offering adventure and opportunity for athletes looking to challenge themselves and secure a spot on the start line for the 25th XTERRA World Championship in Maui.
Find a complete list of upcoming XTERRA events here.