Osborne, Kennedy win XTERRA Wellington
Sam Osborne from New Zealand and Maeve Kennedy from Australia captured the third annual XTERRA Wellington Festival off-road triathlon elite titles at Queen Elizabeth Park on the Kapiti Coast of New Zealand on Saturday, February 25, 2023.
It’s the 15th career XTERRA World Tour win for Osborne, and the second for Kennedy, who won her first title at this same race two years ago.
In the women’s elite race Kennedy got the early lead out of the water just ahead of Samantha Kingsford and Lizzie Orchard, and was first to hit the mountain bike course but the group stayed in contact nearly the whole ride.
“I pushed hard at the start but with the strong headwind they reeled me in around the 2km mark,” said Kennedy. “Samantha took the lead up the first part of the single trail until I overtook her on an uphill section. I managed a 300m gap at one point but by the top of the climb Samantha and Lizzy had caught up and we took the first downhill together.”
The descents are where things got interesting for the pack, explained Kennedy.
“At the first river crossing I managed to find the largest boulder and ended up fully submerged while clipped in,” she laughed. “Lizzie, certainly a candidate for nicest athlete of all time, asked if I was okay, and I was. Samantha led out the next climb and I spent 8km trying to make up the gap and caught them just before the final descent, and then had another crash that cost Lizzie and I 30-seconds on Samantha at the final downhill stretch into the bike-to-run transition.”
Kingsford turned in the fastest bike split of the day in 1:39:47 and was in front for the first 5km of the run before Kennedy and Orchard came back.
“Samantha was flying out of T2 on the run,” said Kennedy. “Lizzie and I exited together, and I could see Sam ahead and was determined to catch up. Broke across at the 5km mark, and was able to pull away from there.”
Kennedy posted the fastest run split of the day in 42:14 and crossed the line with a winning time of 2:23:10, 35-seconds ahead of Orchard in second with Kingsford another minute back in third.
“Was super cool as Sam, Maeve, and I exited the water close to each other and pretty much rode the whole bike course together,” said Orchard. “Full respect to Maeve for extending a 35-second lead into the tape. The post race setup was true kiwi style with a big tent, great band playing, and food trucks. Was also awesome to catch-up with Kate Bramley and look forward to meeting all these fast women again in 2 weeks time at XTERRA Rotorua.”
In the men’s race Osborne got out front early, posted the fastest bike and run times, and crossed the line in 2:05:58, nearly four-minutes ahead of 2018 XTERRA Pan American Tour Champ Kieran McPherson.
“Got one on the board early, which is always nice,” said Osborne. “A pretty typical windy Wellington day here. Swimming is always tough with the currents but I knew I had to make the most of it to get a gap. On the bike, I put my head down and just went for it. It’s a 7km climb straight out the gates on the bike so plenty of hurt at the start and after the half Ironman last weekend I wasn’t sure how my legs were going to pull up on the run so was hoping to have the job half done coming off the bike.”
XTERRA Wellington was the first of six stops on the 2023 XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour. For elites, there are five prize paying races in the region, highlighted by the $25,000USD on offer at the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship in Taiwan, which will host the first of seven stops on the all-new XTERRA World Cup where elites will go head to head for their share of $340,000 in prize money.
Up next, XTERRA Rotorua on March 11, 2023.
All-time XTERRA Wellington Festival Elite Champions
2023 - Sam Osborne/Maeve Kennedy
2021 – Kyle Smith/Maeve Kennedy
2020 – Ryan Sissons/Kate Bramley
Action photos above courtesy ATPhoto
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