Team Australia storm home with gold in the Mixed Relay Series in Napier

By Olalla Cernuda | 25 Feb, 2024

Team Australia (Callum McClusky-Emma-Jeffcoat-Brandon Copeland-Sophie Linn) is back on the podium after securing gold in the 2024 World Triathlon Mixed Relay Series Napier. Portugal delivers a stunning team set-up (Ricardo Batista-Melanie Santos-Vasco Vilaca-Maria Tomé) to earn silver and valuable points for Paris 2024 and Team Italy (Nicola Azzano-Ilaria Zane-Alessio Crociani-Sharon Spimi ) claiming bronze with a thrilling show.

Eight teams lined up at the Auriri Beach, in Napier, to kick off the Mixed Relay season and it was the home crowds favourite, Dylan McCullough, who enjoyed the benefit of hitting the first transition on the lead, running out of the beach together with Samuel Dickinson (GBR) and Alberto Gonzalez Garcia (ESP). The trio managed to open a small break with the rest of the field, with Australia’s Collum McClusky had a challenging swim that saw him last out of the water and quite a lot of work to do to catch up. By the time the leaders finished the 5km bike course they had 33 seconds over the chase group, lead by Ricardo Batista (POR). And that was the order in which the second team members were tagged.

McCullough tagged Ainsley Thorpe in first place, with Olivia Mathias almost ten seconds behind. But the Brit had another magnificent swim to catch the Kiwi and decided that she was not going to leave it there. Mathias put her head down on the bike to open a breakaway that will give her a 26 seconds lead over Thorpe, while behind them Zsanett Kuttor-Bragmayer moved Team Hungary on the fight for the podium positions, with Spain, Australia and Italy close behind.

Mathias even increased her lead on the 1.7km run to tagg Hugo Milner on the lead, half a minute ahead of Bragmayer, Cecilia Santamaria (ESP) and Thorpe. Milner managed to keep the distance with the chasers after the swim, and headed the first transition with Mathias shouting to him “stay calm, push hard and don’t panic”, but the young Brit found it hard to manage a 5km solo bike ride. Even harder if behind you you have Vasco Vilaca (POR), with fresh legs as he did not compete on the World Cup yesterday.

Vilaca delivered a masterclass of bike-run efforts, and not only manage to catch the chase group but also lead them to regroup with Milner right before hitting the second transition. With their shoes on, Vilaca decided to go for it, on the chase of key Olympic ranking points to try to qualify Team Portugal for the Games, and delivered the fastest leg split of the day to tag Maria Tome (POR) in the first place. Rebeca Beti (ITA), Sophie Linn (AUS) and Brea Roderick (NZL) were right behind her on the swim, and almost together the four of them hit the first transition, with Sophie Alden (GBR) trying to catch up some time with them.

The leading four navigated the bike together, trying to save a bit of energy for the last run, and the second the four women hit the last transition, things moved pretty fast. Roderick had a smooth transition and left the blue carpet with a few seconds of advantage over the other three, but quickly Linn and Tome showed that they are amongst the fastest runners at the moment.

A last push in the final meters saw Linn heading the finish line by herself, ready to claim the second gold medal of the weekend. “These guys set it up for me, for the perfect day. The race blew apart, but they put it back and set it up for me to be in the perfect position. I couldn’t ask for more from my teammates, more from the crowds, they were all fantastic”, said Linn after crossing the finish line. “It’s been a dream weekend for team Australia. Sophie (Linn) and me taking gold yesterday and then with the team today. It couldn’t have gone any better. I was last out of the water but I had a good transition and I was about fifth onto the bike and missed that breakaway which was a bit disappointing but luckily the race came back together, thanks to the rest of the team and we were able to get the win”, recapped McClusky. Also delighted was Emma Jeffcoat, back on a podium after a rough couple of years with injuries. “That was terrific. It’s been a long time since I have been in a relay team so to stand alongside these three is an honour and to be back wearing the green and gold, I am stoked,” she said. Also delighted was Copeland: “That was unreal. Racing in New Zealand feels like home for us. These guys all did their job so well, I am so privileged to be part of team Australia. It’s been a rough couple of years but hopefully we’re starting 2024 with a bang.”

Portugal was absolutely delighted with the silver medal on the day, that puts the team on a great position on the hunt for Olympic Qualification Team rankings. “This was the main goal at the beginning of the season, to really try and get the team higher up on the ranking. We were fighting for a top five but in the end being able to fight for the podium with this team was amazing, I couldn’t be happier with the second place. I started the swim and kind of got dropped a little bit and I knew I had a few seconds to catch up to the front group on the bike. Then on the bike and just gave it all I had to try and catch up. Just by the end I caught up and when I got onto the run, it was time to sprint. I was happy to give it in first place to Maria (Tome), she finished it in an amazing way with the second place,” said Vilaca, who flew all the way to New Zealand just to help the team on the Relay.

Team Italy was also incredibly happy with their performance. Ilaria Zane said: “It was great because we showed that the team can do great and we had a super performance from Alessio today. He had the eye of the tiger today. He really believed in the medal and to deliver a great performance. I can say the same about the others from the gun to the very last moment of the race. Today I am really proud of the team. We were aiming to do the best of possible, of course getting a podium is great points in the bank.”

Brea Roderick crossed the finish line in fourth place, while Alden had Team GB rounding the top five.



Related Event: 2024 World Triathlon Mixed Relay Series Napier
25 Feb, 2024 • event pageall results
Results: Mixed Relay
1. Team I Australia AUS 01:13:36
2. Team I Portugal POR 01:13:44
3. Team I Italy ITA 01:13:57
4. Team I New Zealand NZL 01:14:07
5. Team I Great Britain GBR 01:14:59
6. Team I Hungary HUN 01:15:12
7. Team I Spain ESP 01:16:09
8. Team I Switzerland SUI 01:18:07