New Zealand’s leading male triathlete Ryan Sissons is setting his sights on a podium finish at the Quality Hotel Plymouth International Triathlon World Cup at Port Taranaki on Sunday, 2 April, and can’t wait to race on a course that he knows and enjoys.
Sissons will line up in the elite men’s race over the sprint distance (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run) that is dubbed ‘Sprint by the Mountain’.
“I always love racing in New Plymouth, it's great to have a high-profile race on home turf and especially on a great course and well run event. I would love to get onto the podium after finishing a close fourth last year,” he said.
Sissons is a fan of the course, one that provides a tough test of the competitors and their ability to handle a variety of conditions on the day, with the swim in the ocean off Ngamotu Beach and a bike course that can sap the legs with each climb out of the Port Taranaki venue.
“I like the course, it's an honest swim bike and run. A beach start always makes for a tough start to a race, then a tough bike course with a flattish run, you couldn't ask for much more really! Let's just hope we get a sunny Taranaki day.”
It is a race that enjoys great support from the Taranaki community too, with large crowds in attendance at Ngamotu Beach and around the bike and run course at Port Taranaki that includes some great viewing areas, in particular around the transition and finish line area at Ngamotu Beach.
Sissons also remembers the tribute paid last year to the late Laurent Vidal, fiancée and coach to Andrea Hewitt, but also coach to Sissons. New Plymouth was one of the first ITU races held after the passing of Vidal and presented a finish line gantry emblazoned with imagery of the Frenchman, who described himself as 49% Kiwi. The Kiwi athlete carries a constant reminder of his former coach and great friend.
“Laurent might be gone but he is most certainly never forgotten, he is in my thoughts every day. I have ‘LV’ on every one of my bikes and during any tough moments it certainly helps looking down and thinking, ‘what would Laurent do?’ The answer of course is that he would keep working and keep pushing hard, whether in training or racing, and that gets me back on point every time.”
The year after the Rio Olympics is the chance to try a few different things in training and racing, starting in New Plymouth.
“Yeah, it is the time for that for sure, and I am. I've certainly changed a few things and adjusted how I train and I guess we will find out how it's working in the first few races. It may take a while for the body to adapt but we will find out.”
Part of that change saw Sissons take to the track for the New Zealand 5000m national champs a week ago, in which he finished third in a time of 14 minutes 19 seconds, with a blistering final kilometre of 2min 43sec indicating he is in very good early season running form.
New Zealanders on the start list for the Quality Hotel Plymouth International ITU World Cup are:
Men: Tayler Reid (Gisborne), Hayden Wilde (Whakatane), Kyle Smith (Taupo), Daniel Hoy (Auckland), Ryan Sissons (Auckland), Liam Ward (Auckland)
Women: Deborah Lynch (Porirua), Nicole Van Der Kaay (Taupo), Elise Salt (Auckland), Sophie Corbidge (Auckland), Andrea Hewitt (Christchurch), Elizabeth Stannard (Palmerston North).