Kirsten Kasper Wins Gold, Matt McElroy Bronze at New Plymouth ITU Triathlon World Cup

By USA Triathlon | March 25, 2018, 1:48 a.m. (ET)

NEW PLYMOUTH, New Zealand — Kirsten Kasper (North Andover, Mass.) continued her strong start to the 2018 season at the New Plymouth ITU Triathlon World Cup on Sunday, claiming the win and earning her second consecutive World Cup podium. On the men’s side, Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.) also earned back-to-back World Cup medals, fighting his way to bronze in a six-man sprint to the finish. 

The third stop on the ITU Triathlon World Cup circuit featured a sprint-distance 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run, starting at Ngamotu Beach and traveling the scenic coastal roads of Taranaki. 

Kasper covered the course in 1 hour, 3 minutes, 20 seconds, becoming the fifth consecutive U.S. woman to win the New Plymouth World Cup (Katie Zaferes in 2014, Kaitlin Donner in 2015, Gwen Jorgensen in 2016, Zaferes again in 2017 and Kasper in 2018). 

Taking silver on home soil was New Zealand’s Nicole Van Der Kaay in 1:03:28, while Belgium’s Claire Michel rounded out the podium in 1:03:37.

Kasper was first out of the water in 10:07, with teammate Summer Cook (Thornton, Colo.) and Australia’s Emma Jeffcoat right on her heels. She joined a hard-charging lead group on the bike, which included Van Der Kaay, Cook, Jeffcoat, Taylor Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.), Chelsea Burns (Seattle, Wash.), New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt and Canada’s Amelie Kretz. The course was technical and slick due to rainy conditions, but Kasper rode near the front and set a fast pace.

“I felt really good today right from the start, so I just knew I had to go hard and give it my all,” said Kasper, who is coming off a silver-medal performance at the Mooloolaba ITU World Cup two weeks ago. “I wasn’t expecting the rain, but we all just rode a little more cautiously — still aggressive, but smart. I was trying to make a breakaway. I knew there were a lot of strong runners in the group, and I wanted to test myself.”    

By the last lap of the bike, Australia’s Gillian Backhouse and New Zealand’s Elise Salt bridged their way up to the leaders. The medals would be decided on the run, as Backhouse, Van Der Kaay, Salt and Kasper were the first four out of transition. 

Kasper and Van Der Kaay, both unrelenting, ran up to the lead and raced shoulder-to-shoulder for the final two laps. Kasper ultimately had the finishing power, breaking the tape with an eight-second margin over Van Der Kaay. Michel came through for the bronze, while Spivey ran her way from ninth at the end of the bike to fourth at the finish to repeat her result here last year. 

Burns was the third U.S. woman across the line, taking 12th. Chelsea Sodaro (Poway, Calif.) and Cook were 20th and 21st respectively. Tamara Gorman (Rapid City, S.D.) completed the U.S. effort with a 23rd-place finish.

In the men’s race, just four seconds separated the top three finishers. Declan Wilson of Australia took the win in 58:20, followed by New Zealand’s Sam Ward in 58:22 for silver and McElroy in 58:24 for bronze. The podium marked McElroy’s second this season, as he also took bronze at the Mooloolaba ITU World Cup on March 10.

Australia’s Tayler Reid led out of the water in 9:41, followed closely by Japan’s Jumpei Furuya, Canada’s Matthew Sharpe and Kevin McDowell (Phoenix, Ariz.). McElroy was 20 seconds back from the top swimmers, but bridged up quickly to join a massive lead pack on the bike. 

Ryan Bailie of Australia broke away on the second lap of the bike, ultimately gaining a 10-second lead heading into transition. He had several strong runners right on his heels though, with Wilson, Ward, McElroy and Canadians Tyler Mislawchuk and Matthew Sharpe all charging hard.

The six frontrunners battled all the way to the finish chute, but it was Wilson, Ward and McElroy who had the legs for the podium. Mislawchuk, Sharpe and Bailie were fourth through sixth, respectively. 

“When it comes down to a sprint, it makes everything exciting,” McElroy said. “I was coming off the bike a little bit cramped, but no excuses. At the end of the day that was a really tough race, and I gave it everything I got.”

McDowell was just back from the medal contenders in seventh, while Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.) took 14th in just the second elite race of his career. Tony Smoragiewicz (Rapid City, S.D.) rounded out the U.S. contingent in 17th.

The top ITU elites compete next at ITU World Triathlon Bermuda, a first-time World Triathlon Series stop, on April 28. The ITU World Cup season then continues in Chengdu, China, from May 5-6.

2018 New Plymouth ITU Triathlon World Cup
750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run
 
Elite Women – Complete Results

1. Kirsten Kasper (North Andover, Mass.), 1:03:20
2. Nicole Van Der Kaay (NZL), 1:03:28
3. Claire Michel (BEL), 1:03:37
 
U.S. Finishers
1. Kirsten Kasper (North Andover, Mass.), 1:03:20
4. Taylor Spivey (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), 1:03:50
12. Chelsea Burns (Seattle, Wash.), 1:04:48
20. Chelsea Sodaro (Poway, Calif.),1:06:56
21. Summer Cook (Thornton, Colo.), 1:07:10
23. Tamara Gorman (Rapid City, S.D.), 1:07:51
 
Elite Men – Complete Results
1. Declan Wilson (AUS), 58:20
2. Sam Ward (NZL), 58:22
3. Matthew McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.), 58:24
 
U.S. Finishers
3. Matthew McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.), 58:24
7. Kevin McDowell (Phoenix, Ariz.), 58:35
14. Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.), 59:28
17. Tony Smoragiewicz (Rapid City, S.D.), 59:42

About USA Triathlon
USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,300 events and connects with more than 400,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work with athletes, coaches, and race directors on the grassroots level, USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the ITU and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).