Race preview: Challenge Family kicks off the season with Challenge Wanak

(Photo: Challenge Wanaka)

A packed weekend of international triathlon is set to kick off the Challenge Family
2023 season in New Zealand this weekend with the seventeenth edition of Challenge Wanaka.

No less than 11 events will take place as part of what’s called the world’s most scenic triathlon
event, culminating in the flagship Middle Distance on Saturday 18 February. The field
features a strong international field of professional athletes, headed by Sebastian
Kienle as he starts his ‘retirement tour’ of bucket list races after a long and
prestigious career. Taking on the powerhouse German are top Australian athletes
Matt Burton, Caleb Noble and Fraser Walsh along with homegrown New Zealand
talent Jack Moody, Mike Phillips and Sam Osborne, plus one to watch, Matt Kerr,
one of the best AG athletes of 2022 who is racing his first pro season in 2023.

In the women’s race, Rebecca Clarke will be wanting to make it two from two after
dominating in the Tauranga Half last month but she has stiff competition from Dutch
athletes Els Visser, and Lotte Wilms, currently ranked 36 and 25 respectively in the
PTO World Rankings, as well as Grace Thek from Australia. All top-placed athletes
will be the first to get points on the board for the 2023 Challenge Family Pro Athlete
World Bonus

On Friday 17 February over 70 elite short course athletes from around the world will
take to the streets of downtown Wānaka for the Oceania Triathlon Cup for an
exciting evening of fast and furious sprint distance racing. New Zealand Olympic
triathletes Tayler Reid, Ainsley Thorpe and Nicole Van Der Kay will toe the start line
along with local hero Janus Staufenberg, top Spanish athlete, David Castro Fajardo,
and Australian Jacob Birtwhistle, straight off his win in Tasmania last weekend. Also
lining up is reigning Challenge Wānaka champion, Kyle Smith, who is returning to
short course racing in a bid to make it to Paris in 2024.