New Zealand's London bound triathletes have raced brilliantly in Austria, at the latest round of the ITU World Triathlon Series.
Andrea Hewitt led the way in Kitzbuhel, finishing in third place to secure top place on the World Championship rankings, with Nicky Samuels in 6th and Kate McIlroy 8th to also confirm their fitness six weeks out from the London Olympics.
Hewitt raced strongly at the front of the field throughout, duelling for the lead for most of the 10km run until Nicola Spirig (SUI) and Lisa Norden (SWE) pulled away in the closing stages, with Hewitt finding enough sprint just a week after finishing 4th in an ITU World Cup race to hold off Barbara Riveros Diaz (CHI) for third place.
Hewitt was delighted with how she raced today against a solid field.
"This was my last race before London. Last week I felt a bit tired so it was great to come through today feeling fresh and strong,” she said.
"The good thing for me was that I still had running form just a week after my last race, so that shows my training is going really well.
"I'm happy I had a good race and now have over a month to fine-tune everything and prepare for the Olympics.”
Samuels continued her amazing year, one that has included heart and appendix surgery and of course her naming in the team for London, the Wanaka triathlete went up another step in her career path with a strong showing.
"It was a good little tick off as to where preparation is at. I set myself a pretty high goal of finishing top six in Kitzbuhel, and I did that.
"Most pleasing for me was that I had a really good run. I way well back on the first lap of the run, so to run up to 6th gave me some confidence.”
McIlroy too was delighted with her performance, coming off the back of six weeks of hard training in Europe.
"I didn't have the best swim, but got on the bike and worked really hard. It was great to come through the run without any pain in my calf and I actually ran better than I'd expected.
"Nicky and I ran together on the second lap of the run, which was great because we surged off each other. Unfortunately I had to serve a 15 second penalty for not putting my goggles in the box, but I'm still really happy with 8th.
Triathlon New Zealand National Coach Greg Fraine says the team is on track for London, and will now return to their respective bases for the final phase in their training.
"It was a fantastic result today, none of them have tapered for their race in London yet so to finish so solidly means they are all in great form,” he said.
"It was good to see them all come through strongly, and they now have six weeks to keep the momentum going. To have all three in the top 10 was great but it all comes down to a check of where the form is at, and clearly it's heading where it needs to be.”
Of the other Kiwis, London reserve Debbie Tanner finished 17th and young Simone Ackermann gained vital experience in finishing 27th on the tough alpine Kitzbuhel course.
For full results and further information, visit www.triathlon.org
ITU World Triathlon Series
1. Nicola Spirig (SUI) 2:05:37
2. Lisa Norden (SWE) 2:05:40
3. Andrea Hewitt (NZL) 2:05:43
4. Barbara Riveroz Diaz (CHI) 2:05:45
5. Jessica Harrison (FRA) 2:05:57
6. Nicky Samuels (NZL) 2:06:07
7. Sarah Groff (USA) 2:06:20
8. Kate McIlroy (NZL) 2:06:23
9. Anja Dittmer (GER) 2:06:39
10. Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) 2:06:41
17. Debbie Tanner (NZL) 2:07:32
27. Simone Ackermann (NZL) 2:11:4