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Olympic triathlon hopeful Hayden Wilde put on a dominant display to win the senior men’s title at the New Zealand Cross-country Challenge at Chisholm Links on Saturday.
The Waikato-Bay of Plenty runner clocked an impressive time of 31min 43.27sec to win the event by over a minute.
It had been set to be the national championships, but was renamed challenge after Covid-19 alert levels prevented Aucklanders attending.
Wilde went out fast to open an early gap.
That gap never closed.
Meanwhile, a chasing pack essentially began its own race for the other two medals.
That included Waikato-Bay of Plenty silver medallist Sam Tanner (32min 53.00sec) and Otago bronze medallist Oli Chignell (33min 00.64sec).
While they may have initially hoped Wilde’s fast start would not last, it had the opposite effect.
The triathlete tore away, making the gap bigger with every lap to claim the title.
"The plan for me was just to build my laps," Wilde (22) said.
"The first one was supposed to be my set-off pace, then just ascend throughout the race. So hard, harder, hardest, then have a tempo to regroup and go as hard as I could at the end.
"That’s what I did at the Bay of Plenty champs and executed it well today.”
Despite that, he had not expected to win by such a margin.
"Not at all. There’s such talent here with Oli and Sam and all sorts of guys. I didn’t expect to be that dominant.
"I really wanted to push it hard from probably the second lap. I wasn’t expecting to get that gap. I think the boys looked around and no-one wanted to go.
"So it is what it is, but I really enjoyed racing here today."
It was Chignell first race in eight months, after he spent time off with a stress fracture injury late last year.
The 2018 national champion was happy with the run, although said it had been tough at times.
He was full of praise for Wilde’s classy performance and admitted it reached a point where the pack was racing for second.
His performance also helped Otago claim bronze in the team event .
Caden Shields (fifth), Janus Staufenberg (11th) and Josh Baan (16th) all contributed towards that performance.
Canterbury’s top four place-getters of Oska Baynes, Christopher Dryden, Connor Melton and Saxon Morgan gave it the win.
WBOP, led by Wilde and Tanner, claimed silver.
Plenty of Otago athletes secured medals in the age-grades as well.
Queenstown featured well in the under-14 grade, Jude Deaker and Dylan Collins winning silver and bronze in the boys race and Siena Mackley claiming bronze in the girls.
Zara Geddes took silver in the under-16 girls, while Hannah Prosser took bronze in the under-18 girls.
The masters races were littered with Otago medallists.
Kristy Eyles, Shireen Crumpton, Christine Montgomery and Myrtle Rough all won gold.
Amanda Waldrom, Julie Edmunds, Sue Cuthbert, Phil Napper and Blair Martin secured silver.
Michelle Watt, Georgina Pakeho, Claire Gillies, Phillip Morris, Glen Chisholm, Andrew Lonie and Geoff Anderson all took bronze.