One of the USA's leading professional triathletes, Jesse Thomas, has confirmed his place in the already significant men's pro field for Challenge Wanaka 2018. He will take on three former champions, Kiwis Dougal Allan, Dylan McNeice and Braden Currie on their home turf, as well as international contenders Luke McKenzie (AUS) and Luke Bell ((AUS).
One of the few triathletes to outrun current world record holder, Jan Frodeno, Thomas has an impressive resume with multiple full and half distance wins, including six consecutive victories at Wildflower Triathlon in the USA.
Challenge Wanaka's beautiful but tough course will suit Thomas, something that influenced his decision to race at the New Zealand event.
"I've built my career on racing tough, beautiful, bucket list races, and Challenge Wanaka is one of those on every triathlete's bucket list. The scenery and course are right up my alley, not to mention all the great things you hear about Challenge Family productions. I can't wait to check it out and race for my first time in New Zealand," he said.
Thomas's first victory is one that has gone down in triathlon folklore. In 2011, as a 31 year old rookie triathlete, he entered the Wildflower Triathlon in the pro division, as a complete unknown. He borrowed a bike (since his was broken) and an aero helmet (which he didn’t own) and wore $9 aviator sunglasses he bought at a drugstore. As the race unfolded and Thomas climbed the ranks in his unsponsored uniform, many spectators thought he was an amateur who’d got lost on the course! He ended up winning the race, astounding everyone including the announcer, who announced when he crossed the finish line, “And here he is, our Men’s Champion!” Then, while holding the microphone to the side, he whispered to Thomas, “Dude, what’s your name?”!
Challenge Wanaka is New Zealand’s largest triathlon festival with over 2,500 participants of all ages and abilities from around the world. Internationally recognised as the “World’s Most Scenic Triathlon” it features both half (1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21km run) and full (3.8km swim, 180km bike, 42.2km run) distance events for individuals and teams plus the Aquabike (3km swim, 120km bike). In addition, over 900 youngsters aged between five and 11 compete in the Puzzling World Junior Challenge Wanaka on Friday 16 February. The new Mitre 10 Secondary Schools event on Thursday 15 February, also doubles as the Otago Secondary School Triathlon Championships.
Challenge Wanaka takes place on Saturday 17 February 2018. For further information and entries, visit www.challenge-wanaka.com.
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