She was struggling with illness, and only got her lost bag back from the airline two hours before the start of the race, but University of Cape Town (UCT) star triathlete Hayley Preen proudly flew the flag for South Africa and finished fifth in the highly-contested U23 women’s cross triathlon in Pontevedra, Spain, this week.
Preen was selected to represent the country at the International Triathlon Union (ITU) Cross Triathlon World Championships, held on 30 April, and notched up an excellent time of 02:17:59 after a 1 km swim, 30 km mountain-bike ride and 7 km off-road run.
She recorded the second-fastest run in the event, finishing just three seconds off the time clocked by Switzerland’s Loanne Duvoisin, who was also the overall winner of the triathlon.
“I am very happy with my result, especially since I’ve been struggling with illness for the past three weeks or so. The four days before the event were also extremely stressful because my bag was lost and I only got it back two hours before the race,” the second-year engineering student in the Faculty of Engineering & the Built Environment (EBE) said from Spain.
Of the race itself, Preen said she didn’t have a good swim, but things improved significantly from there.
Competing with the best
“I passed a few people in the [bike leg] and at the start of the run I was sixth U23 but caught fifth place fairly quickly. I really enjoyed the run,” she said.
“It was such an honour to be able to represent South Africa and to race in the green trisuit in a world championship.”
Preen was competing with top athletes from around the globe.
“[With the event] being in Europe, it’s very accessible for most of the best in the world. The U23 lady that I passed in the run recently won the XTERRA Asia-Pacific championships, which she has won for the past two years.”
Most of all, it was “such an honour to be able to represent South Africa and to race in the green trisuit in a world championship”, she added.
Next up for Preen is the XTERRA World Championships in Maui, Hawaii in October, after an impressive qualifying win at the South African leg of the tournament in February. She triumphed over her female counterparts in the SA Full race in Grabouw, which comprised a 1.5 km swim, 28 km mountain-bike ride and 12.5 km trail run.
The win automatically qualified her for the global race – billed as the “world’s premier off-road triathlon” – in Kapalua, on Maui’s north-west coast.
Red Hill Road Race
Meanwhile, closer to home, two of Preen’s UCT teammates were on the podium at the WP Road Racing League’s Red Hill Road Race on 14 April. Courteney Webb and Saskia van der Merwe took on the major climb, fast downhills and deceptive flats of this second South Peninsula race to take first and third places respectively in the Elite Ladiesʼ division.
Megan Anley, head of the UCT Cycling Club’s marketing portfolio, said this first targeted race of the year for the university’s cycling first-team women’s squad saw seasoned competitors Webb, Van der Merwe and Simone Faulmann joined by Cristina Heywood and Anna Stelzner, who were making their debut for the team.
“Webb put in an attack to shake the ladies [on Red Hill] and continued to hold a strong pace up the climb,” she said, adding that Webb tackled the hill alone on the second round, pacing herself to the finish to take the win.
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