England's Jonathan Brownlee has seen a fair bit of the Taranaki countryside over the last three weeks.
The 23-year-old, who won bronze at the London Olympics in 2012, has been training in Taranaki along with 11 other British triathletes.
Ten raced in the World Cup sprint race in New Plymouth on March 23, with Jodie Stimpson third and Helen Jenkins fourth in the elite women's race and Matthew Sharpe 12th and Grant Sheldon 15th the best in the elite men's race.
Brownlee opted to miss the sprint race over the shorter distance of 750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run.
The reason - a week earlier he had raced in Abu Dhabi.
"It was something completely different for me, a 1500m swim, a 100km bike ride and a 10km run," he said yesterday. "I then came out to New Zealand and I didn't want to race before Auckland."
Auckland is the venue for the opening race in the World Series on Sunday, a standard 1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run.
"Auckland is an important one for me, it's the first of the series and my first triathlon for six months. My training has been going very well but the first race of season is always tough," he said. "I've really enjoyed New Plymouth, we all have. Before racing in Auckland in 2012, we were based in Hamilton. This is much better.
"There's some good cycling here. We've been up to the visitors' centre on the mountain, and the day before the New Plymouth race we rode around the mountain. That was tough going. It's a nice route, especially the bit where you go up to the bush, we call it the jungle . . . very nice."
Brownlee said the big plus was the lack of traffic.
"You have nice quiet roads here, no cars, a bit like back home in Yorkshire. And the weather has been great . . . lots of sun."
The other thing that had made the stay so memorable for the squad was the people.
"The people here are very friendly. The guys at the local bike shop, Mitchell Cycles, have looked after us well. It's been a nice trip, the time has gone so quick. Everyone has looked after us."
Brownlee said most of his swim training had been in the pool.
"Apart from a couple of sea swims. At home, you have to be very brave to swim in the sea, it's pretty cold. It's not as bad here."
After racing in Auckland, Brownlee will return to England before the second World Series race in Cape Town on April 27.
"I like being at home and it's easier to fly back and take a direct flight to Cape Town," he said, adding his brother and current world No 1 Alistair would also be on the start line in South Africa.
Brownlee said the 12 British triathletes who had been based in New Plymouth would race in Auckland.
- Taranaki Daily News
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