French entries add a bit of spice

IN STRIDE: French triathlete Etienne Diemunsch training in New Plymouth.
IN STRIDE: French triathlete Etienne Diemunsch training in New Plymouth.

There's a French flavour to tomorrow's Splash 'n Dash event in New Plymouth.

Two leading French triathletes - Damien Decas and Etienne Diemunsch - will compete in the race at Ngamotu Beach.

Splash 'n Dash event organiser Selwyn Brown said having the two French triathletes in the field would give local athletes a chance to test themselves against the best.

"Both are escaping the cold northern hemisphere winter to get in some base work for upcoming events," Brown said.

"They will be in New Plymouth for the next two months."

Decas has already made an impact on the triathlon scene since arriving in New Zealand. Last Saturday, the 24-year-old was first home in the Kiwi Tri New Zealand series sprint event at Whangamata, winning by more than 40 seconds.

"It's winter back home and it's good for training here," Decas said yesterday. "I heard about New Plymouth and coach Graham Park from a friend. He gave me Graham's email and it went from there."

Decas said while the New Plymouth weather had been windy, he was enjoying training here.

"I'm enjoying the warmer weather. It's really hilly, good for training. I will be based here until March," he said. "I'm racing in the 70.3 in Auckland on January 19 and the New Plymouth half ironman on February 8. Then I will race in the Ironman New Zealand event in Taupo on March 1 before going home."

Brown said the two Frenchmen and another arriving tomorrow would train fulltime with Park's triathlon squad.

"They knew Graham was a well respected coach and appreciated that New Plymouth offered excellent training facilities," he said.

Decas is a regular competitor in the French triathlon grand prix circuit, most notably achieving a fifth in the French long course triathlon championships.

Diemunsch, who arrived in New Plymouth only last Thursday, will stay until the March 23 ITU New Plymouth World Cup sprint triathlon event at Ngamotu Beach.

His main goal is to do as many ITU points races as possible including the New Plymouth event and the Australian Mooloolaba ITU World Cup sprint event being staged one week before New Plymouth.

He will also compete in other New Zealand ITU events, which will hopefully enable a top world 70 ranking and the opportunity to qualify and race in the longer World Cup series circuit which is an Olympic distance event.

Diemunsch is a two-time world under-23 duathlon champion - 2010 and 2011. He also won the Guatape ITU World Cup race in 2011 and was fourth at the 2012 duathlon elite world championships.