Elite triathletes revel in new Waikato base

POWERING UP: Triathlete Ryan Sissons.
POWERING UP: Triathlete Ryan Sissons.

Ryan Sissons is excited to be part of an elite squad that in recent weeks has moved to Cambridge to be part of Triathlon New Zealand's new high performance base.

The high performance programme will be based at the new Avantidrome beside St Peters School from March, but in the meantime a number of them are living in Cambridge and using various facilities.

''It's been great, having everyone in the same place makes training good,'' Sissons said.

''We've got a good group to train with, facilities are amazing, St Peters has helped us out a lot, Cambridge community in general has been really helpful, really friendly so so far it's been amazing.''

Sissons, who is ranked 13th in the world, is one of just three triathletes in the tier one Podium Squad with long established women Andrea Hewitt (5) and Kate McIlroy (15) remaining at their own home bases but coming in and out of the Cambridge HQ for various camps and coaching. Hewitt is currently in France.

Nicky Samuels has been in town this week talking to those running the programme and she may be added to the tier one squad.

The rest are younger and split between the tier two podium development squad - Simone Ackermann, Sophie Corbidge, Tony Dodds - and the tier three development squad - Aaron Barclay, Maddie Dillon, Waikato's Mikayla Nielsen, Andy Ranford, Elise Salt and Sam Ward.

''Everyone's really excited and keen to be down here in Cambridge. A lot of us are from Auckland but we want to be here in Cambridge, we want to train here in Cambridge and so far it's working amazingly.

''It's a big step, a huge change from what happened before but to have other major sports here as well with the rowing and the cycling coming it's just great to have all of us here in this environment,'' Sissons, 25, said.

They also had some of the best coaches in the world based there coaching them.

On Thursday the high performance squad members who were in town each underwent a detailed fitting process to their supplied sponsor's bikes thanks to a new partnership Triathlon New Zealand have set up with Specialised Bicycles.

A team led by Melbourne based body geometry fitting specialist Stewart Morton carried out the fitting, each one taking three hours.

''It's a really good thing we've got set up with Specialised. To get some of the best bike fitters in the world to come around and set up each individual athlete to their bikes is certainly something amazing to be honest,'' Sissons said.

''It's all about performance at the end of the day and we want the athletes to be on the best bikes and I guess that's what we're on now.

''We're getting the best bikes every year - the same as what professional cyclists are riding - and the best service with the best people looking after us.''

Sissons said getting the bikes properly fitted to their individual bodies using the body geometry system could make a huge difference in a triathlon.

''It could mean you could run faster off the bike because you get the bike set up correctly for you so that when you get off it and get into the run you are a lot less fatigued, less sore and able to do more.

''You are able to train more because if you are going out for longer rides you don't get sore. You can get sore shoulders or sore back on the bike if it's not set up right for you.''

Wherever they were training or competing in the world there was a network of professionals available to them to fix any problems.

''We're trying to be professional in every aspect of the triathlon. We want to be the best swimmer, the best biker, the best runner and I guess you need those professional people in every one to give you all those tips.''

Tri NZ high performance director Graeme Maw said all the development squad had moved here fulltime and were either flatting, house sharing or boarding with house parents in Cambridge, while some would move in with cyclists or rowing in the new year.

''We've tried very hard to hit our pattern quickly so you could almost say we are up in running,'' Maw said.

They were in offices in Cambridge until the velodrome offices were ready in March and already their coaches, therapists and scientists were together in the one place to work with the athletes.

The swim programme is in full swing at St Peters and Hamilton pools and all the running and cycling is being done locally.

''We're very conscious that the last year has been about change - a new high performance director, a new coaching team, a new strategy that brings centralisation and people moving houses - and really training is about continuous stable, layered progression so we've tried to get into that rhythm really quickly.''

Maw said it was all aimed at bridging the gap between the fourth and fifth placings they attained on the world stage this year and the podium.

''The difference between third and fourth across the whole world series this year was 0.28 per cent so in high performance sport we talk about those one-per centers but we could say we're not even needing that.

''The concentration of expertise, the peer motivation, guys going to train with like-minded individuals every day, having expert coaches and physios with those athletes every day, having your scientist there monitoring everything they do and fine tuning their programmes every day - it's all going to make a difference.''

Maw said they were highly focused on next year's Glasgow Commonwealth Games and hoped to see plenty of progress by the 2016 Rio Olympics and beyond.

''Then 2020 is the horizon,'' he said.