Alex Yee v Hayden Wilde: Who Wins As The Rivalry Resumes In London?

Super League 2021 Munich Mens Race

Heading into the SLT curtain-raiser in London on Sunday, a major highlight is the return of local favourite Alex Yee as a wildcard to continue his evolving rivalry with The Falcon, Hayden Wilde.

As head-to-heads go, it’s the hottest in short course triathlon right now. Founded on a mountain of mutual respect, it’s hard to split them for talent.

Both are at the pinnacle of the sport and approaching their peak, with Wilde just turned 25, and Yee less than six months his junior.

They are also not only favourites when they stand on the Super League pontoon, but should be when they line-up for the Paris Olympics in 2024 too.

BREAKDOWN: SWIM-BIKE-RUN

Swim

If there are weaknesses, then for both it’s the swim. But we need context. Competing in a style of triathlon where the swim is always on, neither are slouches. Both have improved in the water – critically with their take-out speed over the first 200-400m. Why is this important? Because even in short course racing it settles down after the start, but it’s critical to be towards the front. Plug that into Super League where the swim is only 300m and they lose precious few seconds.

Superleage Jersey 2021

Bike

Fearless Wilde oozes confidence on two wheels. Perhaps even too much at times as the crash in this year’s Leeds WTCS race that brought down Yee shows (the Kiwi held up his hands post-race). But his power and handling skills, honed in XTERRA and early Super League races, mean on the narrow, twisty circuits of SLT he’s constantly pushing the pace. Yee is underrated as a cyclist. While he may rarely be driving the breakaway in a race, he’s not getting dropped either. And when the trump card is to come, he simply doesn’t need to.

Super League Mens Pro Race Jersey 2021 Dw 291

Run

Where both men excel. Yee’s 5km PB is 13:26, Wilde’s is 13:29. Right now, you won’t find anyone in triathlon who can run faster off the bike than this pair. Technically, both excel. Wilde carries more muscle and relies on a rapid turnover. Yee seems to float over the course, covering more ground than seems possible with each propulsive stride. Yee edges it in their head-to-heads, the 3sec difference in those 5Km PBs a fair gauge of just how close this is.

Super League London Mens Race Cs162

MEMORABLE HEAD-TO-HEADS: YEE v WILDE

There have already been classic encounters between the two. Here’s a throwback to some of the best…

Olympic Games, Tokyo 2021

The Covid-restricted Odaiba Bay provided the backdrop as the front pack whittled down and Yee pulled away from Wilde to take silver. Despite both landing sub-30min 10km runs, there was no stopping Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt for gold. But with three new Olympic medallists crowned, it was also the dawning of a new era.

Super League Triathlon, Malibu 2021

It was Yee’s day in California as victory in the Eliminator format sealed the overall series win too. This was a barnstorming climax to a fantastic month of racing between the two. Wilde had been leading into the final 800m, with Yee back in fifth. Marten Van Riel took a short chute and in the scramble for the line, Yee lunged ahead of Van Riel with Wilde just a second or so behind in fourth. Mayhem.

Super League Malibu 2021

SLT Arena Games, Singapore 

Wilde turned the tables to win this one, but Yee’s points carried over from the London leg were enough to give him the overall Arena Games crown and in an event run in conjunction with World Triathlon, the title of the first e-sports world champion.

World Triathlon Championship Series, Yokohama 2022

One of several showdowns between the pair in 2022 made memorable for the sportsmanship and presence of mind of Yee passing Wilde water on a scorching day in Japan during a fiercely fought 10km scrap. It was the Brit who would pull clear in the final kilometre and marked the start of the two dominating the 2022 World Series as Wilde went on to win in Leeds, Yee in Montreal and then Wilde again in Hamburg.

Commonwealth Games, Birmingham 2022

A chaotic and somewhat controversial finale to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham saw Yee take gold as Wilde graciously gave his rival a ‘low five’ on the final bend before stepping into the penalty box. Wilde had broken away on the bike and taken a 15sec lead into the 5km run in Sutton Park, but a penalty awarded for unclipping his helmet too early meant the anticipated sprint finish never materialised.

WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR IN LONDON

A glorious homecoming for Britain’s Olympic gold and silver medallist – and local boy Yee – didn’t play out as he hoped on the streets of West India Quay. But in a sun-drenched capital, it was a glorious afternoon for Wilde, who took the honours on the opening weekend of Super League action in the Triple Mix. Yee came fifth and was emotional in thanking the crowd afterwards.

Wilde Stars At Slt London

WHAT THE CAPTAIN’S SAY:

Tim Don, the victorious Eagles boss who managed Yee last year, says: “Alex’s strength is his momentum and run ability, and he’s learning his craft with every race. Alex got the better of him in the Commonwealth Games, where that run in the relay was magnificent. I worry that Hayden has taken on too much. He was ill after the Commonwealths and the Collins Cup didn’t go as well as he wanted – so maybe the focus isn’t there. Alex wants to be world champion this year, which is why he’s not doing the whole series, but SLT London fits in perfectly. He’s a local lad and will be hard to beat.”

Michelle Dillon, the Sharks manager who retained Hayden for 2022, says:  “I believe Hayden is the athlete he is because he is hungry to win – you can see it in his eyes when that gun goes. He is well suited to SLT racing as well because of his XTERRA background, meaning on the bike his skills are another level to most of the guys, and he knows exactly where he needs to push, and when he needs to take risks to put himself in a position to win. It’s just so exciting to watch him race, especially on this London course and to go up against such a fantastic athlete as Alex Yee again, I can’t wait to see what he will unleash on Sunday!”

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