The Australian long course triathlon season kicks off this weekend at the traditional home of triathlon, Forster. Whilst Yeppoon was held in August and there was the Tri-Port Half Iron Distance Triathlon in September for most the season proper starts in October after a winter off to repair and build a new base.
Elite energy has an action packed weekend at Forster with wall to wall racing. Starting with the NSW Pro Tour kicking off as the first wave of the sprint triathlon early Saturday morning which will then be followed by the enticer triathlon and MINIMAN for the kids. Sunday will see the Ultimate triathlon start out at Forster Keys and finish at Main Beach.
The new addition to the race program is the Mixed Relay. This new event has been accepted in to the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow (Triathlon Mixed Relay added to 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games). This format will see teams from triathlon clubs and training squads race against each other in a 250m/5km/2km relay race. There are four team members (two male and two female) who will each complete the ‘mini’ triathlon before tagging their team mate and repeating this four times.
The Mixed Relay is exciting for many reasons. One of the reasons that I like the most is that we will be able to support a team in a fast, action packed race. The other is that this may be the start of going back to the heyday. It will be great to see more clubs get behind this in the future with further races penciled in (but not confirmed) for Huskisson next February and Wollongong.
This first race is purely a demonstration event and kudos must go to Triathlon Australia for getting behind it and not stifling innovation in a sport which is almost exclusively a participation sport. We need something like this to bring spectators back to the sport of triathlon. We had it years ago with the F1 series which was unfortunately brought to a premature end. It would be great to see Queensland, Victoria and WA also fit a Mixed Relay event in to their race series.
On to the big race of the weekend. There are some solid fields for a race that does not carry Kona points or age group slots. (see below for a summary of the main contenders) In the men’s race arguably the Clayton Fettell v Tim Berkel battle will dominate the race. Of course this is to not take anything away from the rest of the field. Luke Whitmore, Michael Fox , Adam Holborow, Ben Hammond, Adam Gordon, Will O’Conner, Chris Dmitrieff and more will be hoping that they have perfect races and can be there at the end to take a podium. This is a much stronger field than the inaugural Forster Ultimate triathlon last year.
In the women’s race 2012 Yeppoon 70.3 winner Lisa Marangon will be going up against 2012 IM Australia runner up Nicole Ward and IM Cairns 5th placed Rebecca Hoschke. These lead women will put on a very solid race.
Tim Berkel – Tim was second at Ironman Australia this year and went to Copenhagen to defend his double Challenge title but it wasn’t his day with some nutrition issues. He will be looking to have very good hit out at Forster.
Clayton Fettell – Arguably one of the strongest athletes over this distance currently. Clayton will relish the comparatively longer bike leg but would most probably prefer a longer swim. Clayton has had two 70.3 wins in the US this year. Unfortunately he flatted out of the 70.3 World Champs after leading the field out of T1. Look for Clayton to be leading out of the swim.
Michael Fox – Foxy made the decision to step away from work this winter just gone to train and race full time in the States. He made the Hy-Vee final and did well in a number of top races. His best being a 6th at Boulder 70.3 in a stacked field.
Luke Whitmore – The fire fighter from Melbourne has had a string of podiums at long course races over the last year. He finished second at Canberra 70.3 in 2010 and was 3rd at Shepparton last year. Luke was second at Portarlington Long Course this year and also 2nd in the first round of the VIC duathlon series.
Adam Gordon – Adam is building in to a solid pro triathlete with some good top ten finishes in the bigger long course triathlons held around Australia this year.
Adam Holborow – Adam has been quiet over the last year. He is a talented athlete and can mix it with the best of them when he is race fit.
Ben Hammond – Ben has primarily focused on ITU racing to date in his career and even raced an ITU triathlon in China recently. With a new focus on long course Ben should start to rise to the top. He has a solid swim, a good bike and a quick run.
Will O’Conner – Will is an up and coming young Kiwi pro. He has moved to Australia this year to chase a better training climate. Along with fellow Kiwi Gordon, O’Conner will push himself to be there in the mix.
Chris Dmitrieff – Chris has been working full time in the bike game for a while now. He is one of the quicker runners in the game when he is on.
Female Open Field
Lisa Maranagon – The recent Yeppoon 70.3 champ showed that she is a significantly faster athlete this year than she was in 2011. Sounds Dangerous! Lisa went to the 70.3 World Champs but was undone by the heat and nutrition. She will be like a coiled spring at Forster. Last year Lisa finished second and was unsettled by a bee sting on the bike.
Nicole Ward – Like fellow triathlete Rebecca Hoschke, Nicole manages to put in top performances consistently while holding down a full time job. Nicole finished 2nd at this year’s Ironman Australia and is almost at peak now as she gets reading for this year’s big races.
Rebecca Hoschke – Rebecca has been racing iron distance this year with a very good 5th at Cairns Ironman and then heading off to Challenge Roth to put in another outstanding performance.