$10,000, Falls Creek, some of Australia’s top triathletes and a bit of altitude

With $10,000 in prize money up for grabs and the opportunity to race in a stunning location some of Australia's top triathletes are heading to Falls Creek this weekend to race in SuperSprint's new long course triathlon. Leon Griffin, Jason Shortis, Mitch Anderson, Clayton Fettell, Nicole

With $10,000 in prize money up for grabs and the opportunity to race in a stunning location some of Australia’s top triathletes are heading to Falls Creek this weekend to race in SuperSprint’s new long course triathlon.

Leon Griffin, Jason Shortis, Mitch Anderson, Clayton Fettell, Nicole Ward, Michelle Wu, Madeline Oldfield and Liz Blatchford are headling the event. While we are familiar with these names and would expect the winner to come from their ranks, some of the leading competitors are talking up others and playing down their own chances .

Leon Griffin is claiming not to be in the best form after concentrating on his career with the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank. “I’ve been as far removed from the sport as possible in the past 3 months while I concentrate on my new fulltime role with the bank so I am not too sure how I’ll fare this weekend.”

Asked how he would cope with the altitude Leon responded: “The altitude is likely to have an effect for sure but my big drop in training volume will have more of a bearing on my result than altitude. I know I’ve done enough miles to actually complete the race, but how competitive I’ll be is a mystery .”

Leon is rating his training mate from Bendigo, David Meade. “David is absolutely flying and will be a good shot to take it out I think. If the Korean’s are there I put my money on their coach Jan Rehula racing and he’s very handy.”

Jason Shortis is about to have his first serious race of the year. He has 4-5 ironman triathlons planned this year and is hoping to use Falls Creek as a bit of a benchmark for his race fitness level.

“I did a training camp up at Falls Creek for nearly a week about 2 weeks ago, so I rode and ran over the course. It will be a tough day in the office to say the least! I am fit and injury free and I feel strong but not fast. I will play the patience strategy. I think I will come into my own during the run. This is where this race will be run and lost.

Jason has trained and raced at altitude before which is why he thinks it will be important to build into the race.

On who Jason thinks will be the main competition this weekend… “I think that Leon Griffin on this course will be hard to beat. We all know that Clayton Fettell will go at it right from the gun to try and build up a lead for the run. But the guy I think will surprise a lot of people is a young guy I have been training with called Monty Frankish.”

Other men in with a chance are Luke Whitemore who has put in some good performances recently at the Port Macquarie and Canberra half ironman races. Also Mitch Anderson will be there and there are a few other unknowns.

In the women’s race it is going to be hard to not pick Michelle Wu as a possible winner. Michelle has been getting used to the cold in recent weeks after the temperature dropping in Canberra.

A possible surprise contender could be Madeleine Oldfield. Oldfield has been winning the Gatorade series races in Victoria recently. Whilst these are short distance triathlons Madeleine is very experienced in long distance and this is her preferred distance.

We spoke to Michelle Wu this week to find out what her thoughts on the race are. “Falls Creek is the first race of 2011 for me so I’m pretty excited to kick things off again! I had a mini break over Christmas and New Years and ramped up the training again in January.  It’s only really been 5 weeks back so I’m not actually expecting too much.  I’ve been focusing on mostly strength work over January, and I’m definitely feeling stronger this year.”

Michelle has made some pretty big changes for 2011 and she is extremely happy with how things are going so far. “Training has been going great and I’ve done some awesome sessions I never thought I’d be able to do. The race this weekend will be a good hit out to see how everything is going.” If that doesn’t worry her opposition I am not sure what will. After watching her race last year and following her results a stronger Michelle Wu must be a worrying thought for the women of triathlon in Australia.

Michelle feels that the altitude will be a factor.  “I’m not overly worried about that though.  It’s more the cold that I’m freaking out about!  The forecast is a minimum of 8 degrees to max of 12 for this coming Sunday.  Needless to say, it’s not exactly what I had signed up for, but everyone is going to have to face it, so at least I’m not alone.  I just hope there’s no rain on top of it all!”

Michelle sees Liz Blatchford and Nicole Ward as the ones to watch out for. “I have never been to Falls Creek, but have heard a lot about it as a very popular spot for runners to train.  I guess that means there’s really good trails out there!  The course will be tough for sure and I think the run will be quite hard with the dirt tracks and hills to conquer.  I don’t think it’ll be particularly fast as you probably will not be able to settle into much of a rhythm on the run. As for the swim and bike, well I just hope not to freeze to death!”

One of the other main competitors is Nicole Ward. “I am feeling really good about this weekend.  I have had a solid block of training and just came back from a stint of training in Jindabyne over Australia day, where I went and did some quality altitude training for 5 days.”

“I have never been to Falls Creek itself but I have heard that it’s going to be tough given the terrain and the altitude.  Although the race is a long course distance I think the dynamics of the race will be different and will hopefully favour long course athletes over the short course girls. I think the winds could also be a factor so I am prepared for that.”

I asked Nicole about racing at altitude for the first time. “My experience from doing some training in Jindabyne has shown me that it’s a lot harder to push your body in the same way as you can at sea level.  I think patience and playing it smart is going to be the key for racing there. “

Who do you feel your main competitors will be? “I wasn’t sure exactly who was racing till today.  I had heard that Michelle Wu was heading down there and she is an amazing athlete and Liz Blatchford will definitely be a big threat.  As always though it really comes down to who has it on the day so it could be anyones!”

Joining them will be the Korean National Triathlon Team who are currently on their own Falls Creek training camp. Led by Jan Rehula, Sydney 2000 Olympics Triathlon Bronze Medallist, the International addition to the event is expected to provide some strong competition for the talented Australian line-up.

With the field limit of 600 places reached, the triathlon is sure to stamp itself as a must-do event on the National Triathlon Calendar in future years.

The course and altitude will provide a completely new and exciting challenge for all 2011 entrants.  A 2km swim in the crystal clear lake (17degrees) followed by a three lap 80km cycle course on the recently sealed Bogong High Plains Road – one of the highest roads in Australia, finishing with a trail run along the scenic aqueduct trail.

Supporting the inaugural triathlon is the Mizuno Trail Running Festival consisting of a Half Marathon (21.1km), 10km and 5km trail run, held on Sunday 13 February 2011, with entries still available.

With the recent focus and increased interest of half ironman and ironman events in Australia, the timing of SuperSprint’s inaugural 2XU Falls Creek Triathlon and Mizuno Trail Running Festival could not be better.

Confirmed elite level triathletes include:

  • Leon Griffin
  • Mitch Anderson
  • Clayton Fettell
  • Josh Rix
  • Jason Shortis
  • Tom Jepson
  • Monty Frankish
  • Jan Rehula
  • Heo Min Ho (Korea)
  • Choi Jae Hun (Korea)
  • Luke Whitmore
  • Bob van Zuiden
  • Jason Nooning
  • David Meade
  • Sam McLean
  • Peter Riseley
  • Daniel Vukovic
  • Lindsey Wall
  • Liz Blatchford
  • Madeleine Oldfield
  • Elly Franks
  • Julie-Anne Davies
  • Michelle Wu
  • Michelle Downs