Australia’s Courtney Atkinson has capped off his season with a win and installed himself as the new â€˜king’ of Noosa, while Switzerland’s Caroline Steffen claimed her first major victory in her new adopted home at the Noosa Triathlon over the 1.5km swim, 40km cycle and 10km run this morning over.
An appreciative crowd turned out to see Atkinson win his third successive title, only the second man to do so behind the great Craig Walton who fell short of his goal in claiming a seventh title today eventually finishing 12th after back cramping hampered his run leg.
“For me to win this race I need to have that awesome swim-bike combination, without that I’m not going to win on the day,” said Walton.
“I didn’t feel good from the get go. Nothing felt right out there today, it was all hard work.
“But I don’t want to make excuses, Courtney has won three in a row now and I’m really happy for him and he’s taking over Noosa now.”
New Zealand’s Kris Gemmell recorded his best Noosa performance to finish second, just not having the leg speed to keep with Atkinson but good enough to keep ahead of surprise packet Peter Kerr who picked up third place in a strong field.
Walton emerged from the swim in the lead with Bryce McMaster and Josh Amberger with another group that contained all the contenders including Atkinson, Gemmell, James Seear and Peter Kerr.
After 40km of riding it was long course specialist Paul Matthews who led into the final change over with Walton hot on his heels but not the big lead over the chasers he needed.
Once out onto the run Atkinson made short work of hauling in the leaders and was in a class of his own running away with a comfortable win.
“There was probably more anxiety today than in the previous two years because of the competitors I had to race against,â€ said Atkinson.
“This was actually difficult for me because since Craig’s retired, at times, he’s helped me and I’d call him a bit of a mentor who has pointed me back in the right direction.”
It was always going to be a tough race with Craig being back and unknown and I knew Chris would be firing.
â€œMy tactics were ideally to get rid of Kris (Gemmell). Noosa is too fun to battle someone in a sprint finish. If you win you want to enjoy it here. It’s a great place.
â€œAt the 3km mark I thought â€˜help’, I’m going to pay for this. I thought if I could get away it might just play with their heads.â€
Gemmell made a race of it getting within 30 seconds on the run but in the end ran out of time. Kerr recorded his best ever performance at this race to grab third, claiming some impressive scalps along the way.
â€œI was really happy with my race, I gave it everything I had,â€ said Gemmell.
â€œIn the first 500 metres of the run Courtney went out of the gates ballistic, and I knew there was no way I could keep up with that, I just tried to peg him back.
â€œWe race all over the world, there is no better place than Noosa. I could easily lose my passport tonight.â€
The performance of the â€˜Swiss Miss’ was all the more impressive given she finished second at the World Ironman Championships in Hawaii just three weeks ago.
â€œI’m very surprised and very proud to come first. It was really hard especially on the run and in the last 1km,â€ said Steffen.
â€œAfter Ironman I did nothing for one week and then I started to pick things up and have been enjoying the last three weeks and focused on getting ready for this race.â€
19-year-old, Ashleigh Gentle made a successful step up to Olympic distance racing today claiming second place after a blistering run leg to finish just four seconds behind Steffan while New Zealand’s Nicky Samuels put in a solid performance to claim the final podium position.
Samuels lead the field out of the water followed by youngster Amy Roberts, Olympian Maxine Seear and Emma Jackson.
A strong bike leg by Steffen saw her ride clear of the field over the non drafting course despite giving away a minute lead in the swim.
â€œUsually in ironman you have a 5-6 minute lead so it’s different to have someone much closer to you and I’m not a good sprinter so I pushed really hard to show the girl coming at me that she had no chance,â€ said Steffen.
Steffen was the first to hit the run course, Samuels next but nearly 30 seconds off the pace. Jackson was next through but over a minute further back. At the 3km mark Steffen had increased that lead over Samuels and Jackson but Gentle was the big mover in the field with a 34.46 run split. Steffen was good enough to hold on for the win but Gentle got within 4 seconds of the Swiss sensation, Samuels just holding out the defending champion Jackson.
My coach told me to do it for fun and enjoy it and that’s what I did. My goal was to finish top 5 so I’m really happy.
I like the hot conditions so it was good out there. I am based in Mooloolaba with boyfriend David Dellow who was cheering for me on the race course. This win is a little bit for him as he was disappointed not to be on the start line after having an operation last week.â€
Gentle was pleased with her run leg although admits her swim needs some more work.
“I had a pretty bad swim but I was happy with my bike, picking up a few girls, and my run was my saving grace today,” the Gold Coaster said.
“If you would have told me I would come second by five seconds when I was cycling I definitely wouldn’t have believed you.â€
Jackson was philosophical about her performance today.
â€œI had a pretty good swim, didn’t feel good in the last 10km of the bike and had no legs on the run.
â€œThe season has been long; it’s been a whole year so I’m looking forward to a break now. I probably went one race too many.
â€œAshley did a great race today and I’m happy for her. I had a little bit more pressure on me than last year. From today’s race I have learnt to keep training hard and not slacken off so much.â€
A further 8000 triathletes were also part of the 28th Noosa Triathlon this morning competing as individuals or part of a team.
Also taking part today V8 drivers Garth Tander (2:43:07), Will Davison (2:28:18) and David Reynolds the quickest (2:17:48).
â€œI’m all in one piece so that’s a good start. I was a bit worried as I busted some ribs in Bathurst a couple of weeks ago but they didn’t trouble me,â€ said Davison.
â€œI improved my time by over 10 minutes since I last did it in 2006, so I’m happy.
I heard my name called out and the crowd cheered me on â€“ it’s unreal.
â€œIn Bathurst you’re in a car with a helmet so it’s a very different atmosphere.â€
Swimming champion Susie O’Neill and husband Cliff Fairley also completed their first ever triathlon beaming as they crossed the line. Cliff has bragging rights finishing in a time of 2:18:35 and Susie 2:29:27.
â€œI nearly needed my (doctor) husband out there on the run leg,â€ said Susie.
â€œIt was a lot harder than I expected. I made sure I kept wetting myself down allot to make it feel like in the pool but it still felt bad.â€
â€œIn swimming butterfly it only goes for 2 minutes and the pain is only for about 15 seconds.
1. Courtney Atkinson Mermaid Waters 1:46:54
2. Kris Gemmell Palmerston North 1:47:06
3. Peter Kerr Warrnambool 1:48:10
4. Samuel Betten Brisbane 1:48:40
5. James Seear Brookfield 1:48:49
6. Paul Matthews Murwillumbah 1:49:08
7. Dan Wilson Sandgate 1:49:22
8. Bryce McMaster Daisy Hill 1:49:33
9. Pete Jacobs Freshwater 1:49:45
10. Mark Widmer St Gallen 1:50:01
1. Caroline Steffen Mooloolaba 2:01:18
2. Ashleigh Gentle Robina 2:01:22
3. Nicky Samuels Wanaka 2:03:30
4. Emma Jackson Joyner 2:04:27
5. Melissa Rollison Holland Park 2:04:47
6. Kirralee Seidel Buderim 2:05:37
7. Lisa Marangon Waterloo 2:07:59
8. Amy Roberts Albany Creek 2:09:17
9. Maxine Seear Brookfield 2:14:27
10. Tara Prowse Willoughby 2:14:33