By Karl Hayes
The Huskisson Triathlon Festival sprint triathlon race normally sees the pro tour triathletes racing for their end of season points. This year however was different with most of the top young triathletes in Wellington New Zealand racing for ITU Oceania Cup points.
This did not detract from the day in the end with some very fast triathletes turning up for the sprint race. Christian Kemp raced as a warm up for the Singapore 70.3 on this weekend. Christian has had a number of injuries since last year and is now back on track with 2011 looking like a good year for him. He raced last year in the long course coming a close 3rd ten seconds behind Pete Jacobs and a further one minute behind Craig Alexander. Kemp went on to win the Gold Coast half ironman in atrocious conditions late in 2010.
Another surprise entrant was Belgium’s Bart Aernouts. Aernouts is the current ITU World Duathlon Champion. Aernouts ran 35 seconds faster than Kemp over the 5kms but it wasn’t enough to make up the swim deficit and Kemp matched Aernouts over the 20kms bike course.
A close 3rd was big Sam Douglas. Sam finished only 13 seconds behind Aernouts with a superior swim, matching bike times but a slower run at 17:15 than the two speedsters in front of him. Jae Hun Choi was the fastest swimmer on the day and came in to transition with a good early lead. This was quickly eroded by some fast transitions from the chase bunch.
The bike was a close affair with only just over a minute separating the top ten guys. Kemp and Aernout’s runs were too fast for the rest of the field with only Declan Wilson coming close.
The ride of the day went to young Matt Williams. Matt rode a 27:59. This was 1:19 faster than the next guy. It was good to see the 6’5â€ frame of Duncan Houston back racing. His run is still a way off where he was at this time last year, his very fast swim is almost there again as well. He swam only 35 seconds slower than the fastest swim of the day but for him the day was rounded off by his one goal of beating Adam Conquest on the bike. It is the small victories that make the age groupers day no matter what they are.
The women’s race was a tale of two races. The first race was between Lisa Norden and Annabel Luxford for 1st place. The second race was between Siobhan McCarthy and Tara Prowse for 3rd.
Winning on the day was Lisa Norden after she ran 20 seconds faster than Luxford. Apart from the run they raced side by side for the entire race. Norden won recently at the Sydney Sprint Series and is well on track for Mooloolaba and Sydney. â€œIt’s always a challenge to go in to one of these “smaller races”. The week(s) of training before hand have been massive building up for the Mooloolaba WC. The rest limited. The energy levels low. I doesn’t matter what size of race it is – It is always going to be hard! A tired body can struggle to face that sometimes.â€
It was a late decision for Lisa to race and she came over from Canberra with a couple of the boys she trains with who were racing in a team. There was no accommodation left so they ended up staying in a cabin in Nowra. â€œChecking in my bike in transition I met Annabel – and suddenly realised this day was going to be quite tough. She is a great swimmer and strong biker – so I knew I wouldn’t like to be chasing her on the bike. For me it was a good test to see where my swimming was at. The last three weeks have been a bit of a swim block (very well needed indeed!) and I was hoping to see some improvements. To be able to swim on Annabels feet was a good tick on my list.â€
Lisa was blown away by the setting of the race and particularly the swim. â€œIt was also the most beautiful swim (in a race) I have ever done. Good for the soul. On the bike we took turns and it wasn’t super challenging course. A nice rolling course but too many boys in the way… I think the two waves needs to be separated a bit better in the future.â€
This race was a bit about race practice for Norden with Mooloolaba and Sydney coming up. â€œI wanted to have some solid transition practice so tried to make T2 as smooth as possible. Maybe I even got a bit too excited and took it out too hard for the first 2k’s…. I told my Coach in the race report later and he wasn’t happy. Apparently if I say I went out too hard, it’s a bit of an understatement…â€
â€œI got half way out to the turn around and saw that Annabel was pretty close. I felt I should try to pick it up a bit more – and probably tried too hard. Sometimes (especially early season) my breathing doesn’t really keep up with my legs and I get a tight chest and cramp in the abdominal muscles. I could feel it coming on towards the end so just tried to relax as much as possible without losing too much ground. I was quite happy then it was a 5k and not a full Olympic distance race.â€
â€œI really enjoy being out there racing again. The atmosphere is great – and Australians good fun to be around! I had a rare Saturday afternoon off. We made a day out of it before we headed back to Canberra. Swam in the ocean, had some good coffee’s, watched peopleâ€
Mooloolaba is Lisa’s next challenge. She won’t go in to the race 100% ready but is looking to building shape and fitness over the next couple of months. Traditionally Lisa is a slow starter and her ‘fireworks’ don’t happen until later mid/end of season. Mooloolaba will be her first Olympic distance for a while – and a lead up race for Sydney. If she survives the heat, the hill, and the two Emmas (maybe three if Emma Jackson is racing). She should be strong coming in to Sydney.
The second race pushed Prowse and McCarthy to their limits as they pushed each other harder than they have raced in a while. Tara is on the comeback trail after serious injury sidelined her for much of the last year. Siobhan is climbing up the ladder and her run is proving to be her weapon of choice. Both women were totally spent as they crossed the line 18 seconds apart with Siobhan kicking away in the dying stages of the run.
Trizone caught up with McCarthy after the race and she was still pumped about the day and racing against two of the best female short course triathletes in the world. â€œBehind Luxford and Norden, the remainder of the field was within seconds of each other out of the swim, which meant we were in a big pack on the bike. We started to reel in some of the boys with Tara Prowse and I working a lot at the front.â€
With Lisa and Annabel so far in front, it was a battle for 3rd. Coming into transition McCarthy and Prowse knew they would need to be out quick to get an advantage. â€œTara and I were together for about 4km on the run – despite my attempt to break away from her early on. With about 1km to go, I was able to find one last surge to break away.â€
â€œIt was exciting to finally position myself in a race to use my run to an advantage, and it was great to battle it out with Tara. Exciting that this race last year, was my first crack at the Pro Tour – and I was pretty much just filling up numbers, now I was able to mix it with the other girls. A huge thanks to Emo and Elite Energy for another amazing race and venue – these events just keep getting better and better.â€
Former Australian ironman champ Christina Thomas racing in the 40-49 age group swam the 8th fastest swim of the day showing that her muscle memory is still working. What Christina took from the race was that with Sydney ITU Olympic distance race only four weeks away there is a bit more training on the run to do. She doesn’t like being passed and watched as Sally Taggart ran past her in the late in the run. Sally and Christina finished 14th and 15th overall.
Young up and coming stars Ayla Rudgley and Freya Aisbitt finished 20th and 22nd overall in the women’s race. These two young girls were racing in the 14-15 age group.
First age grouper home was Laura Siddall who used her very strong bike to get an advantage on the day and finish ahead of a number of the elite girls.