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Anna Cleaver reports in on her 2nd placing at the TriGrandprix in Zarautz, Spain

TriGrandprix in Zarautz, Spain is a race that is not that well known in our part of the world. From all accounts the atmosphere and the crowds that turn out to cheer on the triathletes is amazing and rarely seen. New Zealand’s (and sometimes Sydney resident) Anna Cleaver went to this race and came away with a second placing behind Great Britain’s Catriona Morrison. Anna reports in on this fascinating triathlon.

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By Anna Cleaver

Eskerrik Asko Basque Country! 

Muchas gracias Zarautz and TriGrandPrix!

Thank you to Zarautz and to TriGrandPrix for putting on such a well run event!

What an amazing experience. As Catriona Morrison said in her interview this race should be on your bucket list of must do events. The swim is a stunning 2.6-3km (conditions depending) one way ocean swim. The bike takes you along the coast of Basque Country and into the mountains. It is a challenging but spectacular ride. Both the swim and bike are highlights in themselves. However the run… never have I experienced a run like it. The course takes you through Zarautz and along the ocean, including planks and sand running (watch the ankles!), but the most impressive thing about the run is the people. Crowds lined the streets 8 deep in parts cheering passionately and loudly. Drums, singing, cheering, children wanting a high five, adults dressed in peculiar costumes. It had it all.

Pre Race

I was fortunate enough to stay in Orio for the weeks leading up to the race. Orio is a town next to Zarautz. This had the benefit of allowing me to familiarize myself with the cycle course, experience the culture, rest in between sessions and be part of a family (thank you sovery much to Jose and Claudia who kindly opened their home and their hearts to me, you will always have a bed at my home!). After travelling for so long it was lovely to be settled in a home environment.

Orio residents speak Basque and very rarely English. So it was a challenge at times. I became known as ‘The Tourist’. It worked out well, for example while walking down the street a lady grabbed me and signalled for me (“the tourist”) to follow her. There was a parcel for me at the post office with my new running shoes. Nice. I had many conversations with people in the streets, some things are universal such as a smile, a nod and a laugh. There are seriously too many great stories to tell you here, so maybe I can share them with you one day over some pinchos.

Because of the blister problems I had after Florida I laid off the running in my prep and focused on nailing the swim/ bike training. I wasn’t too worried as I knew my fitness would get me through the run and I didn’t want to show up to a race with damaged feet. It worked, the feet healed and with a change in shoe brand I was ready to run.

Race Day

3pm start? Everything starts later in Basque Country. At home I eat dinner at 7pm, here 11pm is the norm, so it wasn’t a surprise that instead of setting the alarm for 4am on race day I could sleep in and make my way to transition for a leisurely 3pm start.

Fortunately the Expo was excellent as I had forgotten a few things (race belt). Compressport saved the day also as I realized that I accidentally packed the wrong pair… so they were kind enough to make sure I had the right size that matched my NZL race kit and I was ready to go!

The girls were sent in a bus to the swim start with about an hour to spare. So we chatted until it was time for the swim warm up. It was a very relaxed atmosphere.

The Swim

A few Spanish / English language issues meant I wasn’t clear on where I should be aiming for in the swim as there were no buoys in sight from the beach. I knew the general direction though so when the gun went off I took off to immediately gap the rest of the field. Swimming by myself I got into my rhythm straight away with the lead kayaks being beside me so navigation was up to me.

I exited the swim 1st with a substantial margin and I remember thinking wow look at how many people are watching! Unfortunately I spent a few minutes in transition with one of the officials, him speaking in Spanish, me in English not understanding what he was asking of me. I eventually made my way on to the bike.

The Bike:

Anna-Cleaver-Basque TrigrangprixSimilar hiccups in the first 8km of the bike with another official (note to self… learn more Spanish words besides hello and thank you!) meant that I couldn’t put the foot down and go for it quite as I wanted to. But I eventually got going and progressed through the 4 lap course. It is a challenging course and at no point do you get an insight as to what is happening behind you, so I didn’t know where race favourite Cat Morrison was.

The bike course is fun. You get equal opportunities to time trial on the flat as you do to climb. The last hill (Cat passed me just prior to this) is the most gruelling but is thankfully followed by a long descent into transition. The hardest part of the ride was the descents…. I wish I’d learnt the correct words in Spanish to call out to the age groupers to be aware that I was passing them going downhill around corners… scary in parts but made it through safely. Descents are harder on a TT bike but the Argon18 handled really well.

By now it was after 5.30pm, usually time for me to start thinking about what is for dinner! I wheeled my bike into transition and the crowds literally took my breath away. I was stunned at the number of people there cheering for me. A few more words Spanish/ English with the official in transition meant I wasn’t as fast as I would like in T2 (I eventually learnt that the race official was talking to me about how I was wearing my race belt, all sorted after the race. I’m sure it was equally as frustrating for him as it was for me with the Spanish/ English!).

The Run

For the first time in a while I felt fantastic in the run. I was able to maintain a good cadence and pick up the effort as I progressed. I raced in black Compressport and my legs honestly felt fresh the whole run so I could really focus on running fast. The crowds were mind blowing. The biggest cheers I have ever heard in a triathlon. There was a group of men that I passed on each of the three laps who were offering me cups of ice cold beer (note it was nearing 7pm on a hot Saturday so the thought did cross my mind to accept). Cat is a phenomenal runner so I really had to run my own race. I had no idea how far behind me the other girls were at any time. I frequently heard people yelling “Animo Animo”. I didn’t know what it meant but it sounded a lot like “Animal”. About 10 years ago when I used to race in NZ a good friend Silas used to yell at me “go you animal” when I was racing. So every time I heard it I pretended it was Silas and my other NZ friends cheering me on. Made me smile.

Anna-Cleaver-Basque TrigrangprixWith the roar of the crowds it was hard not to sprint through the last km to the finish. I was happy with my 1hr22 run and 2nd place to Cat. Don’t get me wrong I like to win, but if I am going to be 2nd to anyone, I certainly don’t mind being 2nd to Cat Morrison. Cat is a phenomenal athlete and a genuinely really lovely person. I will see her in 2 weeks at the Liverpool 5150. It turned out I was 2nd with a substantial margin of about 8 minutes to 3rd. There were some incredible runners behind me so I was happy to maintain that 8 minute gap.

Post race

A fun presentation on the podium which resulted in me wearing champagne. Lots of photos with public and sponsors (it was great to see friends from Argon18 and Compressport there).

It may not have personally been the race of my life (I think that is yet to come!) but it was probably up there as one of the best race experiences of my life. I must thank Ben from Sydney and also Mirinda Carfrae for recommending the event to me, had it not been for them I would never have experienced it. The video and photo coverage was excellent so I look forward to sharing it soon. TriGrandPrix is a very impressive organization putting some unique races on the map.

Next stop France for some training. Then Liverpool 5150 and Zurich 5150. Got to get those points for Hy-Vee 5150!

Anna

Visit Anna’s website to keep up to date with her racing and travels.

The gear:

Swim: Blueseventy wetsuit, Compressport (black)

Bike: Argon18 E114, Gallium Pro Vorticce helmet, Oakley sunglasses, speedplay pedals, Fastforward F9 wheels, Sidi shoes, Compressport (black)

Run: Saucony, Compressport (black)

Race kit: Champion Systems NZL suit

Karl is a keen age group triathlete who races more than he trains. Good life balance! Karl works in the media industry in Australia and is passionate about the sport of triathlon.

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Peter Robertson’s Gamagori Memories inspire Australian Talent Academy Young Guns

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Triathlon Australia’s National Talent Academy “Young Guns” won’t have to look too far for inspiration when they line up in Sunday’s ITU Triathlon Asian Cup in Gamagori.

It was in 2005 in the picturesque Japanese coastal city of on Mikawa Bay that one of the legends of Australian triathlon, Peter Robertson created history when he won the last of his three World Championships.

After victories in Edmonton and Queenstown in 2001 and 2003 “Robbo” stuck to his two-year cycle to dig deep again and take a third and deserving world championship victory.

Now seven years on Robertson, 36, is one of several coaches on the NTA Young Guns tour in charge of an exciting new generation of Australian triathlon stars.

Melbourne-based Robertson has been appointed along with the likes of Craig Walton, Chris Lang and Keiran Barry to steer an exciting group of youngsters who have already made a big impression.

Queensland’s Sarah Deuble, who is coached by Dan Atkins, has already chalked up two wins from two starts in the Mooloolaba Oceania Cup and at last Sunday’s ITU Triathlon Asian Cup race in Amakusa and is looking for a third.

“I’m really enjoying my first experience with the Japanese races,” Deuble said. “Obviously Amakusa was great fun, winning the race there. I hope I can continue to race well again this weekend in Gamagori.”

Deuble was 20 seconds behind in the swim and then went on to dominate the bike and run.

Bree Jones at Amakusa

Sydney’s Bree Jones had a great start and lead to the first turning buoy but was forced wide and wasn’t aggressive enough to hold position so lost time to the lead three Japanese athletes. A four-women second pack lead by Jones and included Kirralee Pride with Deuble was further 20 seconds behind and out by herself.

Onto the bike the Japanese trio tried to form a lead while the group formed behind and included all three Aussie girls. They were caught at the 15km mark.

The group completed the bike together with Deuble making a very smart, very sneaky move at the end, finishing the bike about 100m off the front, the bike course finished with a moderately steep downhill with a shallow turn mid-way through.

She positioned herself on the front for the dismount line but the Asian athletes all braked for the downhill and Sarah managed to roll off the front.

Deuble then built a lead from there and raced out of sight, finishing 1min clear of Japanese pair Kirra and Sato who ran together until the last kilometre where Kirra managed to get a small break on the last small rise before the finish.

“On the last hill of the bike I managed to break away from everyone and had about a handy lead on the field going down the hill but then I didn’t realise that the dismount line was so close so when I got to the line I had to fully slam on my breaks to not go over it as I still had to get one of my feet out,” Deuble said.

“By the time I did this the main pack had all caught me so I was a little disappointed about that but I still managed to be third out of transition onto the run.

“Then on the run I started off at a nice comfortable pace and just eased into the first 1km and then at about the 2km mark which was this long gradual hill I pulled away.

“From then on I led the whole way although I started to struggle at about the 8km mark with a really bad stitch.

“Over the last 2km I just tried to push through the pain as best I could and finally at about 500m to go the pain finally subsided and I was able to finish strongly.

“Overall I was really happy with how I raced, I was just annoyed at my dismount but apart from that everything else ran smoothly.

“My transitions were nice and fast so hopefully coach Dan Atkins will be pleased with that.”

Mitch Keally wins Bronze in the Men’s race

In the men’s race it was Shane Barry and Taylor Cecil who led out of water with a five to seven second lead to a group of men including former Commonwealth Games athlete Mitch Kealy (who would go on to finish third) Marcel Walkington, Kenji Nener and Kane Simpson.

Michael Gosman was a further 10sec back with another Japanese athlete. Sam Speachley was 1.10min down on the leaders.

On the mount line Kim (Korea) ran into the back of Walkington who broke his rear derailleur resulting in a DNF.

This group formed a lead pack of 12 men on the bike that worked well together to build a 2 min plus gap on the chasers.

Onto the run a lead group of 10 formed straight away with Michael Gosman falling off the pace out of transition.

Mitch, Taylor and Shane ran at the front until the 4km mark where Svarc (CZE) and Goldsmith (NZL) formed a small break on the steep downhill.

Goldsmith built a strong lead from there and looked well in control from the 8km mark and was never headed.

Svarc built a small lead but that was cut in the last 1km as Mitch and Taylor finished strongly dropping Shane over the last rise on the course a bridge with 1km to go.

Svarc held on while Kealy and Taylor had a sprint finish for 3rd (the race finished on a tartan track for the final 300m) with Barry fifth, Shaw sixth and Nenner seventh and Simpson ninth – giving Australia six of the top ten.

As for Robertson he can’t wait to get back to the Gamagori course with so many great memories.

“After winning the world champs in 2005 in Gamagori I can’t wait to return this time to watch and support the young guns from Australia!” said the duel Olympian.

“The Japanese always put on great events and I sure Gamagori will once again be exciting racing. A little less painful for me this time around though!”

 

 

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Australian Triathlon Olympic Team Voting Results

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We ran a poll on Trizone a couple of weeks ago to get some feedback from the Australian triathlon community. 474 people voted on who they wanted in the Australian Triathlon Team for the Olympics. It was interesting to watch the voting. Macca and Atkinson were the overwhelming favourites to fill the remaining two men’s spots. Brendan Sexton received  around about 12% of the men’s votes. Interestingly Macca received 1% of the vote to fill one of the female spots.

For the record Brad Kahlefledt and Emma Moffatt are already in the team.

In the women’s voting things were heavily weighted towards Erin Densham for obvious reasons. However voting for the third spot was interesting. It was all Emma Snowsill for the first few days then over a 2-3 hour period on a Thursday afternoon there was a plunge on Emma Jackson and she swept to the lead and remained there until we closed the poll.

The talk is that Snowy will get the 3rd spot and it is pretty obvious that Erin Densham is the number 2.

A lot of people are questioning why Ashleigh Gentle’s name is not being mentioned. The word is that she is still young and not quite consistent enough but is definitely being groomed for the Olympics in Rio 2016. Along with Emma Jackson and whoever else we will have an incredibly strong female Olympic team in four years time.

In the men’s team things are not quite as straight forward. Courtney Atkinson has come good recently and with his past form will get the nod for spot number two. To everyone it looks like Chris McCormack should get the nod ahead of Brendan Sexton. However the inside talk is that Sexton has met more of the selection criteria over the last year.

In Sydney during the ITU it was obvious who the triathlon public wanted to see in the London 2012 team. Everytime Macca came past the cheers were huge.

Sexton seems to be struggling to get out of the water and is then struggling to get back in to the race.

A dark horse would be Aaron Royle. If it wasn’t for a major mistake in T1 Royle could very well have placed top 10 in Madrid. Coming out of the water with the leaders Royle then proceeded to follow them through transition forgetting that he was around number 49 not 9. So he had to double back to get his bike and missed the front pack. In saying this Royle has not had the opportunity over the last year to meet selection criteria.

Let’s see what happens this weekend.

Click here to see the voting results

 

 

 

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Triathlon Australia’s Newest Board Member Mick Maroney wants to Connect Triathletes with the Board

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The appointment of Dr Mick Maroney to the Triathlon Australia board recently has been met with a positive reaction from the general triathlon community in Australia. A professional in the sport in the late 80s and 90s Mick Maroney brings a true ‘triathlon’ representation to the sport’s governing body.

Mick Maroney on his way to yet another title in Sydney

Maroney has replaced Michelle Gallen on the TA board. “I have jumped at this great opportunity. Whilst it is an 18 month term I hope to be involved at this level for a lot longer. I would like to eventually be involved in the High Performance area in TA post London.”

Maroney is adament that he wants to be a conduit for communication between the general Australia triathlon community and the board. “I am passionate about the sport as everyone who knows me is aware of. I want to be someone that triathletes in Australia feel they can come to and talk about anything that is going on in the sport.”

Many newcomers to triathlon will not be so familiar with Mick Maroney, especially if they are from outside NSW. These days you will see Mick racing the NSW triseries, TriShave Sprint Series and world ITU age group championships. In 2009 and 2011 Mick won the ITU world sprint championship title for his age group and regularly wins NSW sprint race and always his age group. At 45 he is still showing the young guys and girls how to race. He has been heavily involved in the junior development of the sport.

In 1989 Maroney won the Noosa triathlon title and was selected the following year in the elite team. He then went on to race domestically and made the unselfish decision to travel the world and support his young sister in her swimming endeavours. You can find photos of Mick standing with Fidal Castro in Cuba when Susie Maroney famously swum from Florida to Cuba amongst many other great endeavours.

Out of school Mick followed his father’s (deputy police commissioner ) footsteps in to the police force. This lasted for only a couple of years before he realised it was not for him. He went on to do triathlons professionally for a few years.

In 2001 he stepped down from racing completely and didn’t take it up again until 2006 when the children were getting a little older.

Maroney came from a swimming background. “When we started we knew nothing about triathlon. I spent all my time reading magazines from the US trying to work out what to do. A long with a number of other pioneers of the sport we developed a bunch of guys in Cronulla like Troy Fidler, Greg Welch, a young Chris McCormack, Craig Alexander, Brad Bevan occasionally turned up along with Peter Roberston, among others.”

People like the great Scott Mollina where his idols and what got him in to the sport. Something that a lot of newcomers to the sport don’t have. The past greats of the sport were what attracted people to triathlon. These days it is more about lifestyle for most people.

After pulling back from the sport and supporting Susie in her endeavours Mick became a fireman. “While my colleagues were watching Foxtel I was studying to get a degree so that I could become a teacher. I wanted to get a career that would be ideal for family life and triathlon coaching.” He now teaches PE full time and also lectures at university in Educational Psychology. Mick received a Doctorate in Education Psychology after doing extensive studies and papers on adolescent development.

I took the opportunity to ask what everyone wants to know. Is the way that TA selects the Olympic team is working? “The process is a collaborative process and is put together by a number of parties. TA really only looks at the process to make sure that it is followed. The selection committee makes the policy in collaboration with coaches and athletes. TA oversees its implementation.”

Could TA communicate this better to the triathlon public so that there is less ‘TA bashing’ taking place?

“The board is a representation of the membership. Some information bandied about is incorrect. The board has copped a bit of flack when all it is doing is following a process. The communication process could be improved no doubt. But that is more my opinion as a triathlete.”

“The board doesn’t say this person should be in and this person shouldn’t. The board simply makes sure that process is followed.”

On the board because he thinks he could make a difference. “I hope that people in the sport will come to me and tell me what they are not happy with so I can make a difference. It is alright to complain after but what about tell me earlier if there are things you are not happy about. We need to hear from people on what is working and what isn’t.” Mick hopes this will happen.

 

 

 

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Inaugural Port Stephens triseries a Huge Success

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The end of season and inaugural triseries race at Port Stephens last weekend was a great success with Elite Energy holding their usual three race format and putting on a great triathlon festival. A race for everyone is what seems to make these events so great. The weather was perfect and the times the main races were held was ideal for Sydneysiders and those travelling to the race on the day.

How warm was it for mid May? You did not need a wetsuit and in the Sprint race there really was no advantage. With the rip dragging everyone out to the first buoy it was really only and couple of hundred meters of swimming before we had to stand up and run another couple of hundred meters in calf deep water. That was hard!!

Kieran Roche winning the Olympic Distance - Photo Credit: Victor Lee

In the main race of the day Kieran Roche and Caroline Sweeney took the overall Olympic distance honours. In the men’s open category Roche pulled away on the bike from second placed Sam Douglas and was never headed. He ran a 36:42 to cap off a successful race.

First time to the open category was Wollongong’s Nathan Miller racing in the Mark Scott stripes. Miller headed out of T2, along with Shaun Vidler, ahead of Ben Hammond. Hammond fell off the pace in the bike leg towards the end but had enough of a run in him to get over the top of Miller and take third place.

(Victor Lee’s photos from the day can be viewed here)

Upstaging them all though was age grouper Adam Conquest who’s race time put him in second place overall. Conquest is known for his very strong bike but backed it up with a run that was faster than the open guys to have the third fastest run time overall. The three fastest runs of the day all went to age groupers. Balmoral’s Owain Matthews posted a 34:59 to continue his impressive start to the sport of triathlon. The renowned runner from Great Britain is loving the multi discipline sport. He is still playing with the balance between the bike and run. Jarred Adams posted the second fastest run with a 36:14. Adams works with Mark Newton at Jet Cycles and is part of the coaching team that looks after Douglas and Roche.

In the women’s race there was again a lack of open females racing. This is no slight on Elite Energy as there have been a distinct lack of open females racing this season everywhere. Brook Langereis was down to race open but with no other open female entrants she changed to her age group which she duly won.

Caroline Sweeney eventually took the overall title. This ‘Wonder Women’ (full time worker, mother of two pre schoolers, violinist in the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra) has made a fairly decent comeback to the sport of triathlon after taking time out to have her two children. Although Sweeney’s swim was almost three minutes behind Langereis she was able to use her strong bike / run combo to finish almost three minutes ahead of Langereis.

Julie Uebel finished third overall.

In the Sprint race we were lucky as always to watch the ability of 45 year old Mick Maroney as he claimed the overall fastest time of the day. He decided to redline all day and see how long he could keep the pace up. Until the end as we found out. He pulled out one of his fastest runs of the year in doing so.

Cameron Roberts and Luke Chalker rounded out the overall podium. In doing so Roberts won the 16-17 age group and Chalker won the 14-15 age group. Roberts ran a 16:46 for the 5kms and rode very well.

In the women’s race South African Anel Stewart had a solid hit out and was the fastest female on the day with Balmoral’s Hannah Lawrence second overall and Michelle Wiseman third. Stewart has raced at ITU level and on her day is a very fast triathlete. Lawrence is a solid age grouper with some good potential. Loves racing and is always positive and outgoing.

Elite Energy puts on triathlon festivals that we love going to. The atmosphere and vibe from the team is always great. From a couple of events (including Husky of course) three years ago to over 10 triathlon festivals next year is a significant growth curve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Australian Triathlon Olympic Team Makeup – Have your say!

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Triathlon on TV in May – One HD

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Channel Ten’s One HD has 10 triathlon programs still to run in May. Saturday May 12 at 1pm sees Ironman Melbourne with a repeat on Sunday at 4:30pm. The San Diego round of the ITU will be shown on Wednesday, Thursday and with highlights early Friday morning next week.

 

  • Sat May 12: Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship, 1-2pm
  • Sun May 13: Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship, 4.30-5.30pm (repeat)
  • Wed May 16: ITU World Championship Triathlon Round 2 San Diego Womens Race, 12-2.30pm
  • Thur May 17: ITU World Championship Triathlon Round 2 San Diego Mens Race, 12-2.30pm
  • Fri May 18: ITU World Championship Triathlon Round 2 San Diego Highlights, 6-7am
  • Mon May 21: ITU World Championship Triathlon Round 2 San Diego Womens Race, 6-8.30am (repeat)
  • Mon May 21: ITU World Championship Triathlon Round 2 San Diego Mens Race, 8.30-11am (repeat)
  • Wed May 23: ITU World Championship Triathlon Round 2 San Diego Highlights, 2-3am (repeat)
  • Sat May 26: Ironman Australia 2011, 6-7am
  • Sat May 26: ITU World Championship Triathlon Round 2 San Diego Highlights, 7-8am (repeat)

 

 

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