Emma Moffatt and Erin Densham perform well behind new ITU record holder Paula Findlay
Photography: Delly Carr / Triathlon.org, Trizone
Beijing Olympians Emma Moffatt and Erin Densham have continued Australia’s encouraging performances at this weekend’s Dextro Energy ITU World Championship Triathlon Series, finishing fourth and eighth respectively behind untouchable Canadian Paula Findlay in Kitzbuhel, Austria today.
It was the first time in the Series that Moffatt has threatened the podium after a pair of 13th placings in the opening two rounds in Sydney and Madrid.
Her fellow Beijing Olympian Densham, who has battled health and illness over the last 18 months produced her best Olympic distance race for some time to also finish in the top ten, hanging on well over the closing stages of the run.
Moffatt gave herself every chance of a podium finish, valiantly trying to stay in touch with the leaders who broke away from the four-time world championship race winner with three kilometres to run.
As hard as she tried, Moffatt couldn’t go with the Maple Leaf’s latest star Findlay who went on to claim a record-equalling third straight World Series win this season over her British combatant Helen Jenkins, with the USA’s Sarah Groff producing her first ever podium finish.
The Australian girls efforts and the performances of Brad Kahlefeldt (fifth) and Jamie Huggett (22nd) in yesterday’s men’s race has given the Aussies a huge boost as they head back to their French training camp in Aix le Bain to prepare for their major goals of the season â€“ to peak for the Hamburg (July 16 and 17) and London (August 6 and 7) races and Olympic selection.
Australia’s National and AIS Head Coach Shaun Stephens was â€œmore than satisfied and relievedâ€ with his team’s efforts over the weekend.
â€œWe all sat down as a group after the disappointments in Madrid and there were a lot of sorry faces that’s for sure,â€ said Stephens.
â€œThey all agreed they had to make some changes and they knew they couldn’t rely on their past performances in the swim â€“ they had to start with more aggression and most of them were able to do that.
â€œAnd they knew they had to stay in touch to have any chance of improving their placings and I was happy with their efforts and somewhat relieved that we are getting back on track.
â€œWe always targeted Hamburg and London and we are looking forward now to getting a solid block of training in over the next month.
â€œMoffy is threatening again and she knows what she has to do to match it with those leading girls and it was great to see the old Erin back â€“ she has certainly been through her ups and downs.â€
Kinder weather conditions greeted the women with an earlier start than yesterday’s men’s race and it was blue skies replacing the rain and wind for the first hour of the race at least before intermittent rain, hail and shine greeted the field during the second half of the race.
Monterrey World Cup winner Sarah Haskins from the USA produced the swim of the weekend to lead the field by over 20 seconds with Moffatt 37 seconds behind and fellow Australians Anabelle Luxford 57 seconds behind and Densham, Felicity Abram and Felicity Sheedy-Ryan making up the Aussie contingent in the second half of the field.
The Australian girls had adhered to their coach’s instructions: â€œDon’t lose touch on the swim.â€
It was Haskins and British Olympian and former world champion Jenkins who linked up to share the lead over the first three laps on the bike with the 20-strong chase group, including Luxford, Densham and Moffatt, riding hard to catch the breakaways.
By the bell lap on the bike it was champion biker Luxford who positioned herself at the front of the bike pack with New Zealand’s top rider Mooloolaba World Cup winner Nicky Samuels.
World champion Moffatt and Canada’s 22-year-old dual winner in Sydney and Madrid Findlay aligned themselves in the pack as the field jostled for the transition into the run.
But it was 27-year-old Jenkins who took the field out on the first run lap, with Densham and Findlay, the USA trio Haskins, Laura Bennett, Sarah Groff and Chile’s Barbara Riveros amongst the leading runners.
Moffatt also put herself within striking distance as scattered rain and sunshine greeted the runners on different stretches of the course.
The further the race went the combatants from Madrid, Findlay and Jenkins edged to the front with Moffatt, Riveros and Groff forming a break away as Japanese athlete Al Ueda mounted her challenge after coming from 39th place in the second chase pack on the bike â€“ 35 seconds behind at the start of the run.
Findlay, Jenkins, Moffatt and Groff then dropped Riveros as Ueda gradually picked off the field one by one in a stunning running performance, pushing to eighth place with four kilometres left and eventually finishing seventh.
With three kilometres to run it was Moffatt who dropped off the lead group, with Findlay, Jenkins and Groff setting up the podium finish as they approached the bell lap.
Findlay and Jenkins, as they did in Madrid then took off, dropping Groff.
Fortune again favoured the brave as Findlay broke away on an incline in the run home to edge in front of Jenkins to record her third win of the season and her record fifth World Championship race victory.
Australia’s other starters Felicity Abram finished 49th with Felicity Sheedy-Ryan 52nd while Luxford withdrew after working hard to bring the field through the 40km bike course.