Beijing Olympic bronze medallist Emma Moffatt has struck first blood on triathlon’s road to London with a runaway defence of her Australian Sprint Distance Championship in steamy conditions in Geelong on Sunday.
It was the 25-year-old Gold Coaster’s first race in six months and she was straight back into stride, charging out of the water after the 750m swim in second place New Zealander Teresa Adam. The pair shared the duties throughout a slick five-lap 20km bike leg which saw them spread-eagle a strong international and local field. But once off the bike there was no looking back for Moffatt who put 30 seconds into Adam and the rest of the field with a stunning opening run lap.
It was a case of â€œput down the glassesâ€ as Moffatt continued to keep the pressure on running away with the victory in one hour one minute 35.2 seconds from Germany’s Anne Haug (1:02.43.4) who finished second ahead of Great Britain’s Liz Blatchford (1:02.58.3) third.
Moffatt’s Beijing Olympic team mate Erin Densham, after â€œa shockerâ€ in the swim stormed home with easily the fastest run leg of the day â€“ 16 minutes 30 seconds â€“ over a minute faster than Moffatt to finish fourth with Adam fifth.
The two-time world champion was quietly satisfied with her victory but in her own laconic way wasn’t getting overly excited with her performance, knowing she has London very much in her sights, but every time she races she wants to win. â€œI was just trying to stick with Teresa in the swim and on the bike. It was a good challenge for me to stay with her; and then I felt pretty good on the run so I just went for it and finished it off. I didn’t want anyone running over the top of me,â€ said Moffatt. â€œThat’s the competitor coming out. It’s always nice to have someone chasing, or having someone right there to chase â€“ it’s the high pressure situations. â€œIt might be an Olympic year but I’m not going to sacrifice anything for the Olympics. â€œEvery time I get on the start line I want to make sure that I just treat it as a race. I’m going to give it my best every time. â€œI’ll be doing a lot of the races, the ITU Mooloolaba World Cup and the ITU Sydney and San Diego World Championship races, before finishing off my preparation here in Australia.â€
The men’s race came down to the run after the two leading bike packs came together for the last 10km after the withdrawal of one of the pre-race favourites, Brendan Sexton after his seat post snapped on the second lap.
Third behind Brad Kahlefeldt and Frenchman Laurent Vidal last year, Sexton’s withdrawal and Kahlefeldt’s decision to by-pass the race, left it to Vidal, Great Britain’s Olympic hopeful Will Clarke, New Zealand’s Tony Dodds and a host of Australian hopefuls, including four-time winner Courtney Atkinson and 1997 winner Chris McCormack.
The young Australian contingent, including 22-year-old Drew Box, Aaron Royle, Cameron Good and Jamie Huggett very much in the hunt. And it was Clarke and Vidal who settled down to fight it out with Vidal (55:19.7) winning the sprint to the finish to edge in front of Clarke (55.21.9) with Dodds (55.40.2) third.
Vidal said: â€œI think my face tells the pain. It was really hard, pushing it. I must have found an extra gear in the last 500m. â€œI had to work a little bit on the bike. It was a really hard 50 minutes but it’s a fantastic course â€“ a bit of change from Christchurch where I train, so I really enjoyed it.â€
Box, a former age group breaststroker from Brisbane, who finished with a top ten finished in the Under 23 World Championships two years ago, was the first Australian across the line and was crowned the Australian champion. It was easily the Stephen Moss trained Box’s best result in open competition and could well be a major turning point in his career, as he targets the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Drew paid tribute to his girl friend Emma Jackson, who he said was â€œan absolute inspiration.â€ â€œYou have to admire everything Emma has been able to achieve and she has been an amazing influence on my career,â€ said Box. â€œIn fact our whole group, with the likes of Dan Wilson and Emma provide one of the best training environments in Australia. â€œThis has been a while coming and hopefully it will open up some doors for me and I can get into some races overseas and also into the ITU Mooloolaba World Cup. That would be great to get into a race up in Queensland.â€
The Australian contingent, very much in the hunt until the final run, all put up solid performances with McCormack putting in the hard yards on the bike before holding on for seventh. The other Australians in the top ten were Oceania Sprint Championship winner from last weekend, Aaron Royle (fifth), Good (sixth), Jamie Huggett (eighth) and Atkinson (tenth), while Slovakia’s Richard Varga was ninth.
Britain’s, who is looking to be the third man into the British team behind Alistair and Jonathon Brownlee said: â€œIt’s my first race of the season and at the moment I’m the third best man behind the Brownlees. â€œI’m really gunning for Sydney, It’s obviously really tough thing to qualify with the Brownlee brothers, but hopefully I can get them and hopefully I can press for Sydney. â€œI just wanted to have a good swim, get out in the front, stay out there on the bike, stay out there as long as possible and then run as fast as I could, I went out quick and I felt good but I was just a little tired in the last kilometre and couldn’t quite finish off.â€
1.Â Â Â Â Â Â Emma Moffatt (Aust)Â Â Â Â Â Â 1:01:35
2.Â Â Â Â Â Â Anne Haug (Ger)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1:02:43
3.Â Â Â Â Â Â Liz Blatchford (GBR)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1:02:58
4.Â Â Â Â Â Â Erin Densham (Aust)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1:03:04
1.Â Â Â Â Â Â Laurent Vidal (FRA)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 55:19
2.Â Â Â Â Â Â William Clarke (GBR)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 55:21
3.Â Â Â Â Â Â Tony Dodds (NZL)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 55.40
4.Â Â Â Â Â Â Drex Box (AUST)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 55:41