Like former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, Anna Cleaver has come back for a second time to have a crack at her dream. This time it is long course and her first Ironman in Melbourne last weekend was a success. She may not have won or placed on the podium but seventh female overall for someone who most suggested ‘wouldn’t be able to run a fast marathon’ her 3:08 was impressive. A shortened swim stole some of the advantage that Cleaver would normally gain over a majority of the field but that didn’t affect her.
The former New Zealand representative swimmer and investment banker is now banking on long course triathlon to take her to the top.
On the beach at the start of Ironman Melbourne Cleaver could not stop giggling as the pros, and everyone else, stood around for close to an hour while the start was delayed. She is not a surf swimmer so the rough water and short swim took the sting out of her first leg. In addition a penalty on the bike added to her overall time.
One of the revelations in Anna’s race report is that she could be be first person who was busted for drafting that was actually drafting at the time. This is a revelation in the sport as never before has anyone been busted drafting while actually drafting (tongue firmly in cheek).
In Anna’s words…
This particular â€˜Ironman Journey’ begins before 24th March. Years before in fact.
Rewind to 2004. I had resigned from a highly stressful job in Investment Banking. My teen years were spent as a NZ swimmer and my university studies were accompanied by a short stint in ITU triathlon as an U23 athlete. 3 years in an Investment Bank environment working 80-100 hour weeks and I needed a break. A US vacation for my birthday brought me to Hawaii in October. It was a coincidence that this solo vacation brought me to Kona at the same time as the famous Ironman World Championships. I didn’t know anybody there. I watched the inspiring Cameron Brown race on a day that didn’t prove to be â€˜his day’. I was still inspired. I couldn’t tell you who won that day. I didn’t know athlete names. I do remember going back to my hotel room (now that I know more about the event, how I got a hotel room in Kona at this time of year I do not know!). I called my Dad and said I am going to get back into triathlon. I am going to do Ironman. One day.
Since then I have tried to be patient in this triathlon journey, something that for those who know me well is a difficult thing to achieve. I continued to work and it wasn’t until recent years that I returned to the sport. After being plagued by illness, injuries and crashes I was finally finding my feet again. Nick White from Carmichael Coaching Systems started working with me in September last year. I had just had a bike crash which left me with fractures. I told him I wanted to do Ironman and I thought Melbourne would be a good one for my first. He agreed.
So to many my decision to race the Asia Pacific Ironman Championships seemed like a sudden/ last minute one. But the decision had been made many months prior, in fact many years before. I chose this particular event for a few reasons:
- Timing. Regardless of whether I raced or not, training for a March Ironman would provide me with a great base and building blocks for the US season
- It is close to home. Minimal travel time would be needed, its familiar, there aren’t any unknown culture issues to deal with and family and friends could be there
- The course. I thought it would be one that would suit my strengths. On race day the course did not play out to these strengths. But ironically my strengths were not what I had expected them to be
The build up
For the 5 weeks leading up to Melbourne I was based in Gold Coast, prior to that I was working and training in Sydney. The preparation was about consistency for me. Nick and I viewed this race as an experience one. Sure I wanted to do well, but what â€˜well’ was I had no idea. Each week we saw improvements across all 3 disciplines, particularly in the last few weeks of February. We didn’t cram in extra long runs or rides.Â We didn’t plan for me to be in my fittest ever state for this event. It was about progressing my fitness and consistency. I made a deal with Nick that I would enter the event, I would train for it, but if my body was not ready I would not race. â€œI’ll get you readyâ€ he assured me. I doubted whether I could run a marathon. It took one particular 30km run session (where I held a pace I didn’t know I could maintain) for me to be convinced that I could do this marathon thing. So I booked my flights. That was less than 2 weeks out.
Recruiting the experts
I am fortunate to have friends who have raced Ironman many times, like Jason Shortis and Rhodsey (Bryan Rhodes). They answered many of my Ironman rookie questions, and I am impressed they did so without laughing at me. As did my friends Simon in the US and Jacqui in Sydney (the questions a girl can only ask a girl!). Aid stations, special needs, transitions, bike set up, gear check in, restroom stops, this was all different to my previous triathlon experiences. Gone are the days of taping one gel to my bike.
I realised pretty quickly that nutrition is the 4th leg of the triathlon. I can train my body to swim bike and run but if I don’t fuel my body correctly, it won’t perform for me on race day. I found the Shotz products to be incredible. They allowed me to separate out my nutrition and hydration plans. I established a strategy with Darryl from Shotz, whom I am extremely grateful to. I practiced it in every session for the 3 weeks leading up to the event. Going into race day, I knew what my body could tolerate over a long period of time but also during intensity.
Carmichael Training Systems might have had to increase Nick’s email capacity in the last week. Poor Nick received email after email and text after text asking questions. â€œWhat is a wetsuit stripperâ€, â€œWhat if I need to go to the restroomâ€, do my cycle shoes go in this bag thingâ€. We debated what my sustainable power numbers would be. He said X. I said X++++. We met somewhere in the middle (I like to negotiate).
7th place. Due to a timing chip issue we have to rely on Garmin time for this one. Swim time ?, Sub 4:57 bike, 3:08min marathon, 8hr40 finish time (yes if you do the math, you willÂ realise even with my swim time I may have had a few cups of tea in transition)
By now it is well known that the conditions required the swim to be cut short and the race start delayed. These decisions didn’t concern me. When I heard it was going to be a short swim I thought â€˜great, I’ve done 70.3s, I know how to do this’. The situation wasn’t ideal for me though. I like to use my swim strength and prefer that the agegroup men start with a large gap behind the professional women. But Ironman is a long day and I wanted to test myself over the bike and run, so not a problem.
At the start some girls were lining up behind me, I guess to get my feet. I did giggle to myself. Yes I grew up as a swimmer. But I followed a black line in a swimming pool and swam many miles in lakes. I didn’t plough my way through messy waves and chop like what was presented to us on Sunday. You are welcome to sit on my feet but I’m not sure it will be that helpfulâ€¦
As expected the swim was a mess. I couldn’t sight, I felt like I couldn’t get in any powerful strokes, it was just arms and limbs everywhere. A bit of a shame as I was proudly wearing the new HUUB wetsuit and I wanted to see what this thing could do. I must admit that I can’t find one photo of me in the wetsuit exiting the water as its breakaway zipper makes it so fast to take off that it was half way down my back within a few meters of the swim exit. Congrats HUUB, you have nailed it with this wetsuit.
The first 40km of the bike was a solo effort for me, riding slightly above the numbers Nick and I had agreed on, but I was still comfortable and maintaining good cadence in the strong head wind. My focus was on nutrition and hydration, getting the targeted amount of calories and sodium into my body. I managed to distract myself from thinking about how brutal the wind actually was.
Then the packs came. At first they weren’t too big, but I certainly could see how much easier the headwind riding experience would be if you chose to ride in one. I realize that everyone is out there racing, going for the best they can do on their day. However when it interferes with others’ races it is frustrating. I would try to sit back but agegroup men would jump in the gap and block me, something many of us girls battled with. I did get a penalty and I deserved it. An agegroup man kept jumping infront of my wheel, blocking me. I found it hard to make forward progress when I would pass someone, trying to keep a gap yet this blocking kept happening. When I was given my penalty, the official reminded me that we areall required to drop back and wait 25 seconds before passing someone. When I was blocked by this particular agegrouper I didn’t wait, I wanted to get away from the group. I proceeded to pass him and the pack and that is when I got the yellow card. For not waiting 25 seconds to pass. Now I know.
I used the 4 minute stop in the penalty box to relax, stretch, drink and eat. It didn’t concern me that others were riding by, I was having a rest!
With my now semi- rested body I proceeded to pick off people and packs and make my way back up the field. I cycled through entire packs, trying to get to the front, away from the mess. I was enjoying it. But in the last 45km I was thinking â€˜I have to do a marathon soon, haven’t done one of those before’. I coped fine with the distance, had it been 10km longer I am not so sure I would have enjoyed it as much.
I’m not sure whether it was adrenalin or what it was but I started the run at a pace I had no right to hold! After 4km I settled in and maintained my rhythm, constantly assessing what my body needed to prevent it from going into too much deficit in any particular area. How dehydrated am I?â€¦ drink. When was your last gel?â€¦ eat. My stomach feels bloatedâ€¦back off the fluid. I ran through the
half marathon in a respectable time for even a 70.3 (half marathon) distance. I continued that pace, maintaining a calm headspace until I got to the 30km mark. I had heard countless stories about the 30km barrier. This is when legs fall off, shuffling begins, limping, walking, vomiting and bad thoughts enter the mind apparently. 30km went by and I still felt good. OK lets pick up the pace and get to 32kmâ€¦ I did and I was still OK. That’s how I went for the next 10km, waiting for the dreaded pain to kick in so I can see what it is all about, but pleased that at every 2km mark it hadn’t joined me yet and I could continue to accelerate. Â I spotted the green uniform of Meredith up ahead and that excited me, something to aim for. If she was there, then there might be another girl further up. That’s when I found Carrie and passed her with less than 2km to go.
I glanced at my garmin as I sprinted (yes sprinted?!) through the finish line, it read 3.08. My first marathon, my longest run by an hour and a time that I was very pleased with.
I am not a swimmer or a swim/ biker. I can run. I am a triathlete. What the heckâ€¦ I am an Ironman
Bring on the emotion
Mum shared my Port Macquarie Half win with me in 2010. This one was Dad’s turn. It meant the absolute world to me having him there. I looked out for him during the entire race and smiled whenever I saw him. He got the biggest hug at the finish line. He was there with my Uncle (thank you for being there!). And then of course there was Erin. Like my family, Erin has shared with me the ups and downs of the journey to get to my first Ironman. I am so grateful for her friendship.
And a big thank you to Mick, Scott and Neil for coming out to watch. They pulled me around many a lap of the Tan (Botanical Gardens) in our Melbourne lunch time work runs years ago.
Sharing the event with other friends who were racing was also very special (Juan and Mia) and seeing friends who have shared the journey with you on the course is incredible (Kim and Dean, Ester and Derek, BondiFit). I am sorry to the friends who were unable to follow me due to the faulty timing chip. Very grateful for the messages of commiserations I received (assumptions were made about me crashing, pulling out, not starting)!
The Easter Bunny. I have that calorie deficit to replace.
Apparel: I am very excited about my custom Hincapie Sportswear apparel that is waiting for me in the US. Hincapie involve you in the process, with colors, design and logo placement. If your team needs high quality custom kit, consider using Hincapie (now in Australia). Final touches were being put on my kit for the US season, so I raced in the 2013 Fluid Tri retail range. During the run I received compliments from 3 girls about the black and pink number I was wearing.
Coaching and bike fit: Carmichael Training Systems (Nick White and team)
Pre race: 5-round fury of course
During: Shotz gels and electrolyte tabs. Wouldn’t change a thing with my nutrition plan. This stuff works
Post race: Isagenix IsaLean and IsaPro shake
Eyewear and Helmet: Rudy Project Wingspan helmet (lightest TT helmet I have worn) and Rudy Project glasses (hypermask for the cycle and Noyz for the run)
Wetsuit: HUUB. An absolute pleasure to swim in this suit. Fitted like it was made for me and the breakaway zipper lets the wetsuit peel off me with incredible speed
Bike set up: The Cervelo was set up with a Cobb Saddle, Zipp 808/ disc combo (thank you Southeast Sports Marketing), SRM and a Garmin 910. XLAB products kept my bike as aero as possible while providing me with hydration and nutrition storage.
Run gear: Wearing a Fuel Belt allowed me to implement my hydration/ nutrition plan. The belt is light, bottles don’t bounce and it was color co-ordinated to my race kit. Saucony Fasttwitch led me to my 3.08 marathon
It was an honor to race with such a high caliber of athletes. Between them all, they have had countless Ironman podiums. I have so much respect for them and what they have achieved.
Find out everything you need to know about Anna by clicking here and checking out her great website.
Top 30 Womens results from Ironman Melbourne
|ABRAHAM, Corinne||Great Britain||0:28:23||4:42:09||2:56:50||8:10:56||18||18|
|VAN VLERKEN, Yvonne||Austria||0:27:09||4:55:01||3:00:46||8:26:40||22||30|
|CRAWFORD, Gina||New Zealand||0:25:15||5:02:03||3:05:56||8:37:23||26||47|
|STEVENS, Amanda||United States||0:21:53||5:00:50||3:12:43||8:39:39||27||53|
|PIAMPIANO, Sarah||United States||0:26:47||0:00:00||3:16:44||8:44:52||32||70|
|MARTIN, Britta||New Zealand||0:27:30||4:59:33||3:14:45||8:45:50||33||73|
|ROSS, Anna||New Zealand||0:27:17||5:01:45||3:16:10||8:49:32||35||83|
|KESSLER, Meredith||United States||0:21:54||4:56:49||3:29:03||8:51:33||36||93|
|WERNICK, Charisa||United States||0:27:46||5:01:03||3:24:05||8:56:35||38||121|
|REID, Kristine||New Zealand||0:26:21||5:33:50||3:22:01||9:28:34||57||294|
Challenge Roma – The First Big European Challenge Event In 2018
On April 15, 2018, will be Challenge Roma’s second edition. After its debut in 2017, the Italian capital will be again protagonist of great international triathlon in a new location, the Rome Marina “Porto Turistico di Roma”, with new distances: 1.9 km swimming, 90 km bike, 21 km running. A middle distance like Challenge’s primary races, Challenge Roma will be the first European race of the year too. A chance for triathletes from all over the world to test their athletic preparation, in a very fast and beautiful path, in Roman Spring beginning.
Porto Turistico di Roma will also be home of the Expo Village, which will host numerous side activities for the entire weekend starting from Friday. The involvement of schools and local institutions, and then go on Saturday with the Sprint triathlon, the paratriathlon super sprint, valid as the second stage of the Italian Championship, before the Challenge Roma race on Sunday morning.
Challenge Roma Location
For the second edition of Challenge Roma, a new location was selected: the Porto Turistico di Roma. In fact, Rome extends its borders to the coasts of the Tyrrhenian sea, and its marina is a central point for many activities, thanks to the excellent sea-water quality. Completely renovated, the Marina is close to the Leonardo Da Vinci Fiumicino Airport, and offers a lot of public services including restaurants, shops, children spaces and a long, romantic walk through piers and boats.
What will kick off at the Challenge Roma will be a high-level parterre. Attracted by the charm of the capital and by the calendar that places the race as the first test of the 2018 season in Europe, lots of pro’s are keen to join Challenge Roma second edition and the fair weather of spring.
Among others, the Slovenian Jaroslav Kovacic, 34, the British Will Clarke, 33, the German Andreas Dreitz, 34 years winner of Cervia (Italy) full distance. But they will not be the only ones. Also, the Germans Alexander Schilling, 30, and Michael Goehner, 38, the Spaniards Inaki Baldellou, 29, and Pablo Dapena Gonzalez, 30, the Russian Georgii Kaurov, 25, and the young British George Goodwin, 22 years.
Among the women, all eyes will be on the Italian medium-distance champion Marta Bernardi, 28 years old and the new name of the international triathlon. Two skilled athletes will challenge her: the Dutch Yvonne Van Vlerken, 39, and Britain’s Caroline Livesey, 38 years old, and Sofie Goos, 28 years old from Belgium. In addition to them also the Hungarian Gabriella Zelinka, 27, the young Russian Mariia Bibicheva, just 21 years old, the Czech Simona Krivankova, 35, the two Belgian Sofie Goos and Karen Steurs, respectively 37 and 38 years, and the Croatian Sonja Skevin, 23 years old.
Paratriathlon, 2nd Stage Italian Championship
The long weekend of the Challenge Roma will host Saturday, April 2 at 2 pm the 2nd stage of the Italian Paratriathlon championship on the Super Sprint distance (0.4 km of swimming, 10 km of bike, 2.5 km of running). At the start over 40 athletes for a parterre of the highest level led by the Rio 2016 Olympic bronze Giovanni Achenza in addition to Italian champion pts5 Gianfilippo Mirabile and multi-champion champion Veronica Plebani.
Challenge Roma Sprint
Saturday, April 14 will be staged, starting at 10.30, also a race Sprint distance (750 m swimming, 20 km cycling and 5 km running) open to all members of the Italian and International Triathlon Federation. The route will develop almost entirely within the Port of Rome, with the exception of the cycling village that will “stretch” on the seafront in a 5 km circuit to be repeated 4 times. The stretch is completely flat.
It all starts on Friday, April 13, from 10 am with the Duathlon School promotional event, dedicated to schools: children will compete in the area inside the Marina.
From 2 pm, the afternoon will be dedicated to the public with the opening of the Triathlon Expo, where brands and technical equipment dedicated to the discipline will be exhibited. Saturday, April 14th we start with Challenge Sprint triathlon at 10.30 a.m., followed by Paratriathlon Super Sprint at 2 p.m., valid as the second stage of the Italian Championship series and then finish at 4 p.m. with the Challenge Duathlon Kids dedicated to kids and youngsters of Lazio’s triathlon schools. Also, in the afternoon, starting at 4.30 p.m., Challenge Roma briefing (Ita and Eng) in view of the main event of the following day.
Sunday, April 15 will be the day of the Challenge Roma, which starts at 13.15 am. From 5.15 it is expected the leading athletes arrival who will be rewarded immediately with the Flower Ceremony, a characteristic symbol of CHALLENGEFAMILY.
The long triathlon weekend will close up in the evening with the Award Ceremony and live music “farewell party” starting at 9 pm.
Review: SunGod PaceBreaker sunglasses – Look Cool While Dropping Watt Bombs
SunGod sunglasses are a relatively new player to the market, a successful, UK based, crowd-funded business who’s appeal is focused on the ability to customise the glasses online at an affordable price.
SunGod was founded in 2013 and developed from a frustration that to get quality lenses that would be able to withstand a sports/adventure lifestyle.
They launched their first product, SunGod Classic, as their first complete custom online build, with polycarbonate polarised lenses and TR90 memory polymer frames. This campaign exploded, with SunGods being shipped to 93 countries and making 10x the initial funding target and becoming the largest crowdfunded project of its kind in the UK.
Jumping on to the website is simple enough, and you get to choose from a variety of frames and styles. The Classics and Renegades focus more on traditional streetwear, extreme sports etc., while the Revolts are focused on snow sports. All of the range bears the funky looking Limited editions, are fully customizable. As triathletes wouldn’t be seen dead wearing non-race specific gear, we’re going to focus the review on the PaceBreakers – wraparounds focused on riding and running (swimming not tested!)
What design do you ask?
I was lucky enough to get to design a pair of sunglasses via the simple to understand interface. Simple enough in fact that my five-year-old daughter created my first pair below.
Going through the interface, you get to choose the frame colour, lens type (4KO Polarised or not – more on that later), icons on the side and ear sock colour (the tips of your glasses). If your creativity is failing you, you can also choose from a set series of best sellers.
The whole process takes around 30 seconds of effort with 20 minutes of procrastination around the right colours to match with your complexion and handbag.
My second pair was a much more straightforward affair focusing on the traditional grey look.
The glasses ship from the UK and for me, turned up in 3 days, a surprising and welcome change.
What’s in the box?
SunGod indeed go above and beyond with the packaging and its contents
As you would expect you get a box with the sunglasses included, but you also get a spare nose clip, a case which also doubles as a cleaning rag and a truckload of stickers to stick around the place. Its quite a few freebies given the low cost of the product.
4KO pace lens with triple scratch resistance
SunGod claims that the polarised lens is both triple scratch resistant and will enhance both visibility and field of view in both low light and bright conditions. We obviously couldn’t test them in a lab with serious equipment, but we took the glasses out on a treacherous, wet and windy early morning Melbourne ride around the Dandenong mountains in peak hour traffic.
Compared to my Jawbreakers I certainly felt that their visibility in early morning sun up (6am) conditions was improved. The lens also survived being bounced along the road at high speed when I forgot to put them back on during a decent, with no scratches if I may add. So science aside, these sunglasses certainly did the job during a challenging day out.
What differentiates SunGod from the competition
SunGod has a few key differentiated points.
Firstly is the price. For around $110 – $130 dollars you get a solid pair of high-performance sunglasses with features to match and outperform glasses twice their price.
The glasses come with a lifetime warranty so if they break they will replace them free of charge. A lofty claim that I haven’t tested but certainly a welcome one – which some of the major players struggle to offer.
The glasses are made from adventure proof flexible rubber which allows the frames to be flexed, and as above bounced along the road, without damage. Which as a clumsy guy is a great feature.
Simply put, SunGod makes a great pair of sunglasses, both comfortable and high performing, you cannot beat them for value. The customisation feature is excellent and has got my triathlon team all lining up to get the team colours shipped over. I didn’t have anything negative to say about them, to the point where I’m replacing my tried and trusted jawbreakers with these for both racing and training.
Here is a link to the PaceBreakers
Simply a great set of sunglasses and are packed with features and value.
- Well priced
- Great feature set
- Carbon (Triathlete staple) look frame appears out of stock
- Were clutching at straws to find anything wrong aren't we!
Challenge Family Introduces A World Ranking For Pro-athletes
Challenge has decided to expand the successful European Money Ranking in 2018 to a so-called Challenge World Ranking. This means that professional Athletes can earn points not only in European races but also in races outside of Europe. The earned points count up in a final ranking at the end of the season with a total bonus prize purse of $165.000.
With this World Ranking, Challenge rewards the pro-athletes racing the series and results in having the best professionals racing head-to-head in the Challenge races. “We strongly believe that the professional Athletes are the ambassadors of our wonderful sport. We have seen strong racing and amazing winners in the European Ranking the last two years. We are happy to extend this to a worldwide ranking first time in 2018 ” says Zibi Szlufcik, CEO of Challenge.
The first races to be added to the ranking in the 2018 season are Challenge Taiwan, Challenge Sangil (Mexico), Challenge Aasia-Pacific Championship (Taiwan) and Challenge Daytona (USA). All European races remain part of the ranking.
The total prize purse $165.000 for the worldwide ranking will pay 5 deep for both male and female athletes. The overall winners will take home $30.000. Second place will earn $20.000, third and fourth place $15.000 and $12.000 consecutively and fifth place winner will pocket $5.000. In the event of a tie, the prize money will be averaged between the two athletes and corresponding places.
The points system that leads to the final ranking will remain the same as last year’s European ranking. This is based on points earned by the athlete’s six best Challenge race results of the season, of which no more than two can be long distance races, which earn double points. The Championship is also included in the World Ranking, with more points to collect then regular middle distance races.
Laura Siddall Looks To Go Back To Back at Ironman Australia
The 2018 season has kicked off with a bang for Laura Siddall breaking through to pick up the Ironman New Zealand title in March, and she is looking to continue her winning form when she heads to Port Macquarie (6 May) to defend her Ironman Australia crown.
Siddall, who represented England as a junior in 400m hurdles and netball, began her love affair with triathlon while she was working in Australia on a two-year contract with Shell Oil and she was soon on a rampage loading her trophy case full of age-group championships across the globe over all distances.
Siddall eventually made the leap the pro ranks and continued her love affair with Port Macquarie that started with her first half distance triathlon at Ironman 70.3 Port Macquarie back in October 2009.
“Ironman Australia will be my last race in the Southern Hemisphere before I migrate north for the European summer. It is an important race for me, as I won last year, so want to come back and show my support for the event and the people of Port Macquarie.”
“It is also important to me because the race has so much history and was very much part of my early days in the sport. It is pretty much a local race where I started triathlon, so many friends will be participating and competing as well, over both the full and 70.3 distances.”
“While Ironman Australia may be an early season race for many, it will be my fourth race of 2018 and second Ironman, having won Ironman New Zealand in March. Expectations as always to continue the build in my training and race performance globally as an athlete.”
“Ironman Australia is very much part of that development and learning. It’s always about transferring the training into the race and executing a performance that I can be proud of and pushes myself to the limits. If I focus on that, then hopefully I am somewhere in the right place at the end of the day.”
“Ironman Australia is one of the historic races around the world. It truly comes alive with the amazing support in Port Macquarie. The course is tough and gritty but has wonderful crowd encouragement. With the likes of Matthew Flinders Hill on the bike, the tri club alley on the run, it really does make the races pretty special and a brilliant atmosphere,” Laura said.
This year is the 40th anniversary year of the birth of Ironman and Laura is thankful for the huge influence the sport has been on her life as an athlete.
“It is awesome to see the sport grow over the past few years, not just the 40 years. If I think back to when I was growing up in the UK, I didn’t have a clue about triathlon. It was only when I was in Australia, where the sport was, at that time so much bigger, that I discovered it. But now, almost 10years later, I see how big the sport is in the UK, thanks to the likes of Chrissie Wellington but also the Brownlee brothers.”
“In the early years of my time in the sport, my friends and family wouldn’t have heard of triathlon, yet now I have all sorts of people contacting me saying they’ve signed up for a race or event and are training for a triathlon. It’s fantastic.”
“I started the sport as a complete beginner, and I’m now a professional and grateful for the opportunity to follow something I love, and to live my passion day to day. I travel the world training and racing and I know I’m incredibly privileged to do this. It is a lifestyle and has a wonderful community. I’ve met so many amazing people around the world, and heard so many incredible stories. It has given me some fantastic experiences and ‘pinch myself’ moments that I could never have believed or dreamed of,” she said.
Australia Takes Gold in Commonwealth Games Mixed Relay Triathlon, Gentle Celebrates Big Comeback
The Australian team won on its own turf in Saturday’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games mixed team relay triathlon. The team included Ashleigh Gentle, Matthew Hauser, Jake Birtwhistle, and Gillian Backhouse. Birtwhistle secured the victory in 01:17:36, 52 seconds ahead of England’s team and 01:52 ahead of the bronze winners of New Zealand.
For Birtwhistle, the mixed relay marked a Commonwealth Games podium streak after he nearly closed a wide gap behind South Africa’s Henri Schoeman, in the run leg of Thursday’s men’s triathlon, and won a silver. For Gentle, it was a major comeback story after she missed the Thursday podium by two positions.
Ashleigh Gentle Excels in Relay
Gentle, the third member on the course, made up for a 15-second deficit in the 250m swim leg by handing Birtwhistle a 39-second lead during the 1.5km run, easing his sprint to victory.
Gentle didn’t have it easy. She struggled with Thursday’s silver winner, Jessica Learmonth of Britain, during the entire 7km bike leg, which they completed together. Learmonth had a slight mishap while dismounting her bike, giving Gentle an opportunity to sprint ahead of her in the run before handing the final run stretch to her teammate.
A Tough Week for the Brownlee Brothers
Birtwhistle commanded a solid, and growing lead, over two-time Olympic champion, Alistair Brownlee of England. Brownlee had a rough week after realizing he did not give a prior calf injury enough time to recover. His brother, Jonny, was also recovering from a leg injury.
Who Australia was Up Against
England had a truly all-star team. Other than the Brownlee brothers and Learmonth, the team also included Vicky Holland. In the individual triathlon race, Learmonth and Holland claimed silver and bronze behind Bermuda’s Flora Duffy, who finished in 00:56:50, 43 seconds ahead of Learmonth.
The New Zealand quartet had Tayler Reid, Nicole van der Kaay, Andrew Hewitt, and Ryan Sissons. Sissons, a last minute replacement for Tony Dodds, claimed fifth in the individual triathlon. Dodds finished in 16th. Pundits had high expectations for Hewitt this year, but she finished 13thin the individual race.
XTERRA New Zealand returns to Rotorua for 16th year this Saturday
Sam Osborne and Jacqui Allen are back to defend their elite titles at the 16th annual XTERRA New Zealand Championship race at Lake Tikitapu in Rotorua on Saturday.
For Osborne, a Rotorua native and the reigning XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour Champion, it marks the start of another ambitious season of XTERRA racing.
“I’m feeling good & ready,” said Osborne, who won five majors and finished second in the European Tour rankings last year. “I’ve had a very consistent block of training with no interruptions, and that can only be a good thing.”
Osborne will need to come out of the gates sharp if he is to defend the hometown crown in front of a raucous crowd sure to be filled with his family and friends. The field is stacked with Kiwi greats and Aussie star Ben Allen who has 18 career wins of his own, including two in Rotorua (2012 and 2013).
“Yeah, I’ve seen Benny’s made the trip over earlier than normal, so he’s clearly giving the race and the course a great deal of respect,” said Osborne. “There’s plenty of big mountain bikers in the field to be concerned about as well. We’re racing at one of the best bike parks in the world and with the swim only being 1km here, it puts a lot of those guys right in the mix. Watch out for Hayden (Wilde) too. He is coming off a decent racing block with ITU, so you know he’ll be sharp, and he’s not someone you take lightly on the start list.”
Of note, the bike course has seen some significant changes this year, and the new arena is a good one says Osborne.
“The new course is great. Organizer Frank Clarke has done a good job to get it to flow so well. Rotorua is like a playground of trails so to have a course that links up some of the best cross-country trails we have means it’ll be one of the best bike courses in the world. The talk around the course is its a bit flatter than before but there is a lot of power climbing on loose gravel in there which is incredibly leg sapping. And re-introducing Split Enz was a great move, it’s a trail that has got a lot of free speed if you invest in working the bike down it. It’s pretty physical to ride it fast but that’s the sort of stuff the mountain bikers can strut their stuff on.”
Wilde, a two-time 15-19 division XTERRA World Champion, finished three minutes behind Osborne in second-place last year and says he’s excited to ditch the road for the dirt this weekend.
“Can’t wait to get back on the trails where it all started and compete at XTERRA again,” said Wilde. “For me, this will be my only XTERRA this year as from May to August I’ll be in Europe racing WTS and World Cups to get as much experience and racing in as possible. I am finding the road stuff fast and exciting, but I miss XTERRA. Nothing compares to the off-road XTERRA feel and that’s where my triathlon career started so I just love it and can’t wait to race this weekend.”
Keep an eye out for Wilde, as his goal is the 2020 games and the pursuit of the Olympic dream, “but a return to Maui someday is in the cards for sure, I love that place,” he said.
The seemingly endless string of super strong Kiwi XTERRA racers carries on with the likes of Lewis Ryan, the youngest of the Rotorua crew at just 19-years of age. Ryan won the overall XTERRA Pan Am Championship amateur title two years ago and will make his elite debut on Saturday.
“Lining up with the big boys from here on out,” said the ever-cheerful Ryan. “Definitely an awesome opportunity and something I’m super stoked to commit too. Making it even more special is that I’m able to pin on my first pro number at home here in Rotorua, so my excitement levels are peaking!”
Ryan said he grew up watching the “old guard” XTERRA pros and feels honoured to toe the line with the legends.
“I’ve been pre-riding the course the last couple days with Ben and Jacqui Allen and it’s brought back a whole load of memories,” he explained. “I grew up watching Ben have some epic battles here and as a kid who knew nothing about triathlon and was just at XTERRA Rotorua to support my Dad, these guys like Ben made the sport look so attractive. It’ll be special to line up beside one of the good guys of the sport who I’ve idolized since day one.”
As for who he thinks the favourites should be, Ryan says “it’s Sam, Hayden, Ben and Olly Shaw. Olly (also from Rotorua) is always a player here, and they’re all phenomenal athletes. In terms of the actual race, everyone knows it’s going to be a fast swim. Ben and Sam have proven themselves as some of the best fish in the sea. Going out onto the new bike course, the race dynamic will be a little bit different to previous years and I think it’ll make for an exciting showdown. There’s going to be plenty of opportunities to put moves in over different sections of the course. There’s no obvious make or break sector so I think we’re just going to have to wait and see what happens. For myself, I’ve got certain sections of trail that seem to have a nice flow about them which should make for some good fun come Saturday. My actual goals are completely different to previous races, as I’m really going into it totally relaxed. It’ll be my first time lining up as a pro, so I just want to enjoy the moment and embrace the atmosphere.”
Other elite men on the line include XTERRA veteran Alex Roberts from Taupo and Rodney Bell from Australia.
In the women’s race, Jacqui Slack from Great Britain will be gunning for her third Rotorua crown (she also won in 2012).
“It’s awesome to be back here in Rotorua,” said Slack, who also won XTERRA Tahiti and finished 2nd on the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour last year. “The weather is being kind and the trails are dry and fast. I’m feeling great and training has been going well so I’m ready to kick off the Asia-Pacific Tour. As always, there will be some solid competition from the Kiwi ladies making sure it’s a close race along with our Aussie lass Penny Slater.”
Of note amongst those Kiwi, ladies is Hannah Wells, who was second to Slack here last year, and Kristy Jennings, the reigning 35-39 XTERRA World Champion who will be making her debut in the elite field on Saturday should injuries she suffered in a bike crash last week subside.
“I’m going to ride the mountain bike course to see how I feel and will make the call then,” said Jennings, who also has XTERRA Danao, Tahiti, and Albay on her docket this season. “It’s a 50/50 chance of racing right now which is super disappointing, but we’ll see.”
Other female elites on the line include Aussie Leela Hancox, who finished fourth at the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship race in Malaysia last year, and Laura Mira from Brazil, who was fourth in the XTERRA Pan Am Pro Series last season.
XTERRA New Zealand is the first of four races on the 2018 XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour, which heads to the Philippines for the one-day Asia-Pacific Championship race in Danao on April 22, follows with XTERRA Tahiti in Moorea on May 11, and wraps up in Albay (Philippines) on June 17.
|XTERRA NEW ZEALAND ALL-TIME ELITE WINNERS|
|2003||Sam Mallard||Evelyn Willamson|
|2004||Hamish Carter||Sonia Foote|
|2005||Hamish Carter||Sonia Foote|
|2006||Hamish Carter||Gina Ferguson|
|2007||Tim Wilding||Gina Ferguson|
|2008||Terenzo Bozzone||Sonia Foote|
|2009||Richard Ussher||Nicola Leary|
|2010||Scott Thorne||Nicola Leary|
|2011||Richard Ussher||Karen Hanlen|
|2012||Ben Allen||Jacqui Slack|
|2013||Ben Allen||Renata Bucher|
|2014||Conrad Stoltz||Barbara Riveros|
|2015||Braden Currie||Suzie Snyder|
|2016||Braden Currie||Lizzie Orchard|
|2017||Sam Osborne||Jacquie Allen|