It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but a winter training block in the north of England has paid dividends for Australia’s rejuvenated triathlete Felicity Abram in Auckland today.
Abram, 26, posted her first major podium finish in five years with a bronze medal behind 2012 ITU World Championship grand final winner Anne Haug (GER) and the fast finishing Maaike Caelers (NED) in the ITU Triathlon World Series opener in Auckland.
Brisbane’s former world number one from 2005 spent the winter in Leeds with boyfriend, British Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee and his brother Olympic bronze medallist and ITU World Champion Jonathan Brownlee and it has set her up for what has already been a successful start to her season.
Abram followed up her victory in the ITU Oceania Championships in Wellington a fortnight ago with a performance today which certainly turned back the clock for the 2003 ITU World Junior Champion who has battled injury and illness in recent years.
â€œI put it down to a consistent winter training program in England and I’ve got to tell you it’s good to be back in the game,â€ said Abram, who said 12 months ago she had her sights on the Rio de Janeiro Olympics after missing the London team.
â€œI left here last year after the World Championship grand final and I said to myself I want to come back this year and podium and I’m really quite happy.
â€œAnne Haug is a really strong runner and I knew at some stage she would go and I just had to be ready for that. I felt really comfortable in the run and when Anne and Maaike took off it left Kate McIlroy (NZL) to fight it out for the bronze.
â€œI didn’t want to finish fourth. I wanted to be on that podium.â€
Abram gave it everything she had and collapsed after crossing the line, with her two younger Australian team mates, Wollongong-based training partners Charlotte McShane and Natalie Van Coevorden fighting on bravely to finish 9th and 10th respectively.
It capped an outstanding day for the young Australian group with Aaron Royle (sixth), Ryan Bailie (eighth) and Cameron Good (10th) also giving the men three in the top 10 â€“ the best overall performance of any nation in Auckland for the two WTS races.
And it presented Australia’s newly appointed High Performance Director Bernard Savage with some very encouraging signs.
â€œI couldn’t be happier; Felicity was outstanding and our younger athletes dug deep to proud some fantastic results in the first ITU World Championship race of the year,â€ said Savage.
â€œFelicity spent the winter training with a very, very good group in Leeds and she showed in Wellington and again today she has her confidence back, actually leading for a couple laps on the run and up against some good runners like Haug.
â€œAnd I was pleased with the efforts of McShane and Van Coevorden who also hung in well and did a very good job to finish in the top ten.
â€œIt is another stepping stone for them and further progress in their development in a small but high quality field.â€
Savage said he was equally impressed with boys race, in particular Royle, who mixed it with the some of the best in the world.
â€œAaron was outstanding and Ryan and Cameron also showed their own brand of toughness, with Cameron coming off his bike after working so hard to get himself up the road but he jumped back on and caught the lead group and despite working hard still managed to grab 10th place.
â€œHe certainly showed some qualities to come back from a mishap and hang in there â€“ so overall it was a very encouraging start for our guys, especially the young ones.â€
Abram was happy to sit back in the pack on the bike which saw McShane and Van Coevorden always well placed but the leaders were hardly out of transition when Abram showed she had her old mojo back on the run.
She carried herself well and took it to the lead pack including Haug, who at one stage was some 45 seconds behind on the bike and rode brilliantly to catch the pack, New Zealand pair Nicky Samuels and McIlroy, Caelers, Yuka Sato from Japan and Jessica Harrison from France.
But by the five kilometre mark it was down to four with Abram leading the way from Caelers, Haug and McIlroy but it was only a matter of when Haug was going to make her move and with nine kilometres run the Canberra-based German who trains under Darren Smith took off.
Caelers, who refers to herself as 49 percent New Zealand, wasn’t going to let her off the hook completely and came with a finishing burst â€“ albeit all too late.
The Haug had bolted with Caelers an impressive second and Abram an equally impressive third as was the McShane-Van Coevorden pairing who rubbed shoulders with some of the world’s best and will be better for the experience.
They will also leave Auckland knowing their time spent climbing the hills around Dapto will be time well ridden.
Top Ten WTS Women’s Race, Auckland April 6:
- Anne Haug (GER)
- Maaike Caelers (NED)
- Felicity Abram (AUS)
- Kate McIlroy (NZL)
- Nicky Samuels (NZL)
- Yuka Sato (JPN)
- Jessica Harrison (FRA)
- Juri Ide (JPN)
- Charlotte McShane (AUS)
- Natalie Van Coevorden (AUS)
Issued on behalf of Triathlon Australia