Australia‘s young band of triathletes have had their final ITU World Championship Grand Final hit-outs in Stockholm over the weekend â€“ and showed some encouraging signs.
The seventh race of the World Triathlon Series saw an emerging team of Australians take on the best in the world, while the established stars sat in the wings, counting down their days to London and possible automatic Commonwealth Games selection from the sidelines.
Four members who raced Stockholm will contest the Under 23 World Championships all with notches of experience punched into their belts.
The encouraging signs came from Manly’s Elite competitor Cameron Good and Wollongong’s U23 Charlotte McShane who were the best of the Australians â€“ both finishing 13th respectively as the front runners clamored for precious WTS points and a world championship podium.
The improving 25-year-old Good, who will make his Australian Elite Team debut in London’s Grand Final (September 11-15), topped off his best ever WTS performance, with a solid final 10k run time of 30.44.
He will go into London brimming with confidence that he is starting to mix it with the best and move up the rankings against the finest triathletes in the WTS â€“ sitting in 20th place on the ITU World Rankings â€“ his highest ever.
McShane has also edged her way into the top 20 for the first time â€“ sitting in 18th â€“ and 12 months ago she finished 35th in the corresponding Stockholm race.
â€œFinishing in the top 20 is something I would never have imaged at the beginning of the season, I couldn’t be happier with how I have progressed in the past 12 months,â€ said McShane.
â€œI am now 100 percent focused on racing in London at the ITU Under 23 World Championships in three weeks timer and Stockholm was definitely a confidence booster.â€
The women’s race went to McShane’s training partner, the USA’s Gwen Jorgensen who claimed her third victory of the season with a stunning 31.41 run split to account for Anne Haug (GER) and Non Stanford (GBR) who just three weeks ago had her wrist in plaster after a fall in Hamburg.
But the message is loud and clear to the young Australians â€“ especially the men’s team after yesterday’s race â€“ don’t let Britain’s Brownlees out of your sights in the swim when you get into their backyard in Hyde Park.
A feat easier said than done after another dominant performance by the three best triathletes on the circuit who produced a replica finish to last year’s London Olympics â€“ Alistair Brownlee gold; Javier Gomez silver and Jonathan Brownlee bronze.
The trio remain the dominant force in the sport over any course, under any circumstance and on any given day.
The young Australian boys were behind the eight ball as soon as they came out of the 1.5km swim in the freezing 14.7 degree water â€“ the top 10 were away and the race was quickly divided into two.
â€œYou just can’t give anything away to the Brownlees and Gomez who swim so well and then hammer the bike â€“ blink and you’ve missed them,â€ warned Australia’s Performance Director Bernard Savage.
â€œAnd not just our boys but the rest of the world know they have to be right there coming out of the water and on that crucial first lap on the bike.â€
With the Brownlee boys, Gomez, Alesandro Fabian (ITA), Richard Varga (SVK), Henry Schoeman (RSA) French pair Vincent Luis and Aurelein Raphael, taking off like scalded cats on the first lap of the bike, anyone else with their sights set on the podium were never in the hunt.
The longer the 10 lap bike course went (re-routed from the scheduled nine laps because of an oil spill) the further the eight-strong lead group extended the gap over the chase group which included Under 23 hopeful Ryan Fisher, Australia’s leading Elite mate Ryan Bailie and Good.
It was Fisher, who has emerged as a serious contender for the World Under 23 title in London, who was the first Australian out of the water in 14th with Good 20th, Bailie 35th and Brendan Sexton 44th.
Fisher was 27 seconds behind after the first bike lap with Bailie and Good some 42 seconds back.
But by the end of the bike course they were in a chase pack that was almost two minutes behind â€“ the race very much up the road. The Brownlees had bolted.
Sexton, in his first Olympic distance race of the season, eventually withdrew from the race midway though the 40km bike course.
Up front it was Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee who stole the race, with a brave break away with two laps left on the bike.
By T2 it was the brave efforts of Alistair, who came down from the British high altitude training camp in Switzerland, who had opened up a 20 second lead – Â which he held until the bell lap on the run.
Gomez broke Jonny Brownlee going up the incline towards the final run lap, ensuring he would give himself every chance of remaining in touch for the wide open ITU World Championship crown in London.
As hard as Olympic silver medallist Gomez pushed, no one can give Alistair Brownlee 20 seconds head start on the run.
In the end, with the Stockholm crowd cheering him on and with the Union Jack draped over his shoulders, it was Alistair who won his 15th ITU Olympic distance race and the overall lead going into London.
Gomez did produce the fastest run split of the day â€“ 29.02 to Brownlee’s 29.09Â – still finishing some 14 seconds behind the winner – saying Stockholm’s cobble-stoned technical course â€œwas one of the most demanding on the WTS circuit.â€
The dogged Fisher, a noted swim-biker, managed to hang in over the run to split 31.24 to secure a Top 20 placing in 19th while Bailie after pushing to join the chased pack on the bike finished in 29th and will be keen to make some adjustments before his full-on London tilt.
In the women’s race another Under 23 representative Natalie Van Coevorden finished a spirited 17th while Elite Under 23 debutant Tamsyn Moana-Veale, a late addition to the field finished 32nd, learning valuable lessons before she again joins forces with training partners McShane and Van Coevorden to prepare for their Â World Championship campaign in London.
Meanwhile WA’s Felicity Sheedy-Ryan has produced an impressive run leg to take out the penultimate European Cup of the season in Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic.
For Sheedy-Ryan, it was her second European Cup win of the season, the fifth of her career, and a powerful run, the fastest 10k time of the day, saw her overhaul her rivals on the final discipline and claim a comfortable win.
Australia was also well represented in the men’s race with her fellow Queensland-based West Australian Kenji Nener sixth and Victorian Marcel Walkington 10th, the best of the youngAustralian contingent.
2013 ITU WORLD TRIATHLON â€“ Stockholm â€“ Elite Women
2013 ITU WORLD TRIATHLON â€“ Stockholm â€“ Elite Men
2013 Karlovy Vary, ITU Triathlon European Cup, Women
2013 Karlovy Vary, ITU Triathlon European Cup, Men