It was a breakthrough day for Australian men’s triathlon in Auckland yesterday when Glasgow Commonwealth Games representative Aaron Royle claimed his first ITU World Triathlon Series podium â€“ claiming bronze on the tough Auckland course.
But he had to stave off some brave running from team mates Dan Wilson (fourth) and Ryan Bailie (fifth) after the three Aussie men staged a neck and neck charge for the podium.
It was the first time Australia has ever had three of the top five in a WTS race and marked a major break through in Triathlon Australia’s High Performance program under Performance Manager Bernard Savage.
Royle’s fellow Commonwealth Games representative Emma Moffatt ran on into seventh in the women’s race with London Olympian Emma Jackson 11th and Ashleigh Gentle 20th.
â€œIt was certainly a break through day for our men and very pleasing indeed for the three boys and their coaches Jamie Turner (Royle and Bailie) and Steve Moss (Wilson),â€ said Savage.
â€œIt shows that all the work that has been done with those boys is starting to pay off and I’m confident it will have a positive effect on our other boys as well, showing them what they can achieve. They still have a long way to go but it is a very positive start to the season. There is no doubt it was a very exciting day all round.â€
After what Wilson described as â€œa real bar fightâ€ it was Royle who made a happy return to the scene of his 2012 Under 23 ITU World Championship triumph who turned his run to perfection to finish with the bronze medal behind ITU World champions Javier Gomez from Spain and Jonathan Brownlee of Great Britain.
â€œTo win my Under 23 worlds here was a pretty special day and to get my first WTS podium here as well makes it pretty special,â€ said Newcastle-born, Wollongong-based Royle.
â€œTo be honest I felt pretty ordinary on the bike, I had been training pretty well but to get out there today I was feeling pretty ordinary.
â€œI guess I thought it wasn’t going to be my day but when I got on to the run and found my running legs and saw that the podium was definitely there to take, I dug deep in the last kilometre to hold on.
â€œI am pretty confident in my sprint; that’s how I won my world title. My training partner Ryan Bailie surged with about one kilometre to go and I got on to him and Dan Wilson got on to the back of me.
â€œWith about 400 to go Dan tried to go to the lead and I knew if I just stuck with them and opened up with about 100 to go that was my best chance and that’s what happened.
â€œIt was a great day for Australian males; it has been a while since we’ve has had some decent male performances and I don’t think we have ever had three in the top five of the WTS so and it’s good to show that the talent coming through in Australia is pretty good.
â€œThe work that we are doing is paying off; Ryan and I have both been improving over the years and hopefully we can keep going and continue to take the Aussie boys in an upward direction.â€
For South African born former Western Australian turned Wollongong Wizard Bailie, his fifth place was his best ever performance.
â€œI had a couple of top 10 finishes last season so I’m very happy with the place. I just ran out of legs in the end to get on the podium. I had a decent swim to set the race up nicely and in the end I left it all out there,â€ said Bailie.
â€œThat was all I hadâ€¦.I focused on my own race, I tried to block out the fact that I was running with Aaron and Dan; I was racing ultimately for the podium; I wasn’t really worrying about what they were doing. I was just worrying about my own race.
â€œIt was all about consistency this year. Ultimately I want to be consistent throughout the whole series; this is a nice way to start and moving forward this is a good confidence booster.â€
It was a satisfying comeback for Brisbane boy Wilson who has had a frustrating three years with injury but has climbed back under QAS head coach Stephen Moss.
â€œIt was a bit of a bar fight; there was carnage the whole way; the swim was quick, the bike just keeps coming at you with all those hills and we shed a few there,â€ said Wilson.
â€œThe pace on the bike and we had a good gap on to the run and as it developed there were three Aussies having a good old fashioned running dual out there; it was good fun and I’m really happy with the fourth place – without doubt my best ever result.
â€œI’ve had a couple of tough years with injury and it’s been a long road back and there’s been a lot of self doubt there at times.
â€œBut to come back and get a result like this is really, really satisfying.â€
And regarding Commonwealth Games selection? Wilson said: â€œWe just had to put the results on the board and all we can do is sit back and wait and see.â€
Moffatt, who like Royle has already locked away her Glasgow place, was satisfied with her seventh, surprising herself on the bike in a red hot women’s field.
â€œI had a reasonably good swim and I surprised myself on the bike. I actually didn’t think I was going to make up those hills but I did,â€ said Moffatt.
â€œMy running was a big shaky at the start but I came home pretty strong and in the end I was pretty happy with my seventh.
â€œThe bike sorted a few of us out and you had to work hard no matter where you were in the pack.
â€œIt was a good way to start the WTS with such a tough course.â€