Belinda Granger is an iconic name in the sport of Triathlon, particularly in the Ironman racing distance. Despite the Aussies quite rightly claiming Belinda, better known as BG, their own, the Aussie is much loved by the triathlon community world wide. Some obvious talents, aside from her athletic prowess, include herÂ ability to hold a conversation under water, back up race after race and rarely look tired and represent her sport and sponsors with integrity and pride. For those that had the honour of competing against BG, she will be sorely missed on the race course, particularly around Australia and Asia.
Despite this great loss for the sport of triathlon, BG doesn’t intend on going far, announcing that triathlon will be a huge part of her life beyond retirement. We caught up with the Aussie from Noosa, Australia, as she traveled alongside husband, Justin, to her final professional race on Australian soil, Challenge Shepparton. We took the opportunity to reminisce over a professional career that has spanned almost 14 years, has seen her travel the world, and brought her together with her now husband, Justin Granger.
TZ: Firstly Belinda, thank you for taking the time for a chat ahead of your final race on Australian soil as a professional athlete, Challenge Shepparton.
BG: Editor’s note: Let’s just say BG was more than happy to chat, we’ve edited this out as the interview would be way to long!!
TZ: Earlier this year you spoke of the fact that you had always planned to retire at 40, yet when the big 40 rolled around, you didn’t feel you were suddenly ready. Now you have announced perhaps the biggest milestone in any athletes career, retirement. What brought about this change of heartÂ in recent years?
BG: When you’ve been a pro athlete for so long, it becomes a way of life. To make the move from being professional, to being back in workforce, it’s a big shock to the system. Call it poor timing (considering Jackie Fairweather’s passing last monday), but it’s very easy to fall into a state of depression. No one thinks about it (retirement and the resulting feelings), they simply think I’ll retire and move on with life. So have I been dragging retirement out? Yeah! And for good reason! I want to make sure I’m ready, and that I retire on my terms, and my terms alone!Â Training and racing is like a drug, you can’t just go cold turkey, so I’ve been weaning myself off it slowly.
Now, will I change my mind and go back to racing, like we’ve seen some other athletes recently, for example Crowie (Australian Craig Alexander), well the answer is no. I’ve made sure I do this slowly, at my own pace, because as athletes we tend to be all or nothing. It’s never one piece of chocolate, it’s the whole block or none at all. It’s never one glass of wine, it’s always another glass, orÂ none at all. I admit I’m not perfect, I’m exactly the same. I’ve learnt to control that, I have to. Everything in moderation, that’s key. So I’ve approached retirement exactly the same.
In saying this I am contracted to race a few events in Asia in 2015, for Alaska Milk and Sunrise Events. Challenge Shepparton will be my final professional race in Australia, then I head over to Thailand for Challenge Phuket. As a result of my contract I’ll be racing three more events in Asia next year, but at the end of 2015 I am definitely finished racing. I know in my heart that I want to move on, to move into a different role in the sport, it’s time. I’ve always promised myself that when I’m no longer willing to give my absolute best in each and every race I enter, then it’s time to hang up myÂ shoes. You owe it to yourself and the people you race, to give it 100%. I just don’t have the absolute animal hunger anymore.
Belinda Granger in numbers:
Years spent racing: Almost 24 years
Years spent racing professionally: 13
Number of coaches over entire career (age group and professional):
Three. Brett Mace was my very first coach, and for a long long time as an age grouper. Justin (BG’s husband) took over when I started racing professionally, and coached me for many many years. Then we decided to try something different, and Brett Sutton (Sutto) coached me for 3 years. I learnt a lot under Sutto, more so about the mental side of racing than the physical. After three years with Sutto I decided to take the reins and pretty much coached myself, with Justin as an advisor, and we have done so ever since. I’m proud to say that most of my victories came under Justin’s guidance; we make a good team!
Number of bike crashes, and how many involved cars?
I’ve had five crashes total. One wasÂ in a criterium race, one in a road race, and I’ve been hit by a car twice. The final one (which was actually the fourth crash) was the most silly. I was riding up a driveway, at about 3km/hr. I had a loose headset, and let’s just leave it at the fact I chipped my tooth, put both sets of teeth through my lip, which resulted in both internal and external stitches!
Number of broken bones: I’ve never, ever broken a bone. As Sutto used to say, I’m “built like a German tank”.
Belinda Granger fast facts:
TZ: Who was your very first sponsor?
BG: Funny you ask, it wasÂ Saucony! I’ve actually just resigned withÂ Saucony as my shoe sponsor, so I’ve gone full circle, and it’s great! Jaggad was my first clothing sponsor back in the day, and I’ve also just resigned with them under the new ownership.
TZ: Can you name one particular highlight of your career?
BG: If I peel it back to the absolute bare minimum, I never, ever thought I’d be a professional athlete. Even when I was a good age grouper, winning my age group at the world championships, I still never thought I’d be a professional athlete. Justin played an integral role in changing this belief, and I must say that the absolute highlight of my career was the moment I truly believed I’d be a professional athlete. When I truly believed I could make a living from the sport, that’s definitely the highlight.
In terms of results, my first Ironman win, which came in Korea, gave me the confidence to think “I can do this again”. Of course winning Challenge Roth in 2005, a race I had aspired to do in so many years, was also a major highlight amongst my results.
Certainly my most defining point athletically, which was in Ironman Canada, was beating Lisa Bentley on her home turf. My coach (Brett Sutton) told me two weeks before the race that I would be racing, and I told him “no bloody way!” I had already been beaten by Lisa at IM Australia so many times. I mean I’d had eight or nine go’s at winning that race, and I just couldn’t get it! So when I asked Brett why he wanted to race Lisa on her home soil in Canada, he simply told me “the pressure is all on her. It’s her country, and her race, and you’ve got nothing to prove”. I thrived off it. I came off the bike with an enormous lead, and this time instead of running me down, she crumbled. She simply tried to catch me too quickly, and I just ran my normal run. Nothing special, I mean it was good, but I didn’t do anything different. Where as Lisa was forced to try and run my race. She went out too hard. That’s when I learnt about the importance of the mental side of Ironman racing.
TZ: Three things you love to do outside of the sport?
BG: My absolute favourite thing to do is taking my two puppies for a walk, with Justin, and we go to our little cove, our local coffee shop, and have a coffee. Swim squad doesn’t start until 9am, so we get up nice and early and do this every Monday morning to start the week.
I also love nice dinner’s with good friends. Great food and a nice bottle of red.
We also love stand up paddle boarding, when we’re not swimming, biking and running; so when we’re on a little break, it’s always duringÂ time off. I’m sure we’ll be taking our paddle boards down to the river a lot more once I’m retired, and teaching our two puppies!
TZ: Who would you name as the three most influential people in your Triathlon career, and why?
BG: Justin, Sutto (Brett Sutton), and the third would be two people, Rock Fry and Heather Fuhr. Justin and Sutto for obvious reasons, having coached me and taught me about racing, the sport, and how to get the best out of myself. Rock and Heather, well you see they taught me how to truly be a professional athlete. I lived with them way back in the day. I got to see Heather training in the lead up to the Ironman World Championships. In between sessions she wouldn’t go and have coffee, or walk around shopping. No, instead she would sleep, get a massage, see the chiropractor, the physiotherapist, eat, or attend to emails for sponsors. It wasn’t about the training, it was what she did in between. I was fortunate to be able to live and breathe her life,Â and I learn’t so much. It changed me as an athlete.
TZ: What’s the best piece of adviceÂ you’ve been givenÂ by a coach?
BG: Oh for sure it came from Justin! However I didn’t take his advice (laughs), typical of me, very rarely do we take that advice and actually do it! It was my very first IM, way back in 1999, in Forster (IM Australia). Justin told me: “Belinda, it’s your first Ironman, it’s a long day, you must be patient”. Well to cut a long story very short, it ended with aÂ DNF. I was not patient, and I did not keep calm. The best lessons really are learnt the hard way, and this was one of them. However I did learn, because my next DNF was 10 years later, it was in Kona, and is the biggest regret of my career.
The best piece of advice from Sutto, for me personally, was usually what he said off the training grounds, rather than what he said during training. Sutto’s biggest influence on me usually had more to do with the mental aspect of racing rather than the physical.
TZ: What’s the most difficult obstacle or challenge faced during your career, and how did you overcome it?
BG: Definitely when I hadÂ Endofibrosis of the iliac artery. It’s really been the only obstacle in my career. Initially no one could diagnose it, but I knew something was wrong. I had every test under the sun, and was in limbo for a goodÂ 6-8 months. I was so frustrated! Although finally it was diagnosed, and once we had a diagnosis getting it fixed was nothing. I had surgery and it’s been fine since.
TZ: If there was one thing you could go back and change, what would it be?
BG: My two DNF’s (did not finish), especially at the World Championships. They are my only two regrets. I would much rather record a slow time as opposed to a DNF. I can’t change them but I do wish I could.
BG: You’ve joined up with Chris McCormack under the MaccaX coaching banner, can you tell us a little about this partnership?
BG: Yes, Justin and I have joined MaccaX but it’s mostly Justin doing the coaching. We have contributed some training plans which I’ve used in my racing career. We’ll be helping run some camps, for example we’re doing one in Phuket next week. They’re bloody good fun! It’s a really laid back team, they’re not super crazy or obsessive. I’d describe them as lifestyle athletes, and that doesn’t mean they’re slow! They just know how to have a good time. So yes I’m involved, but Justin will get involved a lot more on the coaching frontÂ than me.
TZ: You’ve always said that you’ll forever be involved in triathlon in some way. Now that you’ve announced the big “R” word (retirement), how exactly do you see yourself involved in the sport moving forward?
BG: Well I’m on a life long contract with both Ceepo and Jaggad, so I’ll be in an ambassador role for both of these companies in the future. I’ll also be doing some work for another company involved in the sport, which I will talk more about later when it’s all finalised. It’s an exciting time, and I’m happy to have a focus and plan for moving forward; that’s the only way I was willing to do it.
TZ: You’ve attracted and maintained some amazing sponsorships over your career, do you have any advice for young or future pro’s in this area?
I’ve been lucky in my career in that I’ve been able to go out and actively seek the products I’ve wanted to represent.Â When you believe in the product, it’s not hard to do (represent them). I guess the fact that I’ve always understood sponsorship is a two way street, well that’s helped. Knowing that it’s more than turning up to a race and grabbing a podium. You need to stand out from the crowd a bit more these days especially, as there are more pro’s on the circuit, thus more competition for sponsorship dollars. Don’t just think getting on the podium or wearing a logo on your race kit is enough, because it isn’t.
TZ: Will we see BG racing an Ultra Triathlon or similar in the future?
BG: No! The only thing I would like to do, or would do, is an off road 50km event. Not the 100km though, nothing that crazy! That is something I would be keen on and there are plenty of those events near me in Noosa.
TZ: Anything non-triathlon related on the bucket list? Ever wanted to own a cafe or similar?
BG: I can’t really see myself walking away from triathlon completely, that’s where I want to be. My future is in triathlon, but just in a different role. It’s becoming a more mainstream sport and I love seeing that. I look forward to seeing it evolve. My sister and I have always talked about opening a family business, so who knows, perhaps one day, but nothing planned just now. I’ve got plenty of triathlon related work to keep me busy for a while.
Matt Dixon – The Purple Patch Story
Matt Dixon is one of the world’s best triathlon coaches, and his squad is only growing. Despite a unique approach, Dixon’s philosophy behind his squad Purple Patch is working. Trizone caught up with Dixon to uncover this sport-changing philosophy.
Matt Dixon didn’t follow his philosophy in his own journey as an athlete, which in itself provided plenty of lessons to him as a coach. “I grew up on the East side of London, in Essex,” Matt told Trizone. “It comes with its reputation, similar to New Jersey’s Jersey Shore,” laughed Dixon.
Learning to swim early starts career
The youngest of three brothers, Dixon grew up being competitive with his siblings who were also athletes. “You get lessons thrown at you without realising,” said Dixon. Matt’s Mum was a ‘learn to swim’ coach who taught Dixon to learn to swim very early in life. “I grew up in the water,” said Matt, “by the time I was twelve, I was going to the national championships for swimming.”
Like so many other young athletes though, when Matt Dixon was a young teenager, he lost interest in elite sport and became more interested in going out with friends. “I didn’t really do anything much, I just played a bit of soccer,” said Matt.
By sixteen though, Matt decided he wasn’t quite finished with swimming. “I got back to swimming but was on a skeleton program relative to my future collegiate program. But I ended up qualifying for the Olympic trials, and getting to the finals at the trials in 1992,” said Matt. Without realising it, Dixon had just experienced the essential elements of the Purple Patch philosophy that he’d come to develop.
Dixon was offered a swimming scholarship in the United States, and since then he’s never looked back. “The opportunity was amazing,” said Matt, “to go to America and have four years of University paid for and to be in in a team environment was amazing. I’d never been to the US before, and I ended up at the University of Cincinnati to study exercise physiology,” said Dixon.
University swim training sparks race career
“At University, I set the goal of going to the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996,” said Dixon. Here the famous coached paused, almost as though the story he was about to tell was life-changing, which it turned out to be. “Our swimming training was huge volumes, around 24-26 hours of swimming each week. That’s about 80-100 thousand yards a week, all to get ready for an event that was four minutes in duration,” said Dixon.
While Matt Dixon was working insanely hard to qualify for the Olympics, the huge mileage was working against him. “I brought a world-class attitude to training,” said Matt, “but the outcome wasn’t world class. I didn’t make the Olympic team in 1996, but I did get a university education with no debt,” smiled Dixon.
After swimming throughout his undergraduate degree, Dixon turned to coaching. “I had a few years coaching swimming then went back to get my Masters in Exercise Physiology,” said Matt. “I got to coach on a great age-group swimming program, then a division one University swimming program.”
Dixon discovers triathlon
During his Masters degree, Dixon discovered triathlon. “I thought I’d give it a go and I did well,” said Dixon, “People said ‘go and give it a crack as a pro,’ and I did, although, in reflection, I am a great example of how to set up a professional career poorly” added Dixon.
After his experience of training for the Olympics, Dixon decided to succeed in Ironman he’d need to increase his mileage even more.
“I thought, if I was training for 26 hours for a four minute event, then I’d need huge volumes to train for a long event like triathlon.”
Without a running background, Matt decided he’d need to run really really long distances to get into shape. “I’m lucky to be pretty injury resistant, but it was almost a curse because I never got injured, I just destroyed my system,” said Dixon. “Despite my education in physiology, I replicated my mistakes and trained myself into the ground.”
Extreme burnout threatens Dixon’s athletic abilities
Three years into his pro triathlon career, Dixon started coaching other triathletes. “I realised ‘what I’m doing is stupid,’ and I ended up with some form of chronic fatigue,” remembered Dixon.
“It was physical, emotional and mental burn out. Just complete burn out.”
“I couldn’t exercise for around 18 months, it was very serious burnout,” said Matt. “Systematically I was not functioning well. It was the best thing that could have happened to me in hindsight. I was coaching then, but it forced me to take a step back,” said Matt. “It ended my triathlon career and I was at a crossroad.”
The time off helped Matt look at triathlon objectively, from afar.
“I looked at age groupers and pros, and realised the validation of success was based almost solely on accumulation of training hours.”
Dixon looked back at his own triathlon career and saw his own faults were important aspects of the sport. “I saw almost everyone was doing a lot of things poorly. Anything related to recovery, nutrition or strength and conditioning wasn’t done well,” said Dixon.
“Pros and age groupers were showing up to races fit and fatigued. I always wanted to have athletes be fit and fresh instead.”
It’s this observation that cemented the philosophy of Matt Dixon’s now world-famous Purple Patch triathlon squad. “It was such a dogmatic approach,” said Dixon. “People were taking the approach of pros and watering it down and applying it to amateurs, but ignoring all the other factors in life,” said Dixon.
“Coaches and trainers encouraged poor habits and lacked understanding around fuelling and nutrition. They talked about recovery that never really happened,” said Matt.
Dixon’s philosophy sparks controversy as ‘an easy way out’
“A lot of people really bought into what I was trying to put across, where some others were really put off,” said Dixon.
“Some people thought I was trying to say there was a shortcut to success and that the best path is to always do less, but that’s not it at all.”
Dixon was under fire, but he stuck to the new-found philosophy he’d founded after his own journey in the sport. “I was coaching pros and age groupers and having really good results,” said Dixon.
Pros discover Purple Patch
“I started Purple Patch with some well-known athletes and some not,” said Dixon. “In the early days, one of my amateurs won her age group in Hawaii; she became my first professional Tyler Stewart,” said Matt Dixon. “She went on to become a very successful pro, winning Ironman races while maintaining a day job in San Francisco. That was more than ten years ago,” Dixon told Trizone.
In 2008, Chris Lieto approached Dixon to become a Purple Patch athlete, as his brother Matt was already coached by Purple Patch. “He was already a world-class athlete,” said Dixon, “He asked me ‘why the hell should I be coached by you? I used to beat you every time we raced?’” laughed Matt. With his new-found perspective though, Dixon had the perfect answer.
“That’s exactly why you should be coached by me. I’ve learned from all the mistakes.”
Working with Chris Lieto helped cement Matt Dixon’s new philosophy. “I saw he had the benefits of years of training, but the supportive components of nutrition, fuelling, strength and conditioning and recovery weren’t there,” Dixon told Trizone. “I felt like he was doing way too much for the end of his career.” Dixon’s respect for Lieto is still very apparent even now. “I told him we should be doing things differently and he was amazing. He just jumped in and said ‘yes, let’s do it.’”
Dixon took Lieto’s commitment and made some huge changes. “We radically increased his caloric intake, reduced how often he went hard and reduced his total training hours,” said Dixon. “He ended up really improving as an athlete. He started to be truly able to run off the bike, running a 1:13 off the bike not 1:17,” said Dixon.
In 2009, Lieto finished second at Kona, beaten by well-known Aussie athlete Crowie. “That was a huge moment for me as a coach,” said Dixon, “now ten years later I’m just learning more and more and still trying to work it all out. That was really the start of our now long-standing professional squad,” said Dixon.
Purple Patch isn’t right for everyone
Despite Dixon’s rich history of athlete development, such as Jesse Thomas, Meredith Kessler, Sarah Piampiano, Tim Reed and Sam Appleton, Dixon believes his philosophy isn’t right for every professional athlete. “One of the first things I do when a pro reaches out to me is I make them go and talk to other coaches,” said Dixon. “It’s important the athlete find the right coach for their journey. Too many coaches simply aim to add numbers, but we don’t own the athlete. I want to ensure I am the right coach for each athlete.”
Some of these athletes do choose other coaches, which is what Dixon wants them to do. “Some of them do really well, and that’s great!” said Dixon, “I just want what’s right for them if they weren’t right for Purple Patch.”
“I’m really deliberate about whether I’m going to take on an athlete and help them.”
Dixon likes to assist the journey of a pro
Even though some of his amateur athletes have earned their pro cards, Dixon won’t let them compete in the pros just yet. “Sarah Piampiano had great aspirations,” said Matt, “she was an age grouper and she wanted to be a pro. All the other coaches she interviewed for coaching told her ‘go pro and learn the ropes,’ but I was quite the opposite. I told her if she went pro I wouldn’t coach her, as I didn’t feel she was ready physically or mentally. You can only transition into the pro ranks once, and the timing is really important for long-term development”
Piampiano listened to Dixon, and decided to adopt his long-term approach despite being frustrated with the decision. “She understands the long term, she’s the ultimate ‘Purple Patch’ athlete in a fit way,” said Dixon. “She did two years as an amateur before she went pro but when she did, she was ready to compete and able to grow from within the ranks. This creates the path toward World-Class. Her situation was magnified as it was her swim that was her weakness.”
“I told her it doesn’t matter how good your running is, it can be career-ending and very deflating if there’s tumble weed going across the race course when you get out of the water.”
Another impressive athlete, Meredith Kessler, went through a similar journey with Matt Dixon. “For one and a half years, she raced as an amateur even though she was qualified as a pro,” said Dixon, “when she went pro she could swim, ride and run,” said Dixon.
The admiration Dixon has for his athletes who stick to the Purple Patch plan and work hard through their journey as an amateur is palpable. “Laura Siddall won Ironman Australia this year. She’s had one of the most impressive 2017 of any athlete,” said Dixon. “So many people in her situation would have quit after the mental and physical challenges of her first professional year in the sport. We were trying to get the recipe right,” said Matt.
“She never wondered if she was in the right program. She was confident we’d get the right answer.”
Purple Patch is for everyone
“We’re based in San Francisco, and we offer real squad coaching with cycling, running, swimming and strength on a daily and weekly basis,” said Dixon proudly, “we have a wonderful community here.”
While many of Dixon’s athletes are highly committed professional and amateur triathletes, some of Dixon’s athletes are simply busy working people looking for fitness, while others are trying to get back to activity following suffering chronic fatigue.
“It’s a melting pot of high performance, business and sport,”said Dixon of San Francisco. “That makes for an ego-free environment; everyone is diluted in some way. It’s a really nice culture.”
While Dixon’s Purple Patch coaches people all over the world, Dixon’s approach is far from generic. “When we delivery anything, we never deliver a stock-standard plan,” said Matt, “In support of that, my biggest passion is education and each athlete is different,” said Matt Dixon.
Purple Patch’s Sweet Spot
Dixon is proud to offer a training solution for the very busy athlete; busy people who are trying to integrate triathlon into a really busy life. “It’s for people who want a positive effect on their health, energy at work, and want to bring a better self to their social life and family and friends,” said Matt Dixon.
Rather than asking athletes to work with a pre-designed program and jam it into their already busy lives, Dixon offers a fresh approach. “We offer a distinct philosophical difference.”
Purple Patch has amateur athletes who train as much as they can, which isn’t nearly as much as some, yet they have impressive results. “We have an athlete who became Hawaii World Champion in his age group who never trained more than twelve hours a week,” said Dixon. “He is genetically gifted and has the lungs of an elephant,” laughed Matt, “however, the key takeaway is that if I would have prescribed 16 hours a week, he almost definitely would have failed. He simply had too many other life commitments with his family and being founder and COO of a major tech company. We were optimising the very strict time limits he had available.”
Training CEOs for peak performance
Matt Dixon’s infamous coaching style is beloved by CEOs thanks to his approach. “CEOs are some of the busiest people in the world,” said Dixon.
“The barometer of success for those guys is if they become more successful leaders and if they have more time and energy to bring and enhance critical thinking.”
CEOs want an overall improvement in health, fitness, and performance in all aspects. “The value comes in them becoming a better elite performer in the business world. That’s what they like,” said Dixon.
Purple Patch approaches CEO’s travel the same as pro travel, which helps enhance their performance in the boardroom. “We use the same fuelling habits to make sure their energy levels stay consistent, and that’s just one part of it.”
Why everyday people choose Purple Patch
Plenty of amateurs who train with Dixon are everyday people looking for a competitive path towards wellness. “Sleep and exercise are always the first casualties,” said Dixon. “Then they get over-stressed because they’re not managing all their commitments. Critical thinking is reduced and energy reduces,” said Dixon. “That’s not just me saying that it’s all evidence-based.”
With an iron-clad philosophy, it’s no surprise Matt Dixon has trained some of the world’s most successful triathletes. Check back into Trizone soon to see how you can get your hands on Matt Dixon’s world-class training approach.
Ashleigh Gentle Earns Silver After Coach Jamie Turner’s Words of Wisdom
With the words of her coach ringing in her ears triathlete Ashleigh Gentle reached deep down in Rotterdam today to reap the rewards of a move she knew she had to make after last year’s Rio Olympics.
Her move to coach Jamie Turner changed her pathway in the sport she loves and with immediate impact – after she wrapped up her second place finish in the prestigious 2017 ITU World Triathlon Series.
Gentle’s sixth place finish saw her become only the second Australian woman since the WTS replaced the one-off World Championship in 2009 to make it onto the podium – finishing second overall to today’s race winner Flora Duffy from Bermuda.
(The only other Australian with a podium was triple Olympian Emma Moffatt who won the inaugural title in 2009 in Hungary).
Somewhat disillusioned after a disappointing Olympic debut, the 26-year-old from the Gold Coast knew she had to make changes.
And the move to join Turner, the man who guided the USA’s Olympic champion Gwen Jorgensen to her greatest triumph in the shadows of Christ The Redeemer on Copacabana Beach last year, has reaped immediate dividends.
After a break out year, which included her first ever WTS victory and a World Teams Relay gold medal, Gentle came into this week’s ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in second place on the WTS rankings behind the unstoppable Bermudan.
Rotterdam was wet, windy, slippery and tricky and it would test and determine this year’s world champions and placegetters.
Gentle went into the final race of the Series with a philosophical attitude that in triathlon, “anything is possible.”
But she probably didn’t think she would be three minutes down with 12 athletes ahead of her after the 1.5km swim and 40km on the bike.
She was outside the top 10 and although she didn’t know it at the time she actually had to run herself into sixth place to ensure she had second place securely tucked away.
“When I ran past Jamie (Turner) he told me “you are doing really well…happy hunting…there’s rewards up the road,” said Gentle.
It signaled to Gentle to get a move on.
“I knew I had to dig deep and I thought this is it…it’s the last race of the year and I just went as hard as I could,” she said.
“I was just happy I was able to achieve that and get that sixth place even though I didn’t know in my mind exactly what I had to do.
“I knew I had to dig a little bit deeper and then also know I could actually do it.
“I’ve absolutely loved my time training with Jamie; it would not have been possible without him; I have to be grateful for the investment he’s put into me and today Jamie didn’t talk numbers or seconds…. he just gave me that extra little incentive to get the job done.”
Gentle even surprised herself saying: “If you asked me at the start of the year that I would finish second in the world at the end I certainly wouldn’t have thought it was possible.
“I’m really happy with the end result. Every race has been different but they’ve been challenging.
“Obviously Montreal (where I won) was the stand out and it was also the one that I didn’t think was going to be the best (because I felt so sick).
“In all the races, I’ve just tried to fight to the end to get the best result possible.
“I guess upon reflection I can be proud to say that every race I went to I gave it my best. I guess it was such a nice reward o stand on that podium in second. It was a surreal feeling.
“I have been watching the World Series for a long time now and even the World Cups and I’ve been on a lot of World Championship teams.
“I’ve seen some amazing athletes before me get on that podium or be world champions; I don’t think it will sink in for a while but it will be a memory I will treasure forever.”
It was the icing on the cake for a highly successful campaign for the Australian Triathlon team that finished with three gold, two silvers, one bronze and the WTS silver to Gentle.
The first four medals went to Australia’s paratriathletes – with Katie Kelly (and guide Michellie Jones) and Commonwealth Games nominee Emily Tapp claiming gold and Sally Pilbeam and Justin Godfrey silvers.
Earlier in the day the now Gold Coast-based boy from Harvey Bay Matt Hauser became the fourth Australian to win the World Junior title joining Ben Bright, Chris Hill and Courtney Atkinson and taking the team’s third gold.
It also capped an outstanding year for the 19-year-old who in July combined with Gentle, Jake Birtwhistle and Charlotte McShane to win Australia’s first ever Elite World Teams Relay title – a new event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Hauser’s eye-catching performance and fellow Queenslander Luke Willian’s bronze yesterday in the Under 23 World Championship were sure to have impressed the National Selectors who still have to add two final discretionary nominations for next year’s Commonwealth Games.
Birtwhistle is the only male who has achieved an automatic nomination and he was forced out of today’s race after falling ill upon arrival into Rotterdam earlier in the week.
Rio Olympian Aaron Royle, who also fell ill 48 hours before the race with gastro, raced today, hanging on to produce a gutsy 14th place finish with his Rio team mate Ryan Bailie also returning to racing from an injury plagued season to finish in a creditable 18th place.
Birtwhistle was the highest ranked Australian male for the 2017 WTS in 12th, followed by Royle, 16th and Willian 22nd with Spain’s Mario Mola defending hos crown in a race won by Frenchman Vincent Luis.
In the women’s race Gillian Backhouse certainly didn’t do her Commonwealth Games chances any harm finishing in 14th, one place ahead of second automatic nomination in Charlotte McShane.
Also inside the top 20 was the consistent Natalie Van Coevorden in 19th with London Olympian Emma Jackson 30th.
In the overall WTS Rankings it was McShane who finished next behind Gentle in 11th, followed by Backhouse in 13th and Van Coevorden 21st.
In the Under 23 women’s race Emma Jeffcoat was the best of the Australians in 18th followed by Jaz Hedgeland in 22nd.
Flora Duffy Wins in Rotterdam to Become Two-Time World Champion
In what looked like a near perfect race outcome that suited her strengths, Flora Duffy (BER) had a dominating performance at the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Rotterdam to claim victory and reclaim her ITU World Championship title for the second year in a row.
Making a name for herself as one of the most consistent swim, bike and run athletes, Duffy’s Grand Final gold ended a season that saw her claim six WTS races in the year, that all aided in her repeat world honour.
Duffy said of her win: “I am pretty reluctant to ever say you can have a perfect race, but I would say today went just how I wanted it to. I had a great swim and set myself up perfectly for the bike. I tried to play it safe on the bike because there is so much on the line and then on the run I felt pretty strong, so I wanted to go for it. Yeah, it was a great day. I just try to make it a swim, bike and run. Not a swim, get through the bike and then onto the run. So maybe it is forcing everyone to be really good at all three, but that is how I want to race a triathlon, I just love to race.”
Coming in second place in the race was USA’s Katie Zaferes, who also had a strong overall performance from start to finish. With the result, she pushed her way into the third overall spot in the rankings to take the final place on the world championship podium; a career first for Zaferes.
“I am so excited. I told Flora (Duffy) when I finished that ‘you might have won, but I feel like I did.’ I am one more up from last year, so I just keep making my way,” she said of getting third in the overall season.
The bronze medal then went to Jessica Learmonth (GBR), who earned in Rotterdam her second WTS medal of her career.
Learmonth said, “It was hard from start to finish to be honest. I didn’t feel very comfortable throughout, I know I led out of the swim and stuff, but on the bike Flora (Duffy) and Katie (Zaferes) were so strong I was really struggling. I didn’t know how the run was going to go, I felt alright but my back was really stiff and the back of my calf hurt towards the end, but it was just a battle to hold on.”
One of strongest performances of the day came from Aussie Ashleigh Gentle, who despite being down by over three minutes on the bike, had the run of her life to finish sixth, which was the exact position needed in order for her to maintain her second-place spot on the world championship podium. The silver overall Series trophy was a career first and best for Gentle.
“I am very pleased. I didn’t really know what this year would bring. I had a lot of changes, I relocated to Wollongong to work with Jamie Turner, I had my longest stint in Europe this year doing more WTS races than I have ever done before so I am just absolutely thrilled with getting second,” Gentle said.
Despite the rain that occurred for the majority of the day, as the women lined up to start the sky began to clear and they were met with clear weather conditions.
Learmonth led out of the water after the first lap and despite the additional 750-metres, there was no change in the
water after the second lap as well. Learmonth was the swim leader on the day, making it her fourth time this year and eighth of her career that she has led out of the water in a WTS race. Duffy and Zaferes were not far behind.
Duffy, Learmonth and Zaferes utilized time from a swift transition to get out ahead. Mimicking the situation that happened in WTS Stockholm just weeks earlier, the three rode as a leading trio and worked on gaining as much ground on the bike as they could.
By the time the bike reached the lap section of the course, the trio had a lead of 30 seconds over a chase group of seven women that had formed. These seven, included Joanna Brown (CAN), Jodie Stimpson (GBR), Kirsten Kasper (USA), Taylor Spivey (USA), Summer Cook (USA), Alice Betto (ITA) and Rachel Klamer (NED).
While the seven tried hard to close the gap, the strength and speed from the leaders was too much and the margin only increased. Heading into T2 that gap was close to two minutes.
A second larger chase group also saw big names in the bunch, such as Gentle and Nicola Spirig (SUI), who was racing in her first WTS race since having a baby only months ago. This group however had an over three-minute deficit going into T2.
The three-woman breakaway was the perfect set-up for Flora to then hammer away on the run. She took off once on her feet and then it was over from there.
She took the opportunity to gain the ground she needed to bring it home and get the finish tape and the world crown.
From there the only deciding factor who would finish out the podium. Zaferes finished around 40 seconds after Duffy, which bumped her ahead of Andrea Hewitt (NZL) in the rankings.
Learmonth finished third for the race and then Gentle had one of the fastest runs of the day to get her into sixth place and keep the second-place spot in the rankings.
Mario Mola Repeats World Championship Title in Rotterdam
Keeping the world title for the nation of Spain for the fifth year in a row, a third-place finish at the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Rotterdam was enough to grant Mario Mola a back-to-back ITU World Triathlon Championship crown in a season-best performance. With the repeat title, Mola became only the second man in ITU history since the inception of the WTS to ever win two-straight world titles.
Winning the Grand Final race gold was France’s Vincent Luis, who claimed his first WTS victory of the season. Luis’s win came from a dominating and dramatic run effort, after breaking away from a powerful lead pack in the final metres to seize the event gold.
The silver medal went to Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR), who once again, had one of the best run performances in the race to fly past the competition that he ran with stride for stride for the whole ten-kilometre course. With his second-place finish, he advanced 271 points over South Africa’s Richard Murray to take the third spot on the overall World Championship podium.
Crossing the line in fourth, Javier Gomez Noya (ESP) secured enough points to guarantee his place in the rankings to be named second overall in the season and the runner-up world champion.
Mola said of how it sounds to be a two-time World Champion: “It sounds great. I can’t describe it with words. You are always nervous before a race, no matter what the situation or where you are, I am sure you are going to have those nerves in order to perform well. I knew I was in a good situation, I wish I could race every year with these kinds of points going into the Grand Final and this type of situation, but I knew I had to race very well or else it was not going to be easy. But it was the title, so that is what I tried to do.”
Luis commented on his season best race victory: “I didn’t expect that. It was a tough year, there was a lot of tough up and downs, a lot of downs. I couldn’t imagine having a win at the Grand Final. I spent like two or three months of this year injured so I could not work, I just can’t believe it. I just worked so hard that it feels amazing.”
After crossing off the junior men and U23 women races earlier in the day, the elite men prepared to battle it out on the course for the first set of elite grand final honours. Rain and cold weather was touch and go throughout the morning, so by the time of the elite men’s start the conditions caused a wet course. However, the rain did let up in time for the starting drum.
Early strategy saw that all of the Spaniards position themselves on one side of the pontoon, with Jonathan Brownlee (GBR) choosing to dive in on the opposite side.
Richard Varga (SVK) led out of the swim in the first lap, but the first 750 metres didn’t do much to space out the field. Brownlee and Gomez remained among the top of the field in the waters, trying like ever to remain out in front.
Varga continued his lead after lap two as well and collected his 33rd time in his career that he exited the waters as the swim leader.
The rest of the field followed not far behind, including Brownlee who finished only eight seconds back, despite losing his swim goggles on the second lap. Mola found himself 26 seconds back, which was the best swim of the season for the Spaniard.
Heading out onto the bike, a group of 15 men including Brownlee, Gomez, Marten Van Riel (NED), Ben Kanute (USA), Wian Sullwald (RSA), Varga, Eric Lagerstrom (USA), Pierre Le Corre (FRA) tried to get an early lead. But a large chase pack that was being handled by Blummenfelt caused a merging of the two groups, so that by lap two a big peloton was formed containing 33 names and all the big players in the mix.
Without any successful breakaways, the whole pack entered the second transition together. Putting pedal to the medal once on foot, Brownlee and Blummenfelt blasted away to try to get the edge. While the two, who come from regions where the cold weather climate works to their favour, attempted to keep their lead, it took just a couple kilometres for Gomez and Luis to catch them and create a small group of four men.
Mola then came charging through in sixth place. Knowing it was a world title on the line, it was only moments before Mola then pushed his way right into the lead pack of four. From there his title was almost secured, since he only needed to finish in the top five to lock in his repeat world crown.
The pack surged on, with Murray running in sixth but unable to catch the leaders. Then in the last lap Luis started to change the pace and he broke away from the others in the final moments to claim the Grand Final race win.
Blummenfelt then came just seconds after, kicking in joy with the result that granted him the final spot on the overall Series podium.
Blummenfelt said, “It is obviously a great feeling. That was the goal overall before my season, to get on the podium overall. I started not as I wanted with the DNF in Abu Dhabi and then some not 100% performances, so at the beginning of the year I didn’t know how easy it would be to get on the overall podium. I just have been training well and believing in the process, so it’s good.”
Mola then followed in for third, smiling as usual knowing he could claim a second straight world crown.
Finishing fourth then in the day was Gomez, who earned another Series podium spot. “I am very pleased with this year, I was focused on different distances and still managed to get the silver medal,” he said.
|4.||Javier Gomez Noya||ESP||01:51:41|
|7.||Pierre Le Corre||FRA||01:52:31|
Matt Hauser Produces A Gold Winning Performance in Rotterdam
Queensland’s rising triathlon star Matt Hauser has continued Australia’s golden run at the ITU World Championships Grand Final with a stunning world junior title win in a rainy Rotterdam earlier today.
Hauser, 19, secured Australia’s third gold medal of the Championships, coming 24 hours after paratriathletes Katie Kelly and Emily Tapp claimed gold in their classes yesterday.
With three races remaining today, the Under 23 women and the Men’s and Women’s Elite races, Australia has won three gold, two silver and one bronze in what has already been a successful Championships.
The talented teen from Hervey Bay, who moved to the Gold Coast to chase his triathlon dreams two years ago under coach Dan Atkins, finally dispelled the disappointment of 2016.
Hauser finished 45th in the corresponding World Championship race in Cozumel, Mexico last year after finishing fifth in a swim-less race in Chicago in 2015 – his career very much at a crossroads.
But 12 months later and after turning his career around in a big way, under Atkins, Hauser now forms part of an exciting new generation of male triathlon stars and the win comes the morning after team mate Luke Willian’s brave bronze in the Under 23 World Championship race.
Hauser has become a rare two-time World Champion in the same year adding his junior crown to the newest Olympic event, the Mixed Team Relay title he won with Birtwhistle, Ashleigh Gentle and Charlotte McShane in Hamburg in July.
Hauser and Willian have continued to put pressure on the Elite Australians, Rio Olympians Aaron Royle and Ryan Bailie in the race to join already nominated Birtwhistle for next year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
And it more than makes up for the bitter disappointment he suffered at last year’s world championships in Cozumel.
Hauser handled the wet, slippery and tricky conditions like a true pro – conditions that claimed some riders who crashed early in the bike on the narrow, cobblestoned roads of Europe’s famous port city.
The strongly built Hauser was first out of the water after the 750m swim, positioning himself perfectly with a group of 12 that circled the city streets as the rain increased, making conditions increasingly dangerous.
And after surviving the 20km four lap bike circuit he wasted no time charging out of transition with that determined look in his eyes when he attacked the run with the world title in his sights.
And after the first 2.5km run lap Hauser had opened up a 12 second lead and at that point he was never going to be headed, running away with the gold by 28 seconds to claim the victory over Vasco Vilaca (Portugal) and Ben Dijkstra (Great Britain) taking bronze.
Hauser went through the course in 55mins 54seconds, Vilaca in 56.22 and Dijkstra in 5.35 and was full of praise for his coaches.
“Since I moved to the Gold Coast to join Dan Atkins from my first coach Brian Harrington I’ve had a great lot of mentors and coaches with me along the way,” said Hauser.
“To be able to get this win, and to (now) start my career after this win it’s more of a relief than anything after a poor year last year.
“It’s really positive, a two time world champion in the one year is fantastic and a great honour.
“I’ve been building up 12 months for this. Being able to get some redemption from last year’s poor result is fantastic.
“Full credit to my coach Dan and all the guys on the Gold Coast for helping me and pushing me through.
“Today positioning on the bike was everything and I was able to have the legs in the end.
“Basing ourselves in the Basque country in Spain with coach Jamie Turner’s group in the lead off has certainly paid off.
“It was critical on the bike and I managed that up front with a couple of the Norwegians and that worked out well.
“I knew if I got through transition I would be well placed with my run and my legs were feeling good.
“I just executed the process and everything worked out well for me on the day. It has been a 12-month preparation for me and I have had a few setbacks, but it has been great year all-around in total.”
The two other Australians in the race, rookie Lorcan Redmond (NSW) claimed 20th on debut in an encouraging start to his international career while Nicholas Free gave away 30 seconds in transition to finish 30th.
Hauser becomes only the fourth Australian to win the ITU World Junior Championship – joining Ben Bright (1994), Chris Hill (1995) and Olympian Courtney Atkinson (1999) and the first Aussie on the podium since Birtwhistle (silver) and Calvin Quirk (bronze) in Edmonton in 2014.
|5.||Vetle Bergsvik Thorn||NOR||00:56:43|
|9.||Javier Romo Oliver||ESP||00:57:00|
Taylor Knibb repeats Junior World Title in Rotterdam
In a dominating performance showcasing once again her power on the bike, USA’s Taylor Knibb claimed a repeat junior women’s title at the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Rotterdam.
Despite not racing much due to her focusing on her first year of University, Knibb competed in select World Triathlon Series races at the elite level, where her talent and improvement from those races was highlighted today out on the junior stage.
Hammering away on the bike in order to break away from a chase pack, saw Knibb riding solo for almost all of the 20-kilometre bike course, before finishing the five-kilometre run untouched to walk away with the second consecutive junior world title.
Knibb said about winning her second title, “Yes, it is a bit of a surprise, I didn’t know it was going to happen in the race, so I am just really grateful.”
“I saw that Kate (Waugh) was closing the gap on me so I freaked out and ran hard, so it really made me earn it. I was a great race and she (Waugh) had an amazing race,” Knibb said.
Claiming the silver and stepping on her first world championship podium was Great Britain’s Kate Waugh, while the bronze went to Japan’s Fuka Sega who had a breakthrough race from start to finish.
Filling almost the entire dive pontoon, a large roster of 70 women lined up to partake in the quest for the junior world crown. With a slight chop in the Mass river, Japan’s Sega managed to get the edge and exit the waters first. Just a short 12 seconds behind saw the likes of a huge pack of women charging through the first transition to start the bike leg.
While Knibb found herself among the shuffle after the swim, it took only a matter of moments before she worked her way up to Sega to ride as a leading twosome for the first lap. However, Knibb has worked in power duos in the past, such as elite bike powerhouse Flora Duffy so it came as no surprise when she then exceeded past Sega on the second lap to pull out in the lead.
Knibb held onto the top spot through the rest of the bike leg, despite a small pack of women trailing her that contained the likes of Waugh, Sega, Therese Feuersinger (AUT), Hannah Knighton (NZL) and Olivia Mathias (GBR).
Heading into the second transition, Knibb’s lead was around 30 seconds. However, the women in the first chase group had some strong running legs and Waugh managed to scare the gap down to about 20 seconds.
Knibb’s lead maintained and she entered the finish chute smiling as she grabbed the tape for the second straight year. Waugh then followed 16 seconds later, while Sega was about another 30 seconds from that to claim the bronze.
|Results: Junior Women|
|9.||Hye Rim Jeong||KOR||01:03:05|
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