Three podium results and vital ITU ranking points highlighted the New Zealanders efforts at the Oceania Triathlon Championships in Devonport, Tasmania yesterday.
Simone Ackermann led the way with silver for the New Zealanders, edging compatriot Sophie Corbidge into third with both finishing behind rising Australian star Jaz Hedgeland.
Hedgeland was one of seven girls who rode away from the field on the bike â€“ riding alongside fellow Australians, NSW pair Grace Musgrove and Emma Jeffcoat and four New Zealanders Sophie Corbidge, Simone Ackermann, Rebecca Clarke and Rebecca Kingsford.
But it was Hedgeland who scampered out of transition in only her second 10km run in the Standard (Olympic) distance and was never headed.
She increased her lead on each of the four 2.5km run legs and in the end it was well over a minute between her and silver medalist Ackerman with Corbidge, who beat Hedgeland in Kinloch for the Sprint title two weeks ago, hanging on for third.
Tri NZ coach Jon Brown described a race in which the Tri NZ HP athletes were prominent, along with Clarke and Kingsford.
â€œSophie & Simone both had strong swims exiting water together. All the favoured women came out of the water together with a large break to the next swim pack. That group worked together on the bike to maintain the lead. There was some disruption approaching transition when Grace Musgrove fell, in the process almost bringing down the entire lead pack.
â€œOnce on to the run Jaz Hedgeland quickly established a small lead in the first lap. The Kiwi girls were running together, trying to maintain contact with Hedgeland before Simone began to chase the leader and pulled away from Sophie, that order remained the same to the finish. Â
â€œNeither Simone nor Sophie were feeling entirely on top of their game on the day but were generally satisfied to still get the job done on a tough course and gain valuable Olympic qualifying points. Overall this was a positive first Olympic distance race of the year, with both Simone and Sophie hungry to progress further in the coming months.â€
In the men’s race Ryan Sissons won bronze after â€˜running out of gas with 1k to go’, backing up after his win at the Oceania Continental Cup race at Sovereign Takapuna a week ago, with Tasmanian Mark Birtwhistle winning on his home patch.
The men’s gold medal developed into a race in two between Birtwhistle and his fellow Australian Dan Wilson, the 2013 ITU under 23 World Championship bronze medalist, with the Tassie boy kicking away over the final 500 metres
It left Sissons and Kenji Nener to fight it out for the bronze and the pair charged at the line in dramatic fashion, with Sissons getting Nener by the barest of margins â€“ 2:00.00.7 to 2:00.00.8.
Jon Brown highlighted a couple of key objectives for Sissons during the day’s racing.
â€œGoing into the race main goal for Ryan was to demonstrate improved swim performance and a high general fitness level. The men’s field was high quality and immediately a strong group containing all the big players established itself during the first lap of the swim. Ryan was well placed throughout exited the swim comfortable in the lead group just behind Cam Todd – who was himself having an outstanding day.
â€œThe bike was uneventful with the men all happy to let the outcome be decided on the run. Coming into transition Ryan positioned himself well at the front of the group but this advantage was lost due to a poor transition leaving him 50 metres down heading out on the run. By midway through the first lap Ryan had caught the leaders and was happy to lead the group of six.â€
By midway through the run the pace began to ease and increasingly the race looked like it would come down to a sprint with no one feeling able or confident enough to make a move.
â€œThe pace picked up with around 1km to go, breaking up the pack and Ryan was battling to hang on to a podium spot,â€ said Brown. â€œHe was still in fourth with the line approaching but found one last bit of energy and effort to claim bronze.
â€œRyan was satisfied with his performance, especially his swim and bike positioning into T2. The race identified scope for improvement in the coming months especially in his running fitness which has been purposely limited thus far this year due to his increased swimming.â€
Brown was pleased with the overall efforts of the New Zealand team early in their preparations for a busy 2015 campaign.
â€œAll in all the day was successful for the small Kiwi team and the general feeling is there is much more to come once we move towards more race specific training in the coming months.â€
Of the other Kiwis the highlights included Rebecca Clarke finishing just off the podium in 4th place in the women’s race while Cameron Todd came home 9th overall and 6th in the U23 men’s race.
Oceania Triathlon Championships
Elite (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run)
1 Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS) 1:59.46
2 Declan Wilson (AUS) 1:59.54
3 Ryan Sissons (NZL) 2:00.00
9 Cameron Todd 2:02.09 (6th U23)
13 Mike Phillips 2:04.44
1 Jaz Hedgeland (AUS) 2:07.22
2 Simone Ackerman (NZL) 2:08.45
3 Sophie Corbidge (NZL) 2:09.12
4 Rebecca Clarke 2:09.48
8 Rebecca Kingsford 2:13.35
10 Fiona Crombie 2:13.58
14 Hanna Sturmer 2:18.59 (7th U23)
15 Laura Wood 2:19.59 (8th U23)
16 Danielle Parkinson 2:22.42 (9th U23)