Ashleigh Gentle has won the Noosa Triathlon for the third consecutive time last weekend, so Trizone caught up with the champion to unpack her Noosa performance.
“Winning Noosa makes me really appreciate what this sport is about, and reminds me why I got into it,” says the 25-year-old who’s feeling fresh after a few days’ holiday post-Noosa Triathlon. “It’s easy to forget that, especially in an Olympic year.”
Ashleigh has had a year of ups and downs but has certainly finished on a high, clinching the win at the iconic Australian race. She was thrilled with her result, and notes that catching up to the powerful leaders of the race ultimately came down to strategy and perseverance.
Women’s swim at Noosa
The crowd watched as the powerful launched off the beach. As soon as you added strong swimmers like Danielle de Francesco – who completed the swim in just 21:04 (Gentle’s time was 22:47) – the spectators knew the women were in for a fast race. “She blew things apart in the water,” says Ashleigh kindly, remembering Danielle’s powerful swim. “The swim felt really long to me.”
Ashleigh Gentle’s powerful cycling at Noosa
Glad to be on the bike, Gentle surged forward. “I felt like I was riding really strong,” she says. “I had a bit of confidence from Nepean, and I just knew I had to catch up to the leaders.”
Like any athlete, Gentle has her good and bad days and her recent race at Noosa almost ended up being the latter. “There were times when I thought ‘this just isn’t my day’ during the bike,” Ashleigh recalls. “But I really wanted to win and be competitive, so I just had to change my negative thoughts.” Showcasing her strength in both mind and body, Ashleigh found herself around 1:20 behind the leaders at T2.
Catching Natalie on the run
“I tried to go out really strong in the first 5km to narrow the gap between me, Danielle and Nicky Samuels,” adds Ashleigh. “I caught them in the first 2kms. I didn’t even feel like I was going that fast, but as soon as I caught them I knew I must be running pretty strong.”
After overtaking the two women, she knew another top podium finish would hinge on her ability to catch Natalie van Coevorden. Then, finally, she saw her. “I had Natalie in my sights, and just at the turnaround I caught her,” says Ashleigh. “I was really pleased I caught her so quickly.”
Catching up to Natalie and soaring past her to take the lead until the finish line, Ashleigh Gentle produced an impeccable race. After such a huge year, an overwhelming sense of relief washed over her as she crossed the finish line. “I felt really relieved to finish it off with the win,” she adds. “I said to Josh [Amberger, Gentle’s boyfriend] ‘oh thank god! I’m so ready for a break!’ when I saw him at the end. He was like ‘C’mon Ash, you just won!’ and I said ‘yeah I know but I’m so tired!’”
Gentle’s ability to push herself to extremes and ‘enjoy the pain’ as she says, is what makes her so successful at these gruelling races, despite finding herself behind the lead pack in the swim.
“I raced 100% fairly and did tons of work on the bike. Racing at Noosa gave me a real sense of accomplishment. It was the icing on the cake to finish first.”
Gentle loves Noosa’s vibe
The young athlete is the first to admit 2016 has been a year of ups and downs. “This year there are great things I’m really proud of and some not so great things,” Ashleigh concedes. “So it’s awesome going on a break and finishing off on a high, especially at the Noosa Tri.” Like many other Aussie athletes, she adores the coastal race; from the unique picturesque setting to the loveable age groupers who mingle with the pros.
“The support at the race and the interaction with the age groupers is really cool,” she explains. “We mingle a lot with them, and appreciate what they do. Everyone has their story, it’s not always about the professionals.”
Ashleigh’s love of the Noosa Triathlon makes her long for more local races for Aussie triathletes. “We’re so far from everywhere in Australia and young triathletes have to travel so much,” she notes. “If they got more exposure to racing in whatever format, I think it would be better for racing in Australia and the athletes. I would’ve loved more Aussie races when I was a junior.”
Ashleigh Gentle’s top tip for triathlon
“Just enjoy the pain,” she urges. “If you know you’re pushing really hard and not ‘feeling great,’ that’s the space where your body can achieve things you’ve never thought it could.” That was the advice she gave a young triathlon team a few weeks earlier, advice which now popped into her head during the Noosa race. “I thought, well I must be taking my own advice because I’m feeling the pain!” Gentle says brightly.
Ashleigh Gentle stayed on in Noosa after the event to relax with her boyfriend Josh, and discover the natural beauty of the Sunshine Coast and Double Island. We think she deserves a holiday, so we’d better leave her to it.